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Cops Hit the Course to Test Emergency Driving Skills

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The smell of burned rubber and the squeal of tires filled Lewis-Clark State College's Workforce Training skid pad in North Lewiston.

It's where officers from Moscow and Lewiston's police departments put their driving skills to the test in their yearly emergency vehicle operations course, or EVOC, training.

EVOC instructor and Senior Patrol Officer Lawrence Mowery says, "The officers are mandated to go through, per policy, once a year because it's a high-risk, high-liability training."

The day starts off in the classroom, Officer Mowery and Moscow's Sergeant Anthony Dahlinger teach technique and case law.

But the real training happens on the blacktop. Cars skid and slide in serpentine turns, allowing drivers to feel how the vehicle handles.

"We want to be in control 100% of the time," Officer Mowery says.

Every officer gets the crash course on avoiding a crash. From threshold braking to learning to weed out distractions - Officer Mowery plays noise or loud music into a radio to simulate chatter officers often have to sort through while driving. He and Sgt. Dahlinger also shout out which way to turn in a simulated high-speed lane change - a maneuver that often leaves cones scattered on the track.

They even go over how to hold the steering wheel to have the most control - hands at 9 and 3, none of that hand-over-hand stuff. "Just a quick, smooth motion elbow to elbow," Officer Mowery explains of the technique they use to turn efficiently.

And though it sometimes looks like racing, especially in the pursuit portion, it's not about speed. They only top out at around 45 miles per hour.

"If you're smooth in your steering, smooth in your braking, smooth in your acceleration, the cars going to respond smoother and you're going to be driving safer," Officer Mowery says.

That's what this training really comes down to. Officers are at higher risk for being involved in, and thus dying, in crashes.

Officer Mowery explains that over the last decade, officer deaths have been highly attributed to either criminal actions or crashes. "It has been neck-and-neck between criminal acts- which are firearms, knives, and other ways - and vehicle accidents. They've been back and forth, back and forth over the last decade and those statistics are actually what we teach in the classroom portion."

EVOC training makes these skills second nature - lessening the severity and number of crashes, both on and off-duty.

Officer Mowery remembers one officer who told him he used what he learned in the course to avoid crashing into a driver who left their vehicle on the roadway - lights off - in the middle of the night. The off-duty officer, who had his family in the car, swerved into the ditch and was able to correct and get back on the roadway unscathed. "At least one officer each time we train comes to me and says 'I did my evasive maneuvers, didn't even think about it because my training kicked in," Officer Mowery says.

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