Harris County Constable’s Office Precinct Five
Award Year: 2021
Safety Category: Traffic Safety
Additional Award Year: N/A
The Harris County Constable’s Office Precinct Five is one of the largest constable’s departments in the country and is currently home to more than 1.2 million residents spanning 374 square miles, and has over 80 miles of highways and tollways. Precinct Five currently has 385 commissioned deputies, 17 telecommunicators, and 28 clerks.
One of the main areas of safety they considered was traffic safety, beings that two of their three line of duty deaths were deputies struck by vehicles. Defining the problem for the department meant looking at their line of duty vehicle crashes and see where the deputies were struggling the most. They discovered that deputies were over-driving their capabilities by going too fast, and not properly clearing intersections, or making poor decisions under stress while driving Priority 1. One of the ego driven attitudes discovered most often was deputies feeling invincible because their patrol car has its lights and siren activated.
To accomplish their goal, HCCP5 took on a comprehensive, multi-prong approach. But, like many agencies, they faced issues of time, equipment, facilities, and budget. Due to the lack of facilities, and initially lack of instructors, Precinct 5 had to outsource Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) training to local academies.
In order to address a way to train their deputies within the agency, while addressing both safe driving skills and the faulty decision-making. Using money saved by training in-house training instructors, in 2019 HCCP5 purchased a driving simulator and had 11 personnel certified as Emergency Vehicle Operations Course (EVOC) instructors. The initial training consisted of a four hour block of instruction where the instructors introduced students, via the driving simulator, to good driving habits, while adding realism and high stress without the worry of damaging patrol cars or injuring their deputies. HCCP5 then created a 32 hour course of instruction.
After learning that vehicle crashes are one of the leading causees of law enforcement deaths each year, mostly because officers were driving too fast and/or not wearing a seat belt. HCCP5 sent five instructors to Below 100 to further add to their EVOCC training. As Below 100 instructors, these five new trainers have access to a collection of videos showing officer crashes, posters and handout material and all instructors have access to these. All deputies were also trained in Below 100. Deputies were also re-trained in department policy and state vehicle code requirements. Many of their deputies insisted they would have time to put on a seat belt prior to a crash. Incorporated into the driving simulator were scenarios where a deputy would have zero chance of putting on their seat belt until it was too late.
HCCP5 was also able to secure the usage of a 319,000sq. ft. parking lot that was abandoned after Hurricane Harvey’s devastation and they use that for 32 hour blocks of live EVOC training.
Through all their effort and training, Harris County Constable Precinct 5 has shown remarkable improvement in getting their deputies to drive safely. In 2018 the department had 9 at-fault crashes while driving to priority 1calls for service (lights and siren) In 2019 the department had 7. During the calendar year 2020 the agency had only one Priority 1 crash.