Tactical driving is a crucial skill for any private detective to learn. It is especially important for investigators who must do perform vehicle-based surveillance and those who must track people while driving. Most field operatives will have to spend much time in their vehicle and may be forced to deal with less than ideal driving conditions during many case assignments.
This commentary discusses tactical motor vehicle operation skills, as they pertain to the professional investigation industry. We will examine how to learn these skills and why they are so useful for working detectives.
What is Tactical Driving
Tactical operation of a motor vehicle is defined as being able to overcome all obstacles imposed on the driver by the environment and present circumstances. Investigators often work alone in their vehicle, which makes tactical operation even more difficult. This is because they must actually drive the vehicle, while all the while watching the subject, recording the subject’s movements and staying in close communication with other operatives on the case. This multitasking takes skill and practice, to be sure.
Some of the facets of tactical motor vehicle operation include: driving in inclement weather, driving in low light and without headlights, driving on unpaved surfaces, open and covert pursuit tactics, as well as defensive and offensive driving, including emergency use of the vehicle for self-defense purposes.
Learning Tactical Driving
Some investigative professionals go to school to learn specialized driving tactics. However, unless this is also a passion and hobby, this is quite rare. Most field operatives learn the skills they need to work effectively from previous police or military work, or from simple day to day experience in their actual jobs.
When new surveillance specialists first get started, they may occasionally lose a target due to the circumstances of the open road. However, as these detectives develop their skills, they are unlikely to ever lose sight of their query and do so without even being seen. This is true tactical skill in pursuit.
For those who do want to learn formal driving tactics, there are a variety of programs, offered by security training institutions, which should complete your skill sets far beyond what you will ever need to actually use in the field.
Tactical Driving Training
As a former trial preparation investigator for insurance companies, one of my specialties was surveillance of plaintiffs that were suspected of forging or inflating claims. As such, I had to follow these individuals throughout their days and nights, without being seen or suspected. This entailed learning some serious driving skills, particularly when the surveillance target was an erratic or fast driver.
In all honesty, it is virtually impossible to maintain perfect surveillance while abiding by all the laws of the road. Sometimes, you may have to just clear through a yellow light, make a rolling stop through a stop sign or be outwardly aggressive towards other vehicles in order to keep up with a speedy subject. This is part of the job.
The best way to avoid getting in over your head, especially with known aggressive drivers, is to use multiple vehicle surveillance teams, which can easily follow even the most reckless targets using placement, proximity and communication tactics.
At some point, you may have to weigh the balance between using unsafe practices to follow subject alone or demand that the client pay for a multiple vehicle team. In my opinion, it is never worth the risk to do a job incorrectly and if the client complains, let them find a cheaper and less reputable provider elsewhere.