Are motor escorts worth the risk? It depends on who you ask. But regardless, risks must be mitigated to the fullest extent that they can. Photo Dan DiPinto
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Editor's note: In his recent column, Motor Escorts: Worth the Risk, Capt. Travis Yates argued that, duly considered, motorcycle escorts were probably not worth the risk they required motor officers to take. Capt. Yates received a reply to this column, from Staff Sgt. Adam Norrie of the Toronto Police Service, which took issue with his conclusion and which follows below.
Let me be clear at the outset. This is not a personal or vindictive attack on Capt. Yates or his opinions. On the contrary, I believe healthy, constructive and open debate can and should occur to continue to improve and strive for excellence in our chosen profession: law enforcement. I’m a fan and supporter of Capt. Yates and his mission to reduce the loss of life in the police profession and have been fortunate enough to hear and enjoy him speaking at an event.
Let me declare and put my bias out front right now. I love police motorcycle operations and have been fortunate to have spent 25 of my 28 years in law enforcement involved in police motorcycle operations.
I believe a good risk-management strategy imposes a rising standard of quality, well beyond what’s required to meet the minimum standard. As such, we must continue to question how and why we do business.
I’m an advocate of a common management problem-solving technique called “The 5 Whys.” Credit for this system is given to Toyota Founder Kiichiro Toyoda’s father Sakichi who first used it in the 1930s. The 5 Whys System applies a very simple philosophy to identify the root cause of a problem by peeling away layers of symptoms by simply repeating the question: “Why?” Five times is the rule of thumb but sometimes you may find the issue with fewer or more times of asking the question. Anytime I ask a question about why something is being done and get an answer like, “That’s the way we have always done it,” I start to get antsy. In the modern policing environment that kind of answer isn’t acceptable. We must be able to articulate how and why we do things, every time, all the time.
Escorts. There are many different kinds and varying motivations for doing them. Some are legitimate and required by law, and others are the result of political, historical or other influences that motivate them.
Unequivocally, I believe escorts are the most dangerous type of riding police motorcycle officers can engage in. However, I believe there are certain types of escorts that should be conducted by motorcycles.
There are dignitary escorts. Canada, the United States and 166 other countries are signatories to the 1973 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, including Diplomatic Agents. This Convention provides an obligation on host countries to protect Heads of State and diplomats from attack at official premises, their private accommodation or their ‘means of transport.” Sites and locations can be secured and hardened to protect the dignitary. History and experience have shown us that the most vulnerable time for a dignitary is during their transportation. So, much personnel and financial resources are invested in this security field.
There are safety escorts. These escorts provide safe passage for the individual, group or item for the greater good of the community including the participants. Many jurisdictions legislate a requirement for escorts that fit this criteria. An example of this in my jurisdiction is oversize loads. Due to the potential danger to the public by the movement of large and dangerous loads the carrier must acquire a permit (that restricts times, routes, etc.) and mandates the requirement of a police escort.
There are historic, convenience and vanity escorts. Due to historic patterns and various business models, it’s become possible in some jurisdictions to buy or procure an escort because you want one. Funerals, celebrities or people of influence hire police (moonlighting) or private escort companies to ensure them or their group get to where they are going on time and together.
Are escorts necessary? I believe most rational people can understand why the police provide escort to Internationally Protected Persons. I believe and I hope Capt. Yates would agree that it’s high time many jurisdictions and their police agencies take a hard look at why and how we provide escorts and make some risk versus reward determinations. A frank resolve to establish a legitimate threshold of whom and what deserves a police escort needs to happen to minimize risks for our organizations.
Procedures and policies must be established and enforced to ensure safety. My jurisdiction provides escorts for funerals but there are parameters. There are vehicles to escort officer ratio limits and the officers must have had specialized training. The funeral escorts employ a less risky escort technique called ‘Bump and Go” and the escorting officers use cars! This is also the system used for the wide load escorts described earlier.
Are motorcycles the right platform for providing escort duty? Absolutely they are—for certain types of escorts.