Post by: Cst. Candace Mitchell
One of the most common complaints that we hear relates to our use of lights and sirens. And I will confess that, yes, I have used them to get to a coffee shop. Why? A man had collapsed. My partner and I were able to offer assistance until he could be taken to hospital.
Many are quick to make jokes about Police flipping on lights and sirens to get through traffic when it suits them. The reality is that using those blaring sirens and flashing lights is not an advertisement that we’re going to a call; their use is to navigate traffic safely and efficiently. Often it’s emergencies that garner this reaction. Here are a few examples:
- Medical emergencies. Officers are also trained in CPR / First Aid and can provide assistance until medical personnel arrive.
- Crimes in progress (B&Es, assaults, property damage, alarms)
There are also a number of situations where using that equipment may only aggregate the situation:
- Our highly trained Communications staff answers calls and dispatches us based on priority. They stay on the line with complainant/victim, continually receiving information. Sometimes, when initial information tells us lights and sirens are necessary, additional information can change the response.
- Someone is breaking into a vehicle, and unbeknownst to them, I’m already on my way but I don’t want them to know that. My goal is to stop the act from proceeding and to also catch the person responsible.
With or without lights and sirens, we’re still responsible for driving in a reasonable and safe manner. Being reasonable means slowing at intersections before proceeding, travelling at safe speeds and arriving where we are needed. If we don’t do this, we have consequences as well. But it does make our jobs difficult. We have to carefully navigate through streets congested with vehicles, cyclists, and pedestrians. We also have to deal with road users who either aren’t paying attention or become frozen at the sight of an emergency vehicle.
The ability to activate lights and sirens is a luxury to our job but it’s an enormous responsibility. There are provisions for us to disobey the TSA but, trust me, if we don’t have to, we would rather not. Same as you all, we’re trying to get home to our families at the end of the day.
The biggest way you can help when you see an emergency vehicle with lights and sirens on? Pull to the right and stop as soon as you safely can.
If you observe a Police vehicle that you feel is being driven in an unsafe manner, you make file a complaint with our Professional Standards Unit.