Monday, June 30, 2008

Customer Service

Who are your customers? To protect and serve, who? Do you provide good customer service? If you work as a municipal police officer on patrol, your customers are the good people of the city who pay for police services. If you work as a state prison guard, your customers are not the prisoners, your customers are the good people of the state who pay for prisons. You will note both times I said your customers are the people who pay for the service.

Just like any other service that people pay for law enforcement is a service industry. Sometimes it is private and sometimes it is paid for out of tax dollars. Do you serve your customers? Do your customers get their moneys worth for the services you provide? When someone calls and wants an officer to respond to the UFOs, the neighbor who is shooting 'rays' at them, the loud barking dog and other goofy calls, do you still respond in a timely manner? Or do you complain that your dispatcher should edit those calls before you get them?

That 96 year old woman probably paid property taxes for sixty years and never called the police. She supported generations of police before you and now that she is infirm she is calling for your services. She deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. What to you is a routine call for service that is a 'waste of time' is a real problem in need of resolution. Provide her the service she wants and deserves. Good customer service, it's all a part of the job, that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Smuggling Drugs?

Ex-prison guards convicted of smuggling pot into prison - NewsFlash -

Prison guards were smuggling drugs into a prison. Another prison guard found out about the illegal activity and reported them to supervision. The prison management had them prosecuted and the reporting officer testified against his former colleagues.

Law enforcement requires courage. At any moment we may have to respond to dangerous situations and risk our health and lives helping other people. That is not the only type of courage that law enforcement must demonstrate. Moral courage is important too. Drugs are difficult to get in prison and they bring a big price. Criminals with contacts on the outside may have the ability to pay lots of money for drugs in prison. Prison guards often don't get paid a lot of money and when they are approached to do "favors" for a prisoner, the temptation can be great. Is is worth your reputation, career, retirement, marriage for a few dollars? That officer who testified against his former colleagues was a hero.

Every time an officer accepts a bribe, smuggles drugs, or otherwise makes a bad moral choice they stain all of our reputations. Every time an officer reports a bribe, drug smuggling or other bad moral choices that stain is reduced a bit. One of the most important aspects of law enforcement for me has always been to not let my partner down. Committing crimes on duty lets them down worse than just about anything else you can do, that's what the SGT Says.

Light Beam

What kind of flashlight do you carry? Can you use it as a weapon? Does your department policy allow you to use it as a weapon? Do you know how? A flashlight is a very important bit of equipment that you should carry all the time. I carry one at night and during the day. I have it during the day because you never know if your are going to enter a dark room, basement, attic, storage box or other dark place. I used to know an officer who did not carry his flashlight and often had to return to his car to get it. You can imagine how disruptive that was to an interior building search to have your partner run off to get a flashlight.

The flashlight beam can be bright enough to shock or surprise a suspect to give you a momentary advantage. The light can destroy their night vision and can be used to create a curtain of light that makes you invisible to the suspect. This can be important when confronting multiple suspects, especially when you are alone or have insufficient back up.

I carry a small flashlight that I can keep in my pocket. I also have a yellow cone that I can snap over the end so that I can more effectively direct traffic. The little cone makes the beam much more visible to drivers.

Don't scrimp when buying a light. There are many good ones out there, check out the ones your fellow officers carry and check out the features. That's what the SGT Says.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Holiday Weekend

Independence Day is coming up in a few days. Do you have special events in your jurisdiction? Are you ready for the event? Are you ready for anything unexpected that may happen? Large crowds are good targets for both international and domestic terrorism. Are you ready? Do you have extra personnel on duty? Do you have extra people who can respond in the event of a major incident? It is a holiday weekend, will many of your own people be off duty, out of town, perhaps at home but drunk?

There is also the normal activity associated with a three day weekend, and this may be a big one. Increased traffic with people going out of town, more drunk drivers, the potential to have major traffic collisions since many vehicles will have more than one occupant. This is a good time to check your personal emergency plans. Confer with the spouse and the children so they know what to expect of you in a major incident. Check your gear to make sure you have gloves, water, working flashlight, and all the other items you carry are in good condition.

Make sure you have fuel in your personal vehicles so you don't have to buy gas during the emergency or at least avoid the weekend rush. Check your home supplies too so that you have less to worry about in the event of an incident. I am going to the supermarket today, are you? We have a week to prepare use the time well, that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Report Format

Does your agency have a special format for the report narrative? If not, I submit this one for you to use when you write reports.


Write the word ASSIGNMENT on the top of the page. Then go on to describe how you got involved in the incident. I was dispatched to a burglary alarm. I was flagged down by a woman in the street. I conducted a traffic stop for a broken taillight. This is where you began the incident and it can be the place to explain your probable cause and what you were doing there.

The next section is the INVESTIGATION and it will be the body of your report. Make this the location for your narrative explaining the witness statements, the bulk of your actions and the majority of the activity at the event.

Third is the OBSERVATIONS, these are circumstances or facts that may not directly relate to this particular incident. This is a good place to explain how this incident may relate to a previous call, or a place to put your opinion about the nature of the incident, if it is important to relate that information. This section may be NONE if there are no observations that are relevant.

Finally, write your CONCLUSION, that is who was arrested, what property was recovered, who was released or kept in custody, who was notified.

Using a format like this one will help you to organize your thoughts on paper and can help you write a more complete report. It also helps the supervisors to quickly check what happened so they can answer questions about the event without having to read the entire report. That's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Taking More Paper

Report writing is often the bane of law enforcement. I have known many officers to do the right thing and then write a report that was terrible and sounded like they did something bad. I like to compose a report as if I was speaking to someone like my mom who knows nothing about police work. Then when a supervisor, prosecutor, or juror has to read it they can understand what I wrote without having to decipher the jargon of radio codes and penal codes and cop talk.

Just like writing a composition when you were in school, start off with a quick outline, put down the most important facts. Most reports will start off explaining why you were there; was dispatched, observed suspicious activity, received a citizen flag down, are typical reasons you may have gotten involved in a particular event. Then explain what you saw, who you contacted, what you did and why you did it. At the end you explain the final results, who went to jail, what happened to the property, who went to the hospital and who was notified.

When writing a report it is better to put too much in than not enough. It can help you recall the incident if you have to testify years later. It can also help to differentiate the incident from similar ones you have handled. Over a long police career residential burglaries can be pretty common, so specific information about a particular one can be helpful. Get a copy of other officers reports that have a reputation for writing good paper. That can serve as examples when you have similar incidents. I also like to review the penal code prior to writing my report so I can insure I cover each of the elements of the crime in my report.

Report writing is not as exciting as a high speed pursuit, but it is just as much a part of the job, that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Terror at Home

The Federal Bureau of Investigation maintains a website. They have plenty of information of value. One of the most important parts is the the news section. They tell of the convictions of various people for criminal acts investigated by the Bureau. What struck me about that was the large number of people being convicted as real or potential terrorists.

The War on Islamic Terror continues and unlike most of our previous wars, there is a significant law enforcement component to this war. Unless we see a bomb explode or a plane get hijacked on television news we tend to forget that everyday Americans are targets for our enemies. Two of the 9/11 hijackers were stopped for minor traffic offenses prior to the attacks.

When you are on patrol, or working with prisoners, are you aware of the potential for terrorism? Many terrorists have been stopped by patrol officers. Many terrorists live in the United States for years while they go to school in preparation for their attack. Often those preparations take place outside of major urban centers, so just because your city is not a potential target does not mean that you won't some day run across a terrorist, that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pockets of Resistance

An officer makes a traffic stop or a pedestrian stop. As he approaches the subject he notices the subject has his hands in his pockets. The officer says, "Take your hands out of your pockets." The subject then pulls his hands out of his pockets and the contact continues. Or, the subject takes his hands out of his pockets, in his right hand is a small handgun and he shoots the officer.

I see officers do this all the time. A simple tactical mistake. Officers know that they need to see the suspects hands, and so they are anxious to have the subject make his hands visible. This is an excellent goal, but there is a simple way to improve on this procedure. Change the commands that you give to the suspect. "Face away from me, now slowly take your hands out of your pockets."

Order the suspect to face away from you. Once they face away, order them to slowly remove their hands from their pockets. If they face away from you and withdraw a handgun, they have to turn around before they can shoot you. That gives you a tactical advantage. Sometimes the difference between life and death is getting that couple seconds of reaction time for you to take action. That's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Basic Stuff

Watching some cops on television yesterday and I saw them handcuff a convicted felon with his hands in front of his body. When did that seem like a good idea? He was so dangerous when the transferred him from one cell to another they had four officers guarding him. Okay, if he is that dangerous, I reasoned, maybe they had a waist chain on him, and handcuffed in front. No, it was regular handcuffs.

Basic stuff is basic because it is one of the most important things we have to do, and do it all the time. Suspects should nearly always be handcuffed to the back. Handcuffing to the front allows suspects to use their fists and the cuffs as weapons. Nearly every year I read about an officer who is transferring a prisoner or who makes an arrest and ends up being assaulted and killed, often in a gun take away, by a suspect who was handcuffed in front.

Suspects don't like to be handcuffed in the back; when riding in the car it is uncomfortable. It often stretches the arms far back and can hurt the shoulders, especially someone with big muscles. "Nice" officers sometimes try to accommodate a prisoner by handcuffing the prisoner in the front because it is more comfortable. It is also easier to escape. Sometimes I have had to use two sets of handcuffs linked together to cuff up a big guy. But I always handcuff to the back if it is physically possible, that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

What Are You Doing Tomorrow?

Tomorrow is Sunday, are you going to church? Why not? Most police officers when asked will profess a faith in God, but we are often poor when it comes to church attendance. During a police career we will see people do very bad things to each other. We may be involved in a shooting, even get shot, or a bad traffic collision, or internal affairs investigation. Having a church family to fall back on can be a great source of strength.

Officers often develop an us vs them mentality over time. Everyone is a cop or a crook. This often leads to job burnout, inappropriate activity, ethical problems or stress related injuries. Having a church to visit every week can give you another perspective on life. When that day comes when something bad happens at work, it gives you someone to talk to about it, another group of people to help make sense of the incident.

It is easy to say we are working a long shift, or working nights or work weekends and so it is difficult to get to church. Find a church with an alternative schedule, go on Wednesday or make special arrangements with your church. Police have to be careful not to isolate themselves from society. We risk our lives everyday to protect society, we should take part in some of the good things it has to offer. That's what the SGT Says.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Look At This Problem

Do you wear prescription glasses? How do you deal with that at work? How well do you see without them? Well enough to drive? Well enough to shoot? What back up plan do you have in place should your glasses get lost or broken?

I wear glasses to see things close up, but I don't need them to drive. I actually see well enough to write a citation without them but it takes more time while I puzzle out the information on the violators drivers' license. I carry my glasses in my uniform shirt pocket, and slip them on usually only when I have to read. I have an extra pair in my personal car back at the station should I break or lose them.

When I go to the range, I shoot both with my glasses and without them. Since I need them for close up work, they help me focus on my sights and I do shoot a little better with them, but even without them I still shoot very well. Can you shoot without your glasses? Have you ever tried? Go to the range and practice your shooting without your glasses. Even if you can barely see without them you can be taught to shoot reasonably well without glasses.

In a fight or after a traffic collision we may have to continue to function even without glasses, that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Doing Time

A while back I was talking to one of my partners and he said things were not going that well with the MRS. We spoke for a time and I asked him how many hours he was working each week, and he told me about 60 or so, plus commuting time. And I asked him how many meals he eats every day with other cops and he said one or two. I talked to him about some recent training seminars that he attended and he told me how good they were and how valuable they were for his career.

I asked him to compare that time spend on law enforcement with the time spend with his wife. Does he spend 60 waking hours a week with her? Does he eat one or two meals a day with her? Does he go to seminars with her to make his marriage better? Naturally he said "No."

Then I asked him if police work or his marriage were the most important? Since he spends all his time with cops and eats with them and not his wife, I said it must be police work.

He told me his wife was the most important thing in his life, and he worked hard to support her and the kids and he wanted them to be proud of him. I reminded him that if something is important to you, that you must spend time cultivating it. If you love the MRS then spend time with her. Eat with her. Talk to her, go to a chick flick with her.

One of the greatest dangers of police work is divorce. We get so wrapped up in our jobs that we forget or neglect to spend time with the spouse. Make time to be with the wife and talk to her. It does not have to be a big expensive dinner out, the wife just wants to be with her husband. That's why she married you, because she wants the most precious thing you have, your time. Give her some of it, that's what the SGT Says.

Event Security

As a reserve officer, I get to work a lot of events; parades, football games, high school dances. One thing I try to do when I work these is plan for the worst case scenario. Most of the time my partners and I walk around and smile and chat with people and nothing happens. But over the years, I have responded to shootings, heart attacks, major accidents with injuries, and fires.

The first thing to do is observe the venue itself. Where are the exits, how big is the crowd, how many officers do I have to secure the location? Can the crowd exit quickly in an emergency, like a fire or shooting? Can rescue and fire department enter the location quickly?

I like to walk the location myself to check the exits, nature of the crowd and the access control. Who will control access? Is there an entry fee? How is the money controlled? Will an officer escort the money to the bank or other secure location? I try to insure that even before I leave the station, I notify Dispatch that we will be there and ask that on duty officer stop by to visit when possible. That way they get a feel for they layout if we need assistance.

Proper planning for events, even at late stages, can make a bid difference in the safety of the participants; that's what the SGT says.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Car Check

Every time you go on patrol, you need to check your unit. The car should be inspected from front to rear, look for any new damage and check to see if everything is in good condition. Tires should be properly inflated and have good tread. Tail lights and headlights should be in working order and clean. Run the light bar and, siren, ally lights, take down lights, to insure they all work. Inspect the shotgun and the patrol rifle. Make sure they work and have ammunition.

Check inside the vehicle passenger compartment for cleanliness. Dump the trash at the end of your shift and if your partner did not, then dump his trash at the beginning of your shift. Pay particular attention to the back seat. Make certain there is nothing in the back of the car where prisoners may sit. You don't want a gun to be laying there where the last shifts' prisoner dumped it. You want to be able to testify later that the dope you removed after you removed your prisoner was not there before you started work.

A couple years ago I had to try eight different cars before I got one that worked. A proper vehicle inspection is essential to starting your shift off right; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Trust But Verify

I got an email today warning me about a potentially dangerous situation. The email described an incident that happened to a woman at a gas station and then warned us to be aware of the potential for similar incidents to happen to us.

The story did not name the woman.
The story did not give a specific date the incident happened.
The story did not name the gas station nor the city where the event happened.
There was no doctor or other expert named who could describe the symptoms the woman experienced and no police agency that was contacted.

When you get emails that warn of a problem, examine the message carefully. It should answer the basic questions of who, what, when, where, and why that a police report would include. I try not to forward emails without verifying the information in them. Websites like Snopes can be helpful, or a simple web search on the topic will usually turn up good information.

Part of doing good law enforcement is having credibility, and putting out warnings over the web of emergencies and dangers that don't exist will hurt that credibility; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hot Fun in the Summer Time

Summer time is here and it will be time to watch the heat. No matter how warm it gets you need to wear your body armor whenever you have your uniform on. That means you need to stay hydrated. Drinking beverages with caffeine in them can cause us to lose water. So coffee and colas should not be your first choice for something to drink.

Water is a good choice. I have a water bottle that I keep in my car, I fill it at home and make sure that on my long commute to work, 50 miles for me, I have water so that I arrive at work hydrated. I also don't wear my uniform on the way to work, helps to keep me cool.

While at work, keep water or a sports drink handy. Small sips throughout the day is better than taking a break and chugging down a quart or two. First of all, the small sips replace the water as your body loses it. Second, how many times have we intended to take that break and then did not get it due to call loads?

Park your unit in the shade when possible. It will help to keep your vehicle cooler and make your car air conditioning more efficient. Despite using air conditioning, be sure to keep a car window open so you can hear what is happening outside. I like to open a rear window so that if anyone throws something at the car, it will be less likely to hit me.

On really hot days about halfway through the shift, I will return to the station locker room and change my tee shirt. It helps me to feel cooler and also by changing into a dry shirt I avoid heat rash. Wearing body armor with a heat rash on your body is very uncomfortable.

Patrol on hot days can be challenging, but bad guys are out there all the time and we have to be too. That's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Google It

Is your agency using computer technology to help it out? There is so much out the on the Internet that can be helpful. Do you have a gang problem in your town? Do a web search for your local gang, you may be surprised at what turns up on line. If you have young suspects have you checked out their Myspace pages? Often people will post information about their previous or intended crimes on line, not realizing that it is public information.

Ask your teenagers about where kids go on line and check it out for yourself. Search those sites for criminal activity in your area. You will be shocked and amazed at what you will see getting posted.

Are you watching a building or planning a raid? Go to Google Earth or any of the other map sites. Now most have aerial photographs of the buildings you are planning to search. Many now even have ground view photos of buildings in your area. Before you serve a search warrant do some Internet recon and check out the layout of the streets and backyards on line. Then print out the photos and give them to your team. While you are at it, do a web search of your police department and your home and see how much information there is out there for potential criminals to get about your agency.

Very little is secret anymore, that's what the SGT Says.

Practice Practice Practice

Sure you go to the range all the time but do you practice with your other gear? We practice fast draw with our duty weapons, but can you fast draw your backup gun? How quickly can you get it out of the holster and shoot accurately? What about your impact weapons? When was the last time you drew your baton and practiced hitting something? You should practice with all your weapons at least monthly. It does not have to be a thirty minute session, a three minute session is better than no training at all. Just a little bit extra on your own to stay sharp. Would you rather testify you trained two years ago, or just last week?

I carry three knives. Nearly every time I put them on I practice opening and closing them. I can open them with either hand. Often I just open them once or twice, but if I am able to do it quickly and smoothly then I am fine. If I fumble or am too slow, I will spend a few seconds and run through opening and closing them a couple times. The same is true for my baton. About once a month I go into the back yard at home and just draw the weapon and swing it around. I don't have a bag, I just practice some of the moves. It is only a couple minutes but it keeps the techniques fresh in my mind.

Sometimes you just need a little bit of practice to stay fresh and stay aware. That's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Save Your Sight

We have all seen the scene in the movies in the fight scene when the bad guy throws sand in the eyes of the good guy. That sort of thing happens in real life too, what are you doing about it?

Eye protection is not just for the range. I typically wear a pair of wrap around sun glasses that protect my vision from more than just the sun. Think about your typical work day, walking around a house checking the property after a burglary alarm. Getting whacked in the face by a branch or poking a stick in your eye from the landscaping. How about having to render first aid to a victim with arterial bleeding or having a suspect spit in your face? Not a pleasant thought these days.

Now you can get glasses that have replaceable lenses so you can wear dark in the daytime and light gray or clear in the evening. Not a bad idea to wear eye protection, you wear it on the range, and all you have to worry about there is bullets. That's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Contact and Cover

Contact and Cover. A basic tactic long used by officers, yet often I see two officers together and they are failing to use this simple, and effective tool. Simply put, one officer contacts the suspect, victim, reporting party, criminal and the other one covers his actions. Each officer is doing an important job, one is conducting the investigation, the second is insuring his safety. It is difficult to talk to someone and take notes and watch them at the same time. That is the job of the cover officer, to watch them.

The cover officer actually often has the more difficult job. It is very difficult not to jump in and do the investigation. The cover officer must maintain a position of advantage relative to the suspect. Generally, standing behind or at least to the side of the suspect gives the cover officer the greatest advantage. The cover officer must maintain readiness to subdue the suspect if any danger is posed to the contact officer.

The contact officer must rely on the cover officer so that he can focus on investigating the incident. By being able to reduce their need to watch their own safety they are better able to conduct the investigation. Whenever two officers work together, this is an excellent tactic, that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cop Killer to go Free

In 1976 a man with a history of criminal behavior and violent crimes murdered a Cypress, CA police SGT who was responding to a residential burglary alarm. The suspect may be released on parole unless we act to stop it from happening. Cypress Police Department is a small agency in Orange County, California. When I went to the police academy one of the administrators there was a LT from Cypress PD and a good Officer. Let's help them keep this killer where he belongs, behind bars. Go to their website and sign their petition.

Here is the message I got from a friend today that gives you the story:

Bobby Joe Denney shot and killed on-duty Cypress P.D. Sergeant Don Sowma while committing a burglary in 1976. Denney was convicted of Murder with special circumstances and sentenced to Life without parole. Denney got transferred to an Oklahoma prison to be near his family but has just been returned to California in a bid for parole.The youngest Sowma son married my daughter, she is asking each of you to go to the Cypress P.D. Website

Here is a link to newspaper article about the family of the officer and the criminal.

`A heinous crime' - Whittier Daily News

Another agency has called for back up after one of their own has been murdered, let's help them out; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, June 9, 2008

IM Me at Dispatch

Everyone uses the Internet to communicate these days, both by computer and by phone text messages. Is your Dispatch center hooked up to the Internet? Can your Dispatch center receive Email and Instant Messages over the Internet? If not, why not?

Imagine someone at home on line and they hear a window breaking at the back of the house. Could they simply send your Dispatch center an Instant Message that says I am alone in the house at 123 Main Street and need the police because I hear breaking glass? That would be fast and quiet, they would not have to speak to communicate to the dispatcher.

Two parents are having a domestic violence incident, and the kid is on the computer, they simply call up the PD on the Instant Message system and report the crime. Unless the parents are watching the monitor, not likely if they are busy fighting each other.

As communication technology develops and changes we need to insure we make our services available to our citizens in the best ways we can. A hundred years ago police started taking phone calls. Maybe it's time to update the system a bit. That's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

FI This

When was the last time you filled out a Field Interview Card? One of the most important things we can do is to be the eyes and ears of the detectives. As a patrol officer we get to know the streets, and who is there and who is not normally there. Field Interview Cards are a tool to tie things together.

A drive by shooting happens on a street. A green Camero with two males in it flash gang signs and shoot at some other gangsters, but hit an unrelated child. A few days later, detectives pick up a suspect. The suspect says he does not own a green Camero. What do you do? Check the Field Interview Cards.

A Field Interview Card shows the suspect was stopped in the company of another male two weeks ago. The other male was driving a green Camero. Now you have placed your suspect inside a green Camero and in the company of someone who drives it; who now becomes your second suspect.

A simple thing like filing out an FI card and you have tied two people and a car to a murder investigation. Often we stop a car for a minor traffic offense and may not write a citation, but if the car or occupants seem like they may be persons of interest, complete an FI card on them. You may help to solve a murder, that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Catch Me If You Can

I read an article recently about an officer who had stopped carrying many of his less lethal weapons because they were too heavy when he was chasing people. Chasing people? If you have to chase people all the time you may need to re-evaluate a few things. First of all your approach to people. I try and approach people from a position that blocks them in. If there is an obvious escape route, that is where I like to come from. That way they have to go through me to get away; and that is not happening.

If you have to chase people alot, listen to your approach, maybe you are making too much noise. I wrote about that recently. Don't give up the stealth advantage by squeaky shoes and jingling keys. I practice sneaking up on people so that now I just do it all the time without thinking. My wife keeps threatening to 'bell' me!

Perhaps the direction of approach needs work. Often I have one officer go one way and I go the other and we meet the bad guy in the middle. I don't like to do this often and if you have to be very far away or out of sight of your partner it may not be the best tactic, but an approach from multiple directions often gives law enforcement a psychological advantage. It makes the bad guys feel penned in and surrounded.

Also, why are you chasing people? Have they committed a crime? Do you have an arrestable offense when you catch them? Just running is not typically a crime and may be difficult to show probable cause for an arrest. Observe what the suspect is doing before they run to build your probable cause so that you can actually take them into custody when you catch them, that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Be Paraniod, They Are Watching You

Go to Youtube and type in police brutality or police video and see how many videos there are of police doing their job. Often badly, sometimes well. The point is, in this video on demand age, you should always just behave as if someone is watching you, everywhere, all the time. Gone are the days when you can go into that back alley and do a little street justice. If officers just behaved as if everything they ever did on duty was going to be filmed and shown to their supervisor and their mom they would behave a lot better.

Every ATM machine has a camera on it. Many computer monitors have a camera mounted on them. Helicopters fly overhead with a camera looking down on you. Your own station has cameras in the lobby and other public areas, you police car has a camera in it. Every ten year old has a cell phone with a camera in it. Many buildings have cameras for exterior security. Some websites offer live streaming video of the street or bus stop or beach.

I anticipate the day when every officer will wear a low light, color, and sound wireless camera on his uniform; and another camera inside the patrol car. The supervisor will be able to sit at the station or at his command center like an AWACS and watch every encounter, every arrest, every time you do anything on duty.

So get used to it. The liability for cities and other agencies is so great that they find it cheaper to install cameras to show how good their officers are. The vast majority of the time officers do the right thing. So, start now practicing saying, "Yes, Sir, No Ma'am, Thank you, No thank you." It always looks good on the video when you say "Sir" to the criminal rather than call him some nasty name.

You can think whatever you like about the bad guys, but on duty, talk nice to them, while you watch their hands, and have a plan to shoot them if you need to. That's what the SGT Says.

Range Safety

Yes, you know all about range safety. Don't point guns at people on the range, and don't shoot the rangemaster. There are other dangers on the range besides poor gun handling. Sound, backstop, weapons malfunctions, and lead all pose their own problems.

Always wear proper ear protection on the range. Always means for every shot fired, and make sure everyone else does too. Sound damage to the ears is cumulative, and have you ever met a rangemaster who could hear well? Be sure of your backstop. More than one range has been closed by bullets flying outside the fence of the range.

There is also a problem with bullets bouncing back and hitting people. Wear eye protection all the time. Everyone on the range should wear glasses. And don't think that glasses without side protection are good enough. People look left or right and their eyes are exposed. You should stand at least ten feet or more back from any target frame or stand or backstop that could have bits come back at you. Bullets often fragment, and parts of the casing can be very sharp and hit you if you are close.

Weapons and ammunition sometimes break, often on the range. I have had guns and bullet casings explode on the range. Another good reason to wear that eye protection.

Finally, lead. Indoor ranges need adequate ventilation. Indoor ranges also need filters to clean the air that is discharged. Indoor or outdoor, lead is still a hazard. After shooting, wash your hands and face with soap and water before you eat, chew gum, smoke or drink. Ingestion of lead is not a good thing, lead builds up in the body and causes all kinds of bad things to happen. Staying safe on duty, also means staying safe while training, that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Get Ready, Stay That Way

Being in law enforcement is hard. Working long hours. Working late shifts. Working weekends and holidays. Out patrolling when nothing happens. Working alone when it is hot or cold, or raining, or snowing. Yet, despite all the hardships, we have to be there, ready. Because we never know when the evil will descend on our town.

The bad guys come and murder, and burn, and destroy when they want to, on their timetable. We cannot know when this will happen, but we know they will come. Maybe not today, perhaps not this month, or even this year, or maybe not in our whole career will something terribly bad happen. Or it will happen now, in the next couple minutes, the next time the radio crackles or a citizen flags us down, or we stop a car full of killers.

Law enforcement is hard. Not typically because what we have to do is so hard. But because it is hard to stay alert. To be aware every moment that the next call or the next routine traffic stop could become a shooting, a mass murder, a terrorist attack. Are you ready? If the next call you get is a suicide bomber and not a simple suicide, do you know what to do, and are you prepared to do it?

Criminals kill police, but it is our complacency that allows them the opportunity. Watch the hands, control their movements, do a good search, call for backup. Be ready, anytime, every call; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Taking Paper

Do you write much? How about, do you do anything other than write some days? One of the most important tasks we perform is documenting what we do, what we are told, and what we observe.

Young people often ask, Hey SGT what should I take in school if I want to be a cop? I always tell them, take English classes. Many people have great trouble in the academy with report writing and often in field training report writing is a difficult subject for many. I know this is not the answer they are looking for me to give them. They always want me to say "Go buy a gun and shoot a thousand rounds," or "Learn how to investigate murders and terrorist attacks." But we all know few fail out of law enforcement because they can't shoot or investigate murders.

Who does not write good reports in your agency? You know, the guy who always gets his reports returned by the SGT. The SGT who approves every report because he can't read them or correct the spelling and grammar. The LT that publishes memos with spelling and grammar errors that everyone giggles at during roll call.

These same officers often have problems when the D.A. reads their reports. Criminals don't get charges filed on them, charges get dropped, criminals don't get convicted because these people don't write good paper. If you don't write well, take an English class; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Partner Up

Do you always work alone, or do you work with a partner? As a Reserve Officer I have the choice of working alone, with another Reserve or with a Regular. Usually, I work with a partner. It is important to know a few things about the person you are working with. Since I work in a small agency and have been there for a long time, I know everyone, but not all of us have that luxury.

Does your partner carry a back up gun? If so, were does he keep it?

What type of police work does he like to do? Lots of traffic stops looking for big time criminals, or does he just like to write a lot of tickets?

What equipment does he carry, and is he any good with it?

How does he react in emergency situations? Passive, aggressive, in the middle?

I like to chat with any new partner to get a feel for his style and tactics. Who will be the contact officer? Who will drive, and who will talk on the radio? Determine who will be the contact officer and who will be the cover officer before you get any calls. Does he have any special skills, speak other languages or is he a kung fu master? Knowing these facts is important and you need to find them out, that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Shoot Fast, Shoot Often

Most law enforcement shootouts happen in six feet or less, in three seconds or less, with three rounds fired, or less. So when I train officers to shoot, I want them to go from flat footed to draw, fire three rounds, and hit a target six feet away in three seconds or less. How do you get to that skill level?

The most important aspect in shooting is the ability to hit the target, so I always start with marksmanship fundamentals. Only when the learner has been able to consistently hit the target can you reasonably move on. Once this task has been accomplished, I work on the other skills. The trainee should begin with the gun in the holster, as it would be on duty. On command, the trainee will draw and fire three rounds into the target, six feet away. This should happen in three seconds or less.

The important thing is to begin by being smooth. By practicing drawing the weapon smoothly and coming onto the target with a minimum of motion, the trainee will eventually build speed. Smooth will become fast over time.

Rounds should be fired at a man size target and need not hit in a space the size of a dime. Rounds should impact in a small area, but as long as the rounds are hitting the center of mass, that's good enough.

When you only have three seconds, you can't spend much time drawing the weapon or getting on target. That's what the SGT Says.