By Patrick Slack, Staff Writer
There aren’t many places for state patrol officers to test out what driving 100 mph feels like.
However, there aren’t many places like Camp Ripley either.
The Emergency Vehicle Operator Course at Camp Ripley served as the site of the Dodge Charger Pursuit Demonstration, Thursday, allowing about 60 law enforcement officers to practice getting behind the wheel in real-world situations.
The course looks like an actual roadway, from the four-lane highway striping to the road signs and the vast amount of space.
That setup is key for these events, said Minnesota State Patrol Lieutenant Robert Zak, so that officers aren’t hitting 100 mph for the first time on an actual road.
“You can’t do that anywhere else, feel the body roll on curves,” he said. “It’s much safer … What separates good drivers from average drivers are the curves. Anyone can drive really fast.”
Trained drivers from Chrysler were on hand for the event showing off new special service vehicle models and to help officers simulate pursuing a fleeing car and with obstacle navigation.
“Putting all that together on the Emergency Vehicle Operator Course, in a simulated pursuit, chasing a professional instructor in another car, will be a great experience both visually and for the drivers who are getting a chance to get behind the wheel,” said Maj. John Donovan.
“Everyone came off the course with a smile on their face,” said David Callery, Chrysler Program Manger for law enforcement and emergency response vehicles. “A facility like this is very incredible. It’s pretty close to the top of the list. We’re really excited to be here.”
While each car’s handling is crucial, so is the interior layout, as officers routinely put in eight, 10, even 12-hour shifts in their vehicles, Zak said.
“They need to be comfortable and confident in their vehicle,” Zak said.
And at the end of the day, the complex obstacle navigation and speed pursuit is for one simple goal.
“We want to make sure people go home safe,” Zak said.