On April 30, 2024 a police officer from York Regional Police ran into the path of a fleeing SUV and was subsequently struck.

It became a bazaar circumstance when the world’s top golfer became arrested in an early morning encounter with Louisville Police at the site of a fatal pedestrian collision near the grounds of the Valhalla golf club where the 2024 Professional Golf Association (PGA) was taking place. The details of what happened have not been discussed in official circles but it appears that Scheffler attempted to drive through the collision area on his way to the golf course where he was scheduled to tee-off in about 4 hours time. News media reported that Scheffler’s vehicle passed by a police officer who yelled at him and then “attached” himself to Scheffler’s vehicle. Other news reports indicated that Scheffler failed to follow police instructions and that a police officer was “dragged to the ground”.

In another news article description from a police report we have the version from the police:

Whatever actually took place in the Scheffler incident highlights that, in many instances, police are struck by vehicles in a variety of circumstances. But in some of those circumstances the consequences could clearly have been avoided or minimized. This is largely due to the fact that in those circumstances police have tried to step into the path of a moving vehicle, have tried to grab hold of a moving vehicle, or have tried to enter into a vehicle when a driver has not complied with their commands. The scenarios have repeated themselves so often that it suggests police administration is not conducting proper training of officers leading to poor judgments.

While many instances result in minor consequences some do not. Recently there have been examples in the vicinity of Toronto, Ontario where both results occurred.

A recent trial took place this spring where a police officer from Toronto was killed in a parking garage of Toronto’s City Hall. In that incident police in plain clothes approached a driver and his family as the father was beginning to pull out of a parking spot. Not recognizing the persons as police the driver backed out and then ran over one of the officers, killing him. The description of what happened was dubious as officers claimed that the struck officer was standing in front of the vehicle, in plain view when he was struck while the physical evidence indicated that the officer was lying on the ground and likely not visible. The safety issue is that police failed to understand that they might not be recognized as police when they are in plain clothes and that someone who believes they could be assaulted might attempt to escape. In that scenario police ought to have stayed clear of the vehicle because past experience and proper training ought to have instructed them that they could be struck.

In a contrasting incident a police officer from York Region (Toronto) was struck on April 30, 2024 when he ran out in front of vehicle whose driver was attempting to flee. A frame from video of that incident is shown at the top of the article. As shown in the three additional frames below, the officer was thrown up and did a summersault landing back on his feet. He reportedly sustained minimal injury but the result could have been much worse.

This incident took place at the same time as the trial was taking place involving the plain clothes police officer who was killed. The well-publicized trial should have been a warning to police about the consequences of entering into the path of a fleeing vehicle. Yet the actions of the officer from York Region demonstrate that he did not heed that warning.

Historically there have been tragic results that ought to be used in police training.

In January of 2011, a mentally disturbed male stole a tow truck and began driving erratically through the streets of Toronto while police tried to stop him. At one point a police Sergeant stepped out of his cruiser to confront the approaching tow truck. The Sergeant was struck and killed. This incident should have been used by police in their training to inform them that they should not allow themselves to be exposed to an erratic driver but remain in the greater safety of their own cruiser.

A short time later, in June, 2011 a young driver became engaged in an encounter with a police officer at a traffic stop on Hwy 48 east of Toronto, Ontario. The officer attempted to enter the vehicle through the driver’s window. The driver accelerated from his stop while the officer was partly in the vehicle. The vehicle reached a high speed before it exited onto the roadside and rolled over. The police officer became trapped under the rolled vehicle and perished before support help could arrive. This tragic incident should have been used by police trainers to inform officers never to reach into a vehicle while a driver still has control of a vehicle.

In a similar incident in August, 2012 in London, Ontario. A female driver was pulled over by a police traffic stop when two of the vehicle’s passengers ran away on foot. One of the officers reached in through the right side window “to arrest the driver”. The driver accelerated, steering left and right to shake the officer off the vehicle. The officer fell onto the pavement but was not killed. Again, this incident occurred within a year of the previous two police fatalities noted above. Clearly the officer who reached into the motor vehicle should have appreciated the danger of such an action but that did not happen.

In another dragging incident in downtown Kitchener, Ontario in December, 2013, two police officers were dragged while they attempted to reach into a vehicle and the driver sped off. The officers were reportedly dragged for only a short distance before they disengaged and were not seriously injured.

In another incident in June, 2023, a police officer from Hamilton was dragged when his arms became trapped as a driver rolled up his window on the Red Hill Valley Parkway. No information was made available about how the officer was able to free himself and no injury information was available except that the officer was able to return to duty.

Yet the complexity of these incidents demonstrates that sometimes police are faced with difficult decisions. Another incident occurred in July, 2012, in the vicinity of London and St Thomas where robbers were pursued by police in a long chase from London, to St Thomas and back to London again and speeds of 130 km/h were reached through city streets. In that incident a spike belt was used to deflate the vehicle’s tires yet the driver continued to drive while the wheel rims produced a long trail of metal markings on the pavement. Nothing could be done to stop the vehicle until it became jammed on railway tracks in the north-west of London’s downtown and slid into a ditch. During that long pursuit the public was exposed to danger and this is the flip side of the coin, demonstrating that stopping a fleeing vehicle is necessary as time and distance increase the chances of the occurrence ending in a tragic result. But there was no indication that police exited their cruisers and put themselves in the path of the fleeing vehicle.

Another incident began in September, 2013 when a store keeper pressed an alarm to reveal shop-lifters at a Kitchener grocery store. Police arrived and the shoplifters escaped in a car which eventually became trapped in an apartment building parking lot. The police sergeant partially blocked the only exit with his cruiser and then walked out in front of the vehicle with his pistol raised. The sergeant was surprized as, instead of surrendering, the driver ducked down below the windshield and accelerated. The sergeant managed to fire 4 rounds, striking the fleeing vehicle’s windshield but missing the driver and his passengers. The sergeant was struck, rolling onto the hood and sustained a fractured knee including other injuries. At trial it became revealed that the fleeing driver was a career criminal who had injured another police officer while speeding from police three months earlier. It was also revealed that the driver was impaired by drugs (heroin and crystal methamphetamine) at the time of the shoplifting incident. This demonstrates that police cannot know who they are dealing with as an incident unfolds and that stepping in front a vehicle is the last action that should be contemplated without considering what might occur.

Many incidents occur where police are struck and either minimal information is available or an officer sustains only minor injuries. For example in another incident in April, 2016, a police officer from Ottawa, Ontario was struck when he turned his back on a vehicle with its engine running and its driver seemingly sleepy and impaired. The driver reversed his vehicle striking the officer and pinning him against his own cruiser. Fortunately the officer sustained only minor injuries. In another incident in September, 2016, a Toronto police officer was struck after he exited his cruiser believing that police had successfully boxed in a fleeing vehicle. Again it was fortunate that no serious injuries occurred.

In another incident in September, 2017, an OPP officer was struck and “dragged” for a substantial distance in an apartment building parking lot in Mississauga, Ontario. The officer had been standing next to the stopped vehicle when it suddenly accelerated and he grabbed the headrest of the driver seat. He sustained injuries that were initially believed to be critical as his head hit the pavement, but further information confirmed that his injuries were not life-threatening. Unfortunately the head injuries led to prolonged symptoms that affected his career.

In summary police, when they are on foot, are in no less danger of serious injury than any unprotected pedestrian, when in close proximity to a motor vehicle. The complexity of these scenarios is that each is unique. Drivers of vehicles are unpredictable in what they might do. In the case of someone like Scottie Scheffler, the driver may not be a dangerous criminal but might simply misunderstand the actions or intentions of a police officer. And in other instances a driver may be impaired by drugs/alcohol or may be mentally unstable making it difficult to predict what their actions might be. And in the case of drivers purposely attempting to flee, police should be exceptionally cautious in exiting their cruisers or standing in the path of a fleeing vehicle. Events unfold quickly and require quick and good reasoning as to what the best actions must be.

There are instances where police themselves are the dangers to the public. A percentage of officers should not be employed in their capacity because they are prone to exaggerated behaviour which inflames minor issues into major problems. It remains a significant problem that police who refuse or are incapable for de-escalating confrontations cannot be removed from their employment.

But, overall, police must be trained and to understand that they must not attempt to enter a vehicle that is moving or stopped but under control of a driver. If a driver does not comply with commends this must be a sign to police that they could be in grave danger. In some instances it may be reasonable to disable a vehicle with whatever means are necessary so that it cannot be used on a wild rampage.

In one instance, when a vehicle was boxed in, a Toronto police officer jumped on the hood of the vehicle and shot multiple rounds into the engine compartment. This action was viewed by news media and bystanders as excessive and unnecessary. Yet if that action disables a vehicle and there are grounds to believe the driver may try to flee, this could be a reasonable police action. The alternative in the past has been that police have shot into the occupant compartment of a fleeing vehicle, sometimes killing an innocent passenger. This occurred to an innocent boy who was abducted by his father and subsequently killed when the father drove through a police barricade and police shot at the passing vehicle north-east of Toronto a few years ago.

So disabling a vehicle by whatever means is an important action that could save the lives of others. It is a matter of good judgment. Good judgment is not always instinctive but can be developed through proper police training. The many instances where police on foot attempt to gain control of a vehicle by grabbing hold of it, or trying to enter it, indicates that there is a lack of proper training that must be corrected.