“Bravo Foxtrott Alpha Poppa Poppa 631” is heard over the walkie talkie.
“We should be coming back on a green four-door Neon,” the voice said next. “Be advised that vehicle comes back stolen…. It's also wanted for numerous home invasions in the Stoney Creek area.”
Moments later, two Hamilton police officers jump out of a nearby cruiser and throw a long, narrow triangle out on the road.
The green Neon speeds by over the triangle and a loud 'pop' can be heard. The car slows down and makes one lap around the block before it pulls over, a second police cruiser following closely behind.
This is not for real. It's an exercise during Hamilton Police's bi-annual training. The long triangle is a spike belt, a device that injects spikes into a tire when driven over. It's used as a way to slow down a vehicle that could become involved in a police pursuit.
“It's in the interest of public safety to try to stop them before occurring,” said Ken Lester, coordinator for police vehicle operations at the Ontario Police College.
That proactive approach is what Hamilton police are looking for.
“The emphasis this year is proactive alternatives to pursuit,” said acting sergeant Ken Putt of the Hamilton Police training branch.
Lester said officers are being trained to use their judgment and information heard on the scanner to assess whether a car will engage in a pursuit with police, even before an officer flashes a car and asks it to be pulled over.
“A stolen car that's being wanted for home invasions,” Lester said, “the chances are good that if you light them up, they'll take off.”This is what a tire looks like after driving over a spike belt. (Julia Chapman/CBC)
Reporters get a better look at the green Neon after it's stopped. The two front wheels have three spikes each puncturing the tire. Lester said what happens is “controlled deflation,” or a slow, steady deflation of the tires.
“It won't cause the car to crash,” said Lester, adding this limits risk to the public.
The officer who deployed the spike belt is required to pull it back so other cars don't drive over it.
This is the third time Lester has been to Hamilton training police officers with the spike belt in pursuit situations. But Putt said officers haven't had much opportunity to use it.
The Suspect Apprehension Pursuit Legislation, a law put in affect 12 years ago, limits when an officer can and cannot engage in a vehicle pursuit with a potential offender.
“We've also had better training and dispatchers have been trained to understand the risk [of pursuit] to the public,” he said.
Putt said the spike belt is now going to become an encouraged method of stopping a pursuit before it even starts.
Each of Hamilton Police's six supervisors has a spike belt in his or her vehicle, Lester said.