Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Traffic

The greatest danger on Halloween night is cars running over children. This is a good evening to do some traffic enforcement. Wait at stop signs and cite those who don't stop. Wait at intersections and cite those who don't stop for the red traffic lights. Follow those in residential areas who are driving too fast and stop and ticket them.

Many children are killed and injured on Halloween night crossing streets in the middle of the block, failing to look both ways before crossing the street. Motorists are distracted by decorations, by strange lights, and even people in costume as the go door to door. With many more pedestrians out this is a good time to cruise the residential neighborhoods and be seen by everyone.

When you cite a driver on Halloween night, note that it was Halloween on the ticket, indicate there was greater than normal pedestrian traffic, and how dark the streets are. These are the best reasons to work traffic on a night like this, to keep the kids safe; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's Da Bomb

As we approach the American Presidential elections there are more concerns about terrorism. It is a good time to review procedures for detecting bombs. Any container no matter how small can contain a bomb. Some bombs are designed only to injure, blow up the person opening it or blow off the hand that opens it up. Bomb attacks happen just about every day in the US.

Envelopes or other mail my exhibit oily stains because some types of explosive can sweat. Often there will be excessive tape or string holding the package together. There may be an inner envelope. The package may have a chemical smell, and there could be wire, or foil sticking out of the package. The package might be unusually heavy.

Frequently the address may be to a person by title rather than name, "company president." Often there is no return address on the package. The name or title of the recipient may be spelled incorrectly, and poorly typed or hand lettered.

A real bomb may exhibit some or all or none of these features. People who work in the area will have a good idea if something is out of place. Don't be afraid to evacuate an area, and respond the fire department. Don't handle the package or try and take it outside. Don't use your radio and turn off all cellular phones near the possible bomb. If someone reports a suspicious package and you have any doubts about it being a bomb or not, have a bomb squad respond to analyze the container. It is better to blow up someones lunch box than it is to blow up a person, that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Safe, Safe on the Range

Just as baseball players go to spring training every year to hone their skills, we need to practice our shooting skills to stay proficient. While practicing on the range, we need to take every safety precaution so that our training does not become a tragedy.

Wear eye protection that is ANSI certified. Wear ear protection that provides protection noise reduction to at least 29db. Don't go cheap with ear protection and get the budget stuff. Over time hearing damage is cumulative and the better ear muff make a big difference. I wear both ear muffs and ear plugs when shooting rifle and shotgun. The double ear protection makes a big difference when spending the day at the range firing rifles.

Lead is another concern on the range. Even so called "lead free" ammunition may have lead in it, sometimes in the primer or it may be in the bullet. There should be no eating, drinking, smoking or gum chewing on the range. Once shooting is done, the shooters and anyone present on the range should wash their hands and face with soap and water to remove any lead particles. Range safety is more than just pointing the guns in a safe direction, that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Don't Change Tires

Does your agency make you change a flat tire? Shame on them. Changing tires should not be done in uniform while on duty on a patrol car. The jack that comes standard in most cars are very flimsy and I have seen many of them fold up under a car. They also work very poorly on anything but the most level terrain.

Every agency has an official tow service and they should respond the fetch the patrol vehicle with a flat tire. The vehicle should be removed to a safe location and then a repairmen should replace the tire. They have the proper equipment, floor jacks, air hammers and full size spare tires to get the patrol vehicle back in service safely.

If your agency absolutely has to replace their own tires, here are a few words of advice. First, only use full size spare tires. Those little donut spares are not safe for patrol work and your car will be out of service anyway. If you can, use those cans of compressed air with a tire sealant, it will pump up your tire and seal the leak so you can drive the car back to the station for a proper replacement tire. Get a floor jack and put it in the supervisor car. If a patrol car needs a tire replaced, have the supervisor respond and use the floor jack to lift the patrol car. Always have at least two officers on scene when changing a tire so that one can do the work and the other and keep watch; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Check It Out

Before you go on patrol, do a quick inspection. Do you have your keys? Press check your handgun to insure there is a round in the chamber. Once, many years ago, I was doing an interior check on a house, on a burglar alarm call and halfway through, my partner stopped me and loaded his gun! Check your shotgun and patrol rifle and make sure they are properly loaded too.

Inspect your vehicle and make sure you have a full tank of gas. You never know when you are going to have to drive 200 miles away for some emergency situation. It is best not to have to worry about fuel. Check the inside of the vehicle, I like to make sure the trunk has road flares, crime scene tape, and a fire extinguisher, and make sure nothing is bouncing around in there. Check the back seat to make sure no one left any contraband there. If prisoners are transported there, they may have left drugs, guns, or other bad things there.

I like to keep paper towels, rubber gloves, extra paper and pen in the car too and check for them before I drive away. I check the weapons release button to insure the shotgun and patrol rifle will release right away. Check that the emergency lights, headlights, spotlights and all other vehicle controls work. Check the handheld and vehicle radios to insure they work also. One night my partner and I went through eight cars before we found one suitable for patrol! Proper inspection is important because it is too late to fix the problem when there is an emergency; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Stay Strong Philadelphia

Officer Chuck Cassidy
Sergeant Stephen Liczbinski
Officer Isabel Nazario
Officer Patric McDonald

The City of Philadelphia Police Department has lost four officers in four separate incidents so far this year. Officer Isabel Nazario was killed in a traffic collision with an SUV during a pursuit of a suspected drunk driver. The other three officers were murdered by criminals who were caught in the commission of crimes.

These deaths serve as tragic reminders to us all about the dangers we face every day. The car hit in the traffic collision was nearly cut in half. Even air bags and seat belts would provide very little protection in such an collision; but most accidents are not this sever and the use of the seat belt saves officers. Sometimes a pursuit may need to be called off, or the pursuit vehicles need to back off when it becomes too dangerous. The use of aircraft can provide great help in a high speed pursuit.

When officers arrive at any location, check the activity inside as you enter in case there is a crime in progress. The bad guys always know who we are, but we don't know who they are, most of the time. When responding to a crime in progress, there is nothing wrong with coordinating the responding units to insure several officers arrive in at the same time. There is a certain safety in numbers.

Philadelphia is a great American city and they are well served by a professional, and dedicated police department. My condolences go out to the families and the partners of these heroic officers who died protecting their communities; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Meth Is Bad

Lab Safety Supply - EZ Facts Safety Info - Document #321, Meth Lab Emergency Response Safety

Methamphetamine labs are very dangerous places. They generally should only be entered by officers who are in proper protective gear and have been trained in how to respond to such a location. Meth labs can be recognized by the chemical smell and the presence of scientific type equipment, glass tubes, laboratory beakers, and chemical equipment.

These laboratories can be flammable, explosive, and go up with very little provocation. An entry team can set off an explosion simply by turning on a light switch, and certainly firing a gun will be very hazardous. Entry teams need fireproof clothing, respirators, chemical resistant clothing and footwear, and know how to use it. The fire department, and paramedics should be notified and standing by in the event of a fire or medical emergency.

Even after the initial entry team has gotten the suspects out, there is still extreme danger. The chemicals can still explode or catch fire. The residue is hazardous. Even the air can cause a variety of illnesses. Contact other local or higher agencies for technical assistance, advice and equipment before entering a known methamphetamine lab; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Stop Carefully

While lounging at the station today, I found a magazine that showed a listing of officer on duty deaths. I was shocked at the number of officers who were killed during traffic stops by third party drivers. There are several steps to take to avoid getting run over while performing a traffic stop.

First, try and stop the violator on a street with slow moving traffic, in a well lit area. Always either legally park the patrol car, or make a safety lane to allow you to block a portion of the lane and walk up to the stopped vehicle. I actually prefer parking legally, so drivers who may be impaired don't have my car as a target, sticking out in the lane. Have the driver drive into a parking lot or even off the road to be safe. There is no reason to do a traffic stop on a dangerous street. Follow the vehicle to a safe place to stop, use your public address system to direct them to a safe place to stop.

Before you get out of the car, check your six. A lay off suspect may pull up behind you, or there may simply be a bad driver near you that you need to avoid when you get out of the patrol car. Approach the stopped vehicle from the passenger side. Nothing says you have to do business with your rear sticking out into traffic. Have them roll the window down and lean across the car. Get the driver out of the car if you need to for safety. I have had drivers get out and then walk away a bit so we could conduct business in safety, and that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Force Options

While watching a TV show about a fugitive from justice I noticed several officer safety problems in the re-enactments. An officer confronted the wanted felon in a parking lot, the suspect was standing inside the open door to his truck. The suspect reached in a pulled out a gun, the officer was standing very close and he struggled with the suspect over the handgun. The officer was in such a position that he could only use his right hand to fight for the gun. There seemed several options for the officer at that time.

What happened in the re-enactment is the suspect pushed the officer away and drove off in his truck without shooting. The officer could have done several things to achieve a better result. Push the suspect away and draw and fire his firearm. Reach for a back-up gun and shoot the suspect. Draw a knife with his left hand and stab the suspect until he is no longer a deadly threat. Draw his baton with his left hand and hit the suspect until he is no longer a deadly threat. Bite the suspect in the gun hand, hard. There are always options and when the suspect is threatening to kill you with the present ability to carry out that threat, the officer has many options. Proper planning, and prior thought will help to bring those options to mind in a crisis; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Two Wheels Of Danger

Outlaw motorcycle gang members arrested in Las Vegas - Las Vegas Sun

Recently, warrants were served on the members of a motorcycle gang. The warrants were for such activities as drug possession and sales, and other crimes. Most methamphetamine sales in the United States involve motorcycle gangs. Drug sales can lead to tremendous violence due to a desire to keep a territory exclusive to themselves.

These gang members were taken into custody in several states along with many weapons. Motorcycle gang members have been known not only to carry weapons, but to use knives, handguns, bombs, and even car bombs to kill their rivals. They can be very dangerous to law enforcement. Gangs often are willing to use force to accomplish their goals, to intimidate witnesses, and take over territory.

When confronting motorcycle gang members, try not to do so alone. It is best to have back up if possible. Use great caution and take control of the situation. Keep in mind gang members often do not travel alone and may use follow up vehicles that may stand off to observe and intervene at an opportune time. Be professional and conduct your business in a timely manner, without making unnecessary conversation. Stay focused on your job and your safety and enforce the law; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

UFOs & Barking Dogs

Britain Releases More UFO Sighting Files

Britain is releasing many recent files on unidentified flying objects. At three in the morning when something strange happens, law enforcement is who people turn to because we are some of the few who will show up at their location and try and help them. UFO calls, barking dogs, strange noises, animal problems, suspicious circumstances, unusual persons, odd smells, I have been dispatched to all of them.

A woman called dispatch in the middle of the night and requested a response for an "animal problem." That is all dispatch would tell me on the radio and since I was only a few seconds away, there was no time to phone them. When I arrived at the doorstep, a distraught woman met me at the door and said there was a large animal in one of her bedrooms. She showed me a TV monitor in the front room with a cable going off to the bedroom. She explained there was an animal trap in the room with a CCTV set up to watch the trap. She said she heard the trap close, but when she checked the picture the trap was gone. The only furniture in the room was a couch with a dust ruffle. She said she thought the animal was behind the couch with the trap on a foot.

I drew my baton and crouching down, slowly opened the door, and peeked inside, the lady of the house leaning over my shoulder and straining to look inside. Quietly we crept inside, I got down on my knees and using my baton at arms length, I pulled up the dust ruffle, and looked under the couch. Nothing! Both relieved and concerned, I moved to the side of the couch and holding my baton in my right hand and grasping the back of the couch in my left hand I jerked the couch from the wall, the lady of the house standing close behind me. She put her hands of her mouth and half gasped and half screamed as I saw a giant and very dead rat in a trap, the spring having snapped down on its middle.

Relieved that it was only a dead rat, half expecting something like a wolverine, I let out an audible sigh of relief. I asked her for a trash bag and she got one from the kitchen. She said she did not want the trap back and I toss the whole thing inside, and then took it outside to the trashcan. The lady could not thank me enough and I returned to patrol having handled the "animal problem." A simple problem for me, a dead rat in a rattrap is not a big deal, but to her, it was a major event in her life. Handling all kinds of problems is what we do; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bank Robbery

Most of the time when officers are shot in the line of duty they are within only a few feet of cover. Cover is material that will stop or at least slow down bullets. Concealment is material that only keeps someone from seeing you. If you take a position to watch a door at a bank robbery alarm, take a position of cover whenever possible. Assault rifles will penetrate rather large trees, empty mailboxes and wooden fences. Fire hydrants, vehicle engine blocks and concrete buildings provide good cover.

Suspects can be expected to exit a location and if they see officers they could open fire on them. You need to be in a position to give verbal commands, and return fire if necessary. Watch your background, you don't want any of your missed shots to go into the bank and hit employees or customers. Deploy officers at the front and rear and any sides with exit doors. Don't enter the bank, have the dispatcher phone and have the bank manager describe himself and exit with his hands up. Treat everyone exiting the bank as a suspect until you can verify the bank is not being robbed or that the robbers have left.

Robbers often have a get away car waiting out front, sometimes they have a driver who may be down the street. Watch for these vehicles, the driver may be armed too. Bank robbers sometimes operate in groups, three or even four is not unusual, and they may be heavily armed. Bank robbery response is not a time to leave the shotgun or patrol rifle in the patrol car; that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sun Screen & Glasses

Do you wear sunscreen on the job? I don't just wear it around on patrol, but when I have a detail that involves significant traffic direction or otherwise standing around, I use sun screen. Exposure to sun can damage your skin and those of us who spend a lot of time outdoors can even develop skin cancer if we don't protect ourselves.

With concerns about global warming, the need for skin protection may become even more important. I often wear long sleeve shirts even in summer. It helps to shield my skin from the sun. I use a waterproof sunscreen made for babies. The SPF 40 or more is what I like so that it lasts for hours.

I wear sunglasses too. It makes sense to wear them whenever the sun is up. Sunglasses not only reduce glare, look cool and protect your eyes from UV rays, they also provide a bit of officer protection too. Many times I have had to run to a back yard through the bushes and get whacked in the face and eye by a branch. Now I wear my sunglasses as much as I can. I have even worn lightly tinted grey or yellow lenses in the evening as a type of eye protection. Sunscreen and eye protection, two more

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mass Transit

With gasoline prices high and the economy not what we would like it to be, many more people are taking mass transit systems to work and back. If you ride a train, light rail or subway there are some things to remember for your own safety and if you have such a system in your jurisdiction here are some tips for you to pass on to the public.

People waiting for the train to arrive should stand back from the edge of the platform, it is easy to fall or get bumped or pushed off into the past of an oncoming train. Some systems have special areas below the platform where you can roll away into to avoid the train. Keep your wallet in a jacket or front pants pocket. Try to have exact change ready, a monthly pass or if you must use currency, don't flash large amounts of money where others can see it.

Don't use the train as a place to sleep, you are vulnerable on the train when you sleep, stay alert. Be aware of your surroundings. Watch for signs of terror attacks, terrorists like to attack trains and while unlikely you may stop a bombing. Learn the emergency procedures for the train system, know how to contact an operator or stop the train. Learn how to open the emergency exit doors on the train in event of an incident. Mass transit can be a great way to travel, but you still need to be careful; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Catch & Release

Write a ticket or let them go with a warning? I know some officers who write a ticket to everyone they stop. They won't stop a car if they do not intend to write a ticket. I know other officers who almost never write a ticket, but they stop lots of cars. Who is right? Well, it depends. The reason to write a ticket is to educate the violator and get them to change their behavior. Other people say that it is also to raise revenue for the agency, but I think that is an improper use of police powers.

There is a reason to do traffic enforcement that does not concern either of these first to reasons. That is to be able to talk to the driver, inspect the vehicle and passengers for the purpose of capturing criminals unrelated to the initial traffic offense. The Oklahoma City Bomber was captured as a result of a traffic stop.

Both of these are legitimate reasons to perform traffic stops on vehicles as long as the stop itself is objectively reasonable. That is to say, you must have observed a violation of the law to initiate the traffic stop. No other reasons then matter, because the initial stop was due to the behavior or circumstances of the driver being stopped. A broken tail light, expired vehicle registration, one headlight not working are all good reasons to stop a car, after that you can cite them or investigate them an release them; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Use Of Force

Nothing is new in police work, I think every document we have written as a policy was simply a revision of some previous document. What is your agency use of force policy? Under what circumstances can you used deadly force?

The first use of force policy was written about six thousand years ago in the Old Testament, in the Book of Genesis chapter 9 verse 6:

"Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man."

Most use of force policies follow this first one. All force must be reasonable. Officers don't have to use the least possible amount of force, officers have to use force that is reasonable. If the suspect is taking the life of an innocent person, then officers may use deadly force to stop that suspect from shedding the blood of an innocent person. That innocent person can be a citizen, another officer, or even yourself. This is not new, it's been around for centuries, that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Could an Obama loss spark race riots? (

Is your agency ready? Every few years it seems there is rioting for one reason or another. Race problems, labor relations, drunken college students, anti-war protesters, anarchists, or some other excuse to riot comes along and it seems law enforcement is seldom prepared. When was the last time you checked on your riot gear? Do you even have riot gear?

Agencies should have a gas mask for every officer. Not some war surplus thing, but a law enforcement specific gas mask with quality filters. Officers should have decent body armor that they wear on patrol, and naturally wear in a riot situation. Long batons are effective tools for repelling attacks and can be very intimidating. Shields can be very helpful when the rioters throw rocks and bottles; of course every officer should have a helmet and a protective face shield with it.

Chemical agents, pepper balls, tear gas grenades and launchers are important tools for controlling unruly crowds. Coordination with fire departments to prevent loss due to arson, and even the possible use of fire hoses and water cannon to control crowds is important. Coordination with paramedics and area hospitals to treat wounded is another factor to consider. Finally, practice your alert techniques, coordinate with other agencies and practice your tactics; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Plan For the Aftermath

When something bad happens at work it is time to remember to take care of yourself and to take care of your partners. If you come across a dead child, if there is a major use of force, if your agency is involved in a scandal, if someone from your agency dies, those are significant events that need to be addressed. Talk to your coworkers about the incident. Get everyone involved in a debriefing about the event and try to learn what you can so the event does not happen again. Get the training staff involved and don't forget your dispatchers. If you or any of your partners are in civil or criminal legal danger talk to your union or to your attorney right away.

Beware of the tendency for increased the alcohol consumption or even drug abuse, particularly prescription drugs. Get plenty of sleep. Don't push away those people who want to help you. Your spouse, your mother, your priest, your best friend, they many not know about law enforcement, but they know you. Spend some time with them, spend some time doing what you like to do, golfing, camping, collecting stamps. Don't obsess over what people not involved in the event have to say, your brother in law, the newspapers, the TV news don't know anything about law enforcement and you don't need to listen to their opinions about it.

Law enforcement is a dangerous profession, and sometimes we add to the danger ourselves. In a major event, don't make it out to be more that it is and don't let it get to you to the point where you want to quit or kill yourself. We don't need additional casualties after the event. Prior to a major event, think about how you would respond. Have a lawyer lined up and psychologist, and priest. Prepare how you will react after a shooting, or other major event so that the event will have less of an impact. Planning and training both for the shooting and after the shooting are both important, that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hold Me Close and Never Let Me Go

Firearms retention is critical for uniformed officers carrying a gun. I like to think of myself as having a bubble around me, no one gets inside my bubble without my permission. Sometimes the bubble expands or contracts depending on the situation. In a high risk car stop, my bubble will be large and I will keep suspects far away from me. In a crowd of people watching a sporting event my bubble will be smaller.

I don't want people close to me or my gun. So I have to be aware at all times how close people are to me and what they are doing. I always keep my elbow tucked close to me so that I can feel my gun touching my arm. That awareness is the first defense against a gun take away. I try and stand so that I can see my partner and he can see me if I am not working alone. Again, that awareness of who is nearby is important and communication with your partner when someone approaches that he may not see is critical.

Sometimes when crowds are very thick, I may even reach up and grasp my firearm to insure it cannot be taken. This is a rather extreme method of firearms retention that I would only take in a crowd that may contain some hostile people. Typically, I try not to get that close to people, but I work many events that have large numbers of people, and crowd control often means I am in with the people. I try and stand with my firearm near a pole or wall to minimize access to my gun by other people. I will verbally ask people to step away and even use my non-gun hand to push people away if they get to near. Awareness and the willingness to take action will help keep your firearm securely in your holster until you need it, that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Don't Run From Johnny Law

The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion. The Bible, Proverbs, chaper 28, verse 1.

Law enforcement is an old profession, there have been people on guard for as long as there has been something to guard against. If you work in law enforcement long enough you will see what The Bible writes above. If you are on patrol and you see people standing around "doing nothing" and suddenly they turn and run away, why do they do that? In law enforcement we call that a clue. Evil people will sometime flee when the police arrive because they know they are doing evil and thing the only reason the police could be there is because the cops are after them.

People who are not guilty don't run from your approach, "the righteous are bold as a lion." People who have nothing to fear don't run from you. Not everyone who does not run is a good guy, but good guys don't run from the police. In many areas you are lawfully permitted to chase people who run from you, but is this a good idea? Where are they going, and can you safely follow them? Do they have a weapon, are they retreating to a place where weapons or additional suspects are hiding?

I would rather drive around the block and let them run into me. Then when I find them they are tired already and less willing to fight. If I don't catch them today, then I know the next time or two that I visit that location to surround it with officers and enter from several directions and cut off their escape. Work smarter, not harder, that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What Do You Need?

What procedures, technologies, do we need to make us safer, more efficient, and better at our jobs?

We need a new seat belt to make them more automatic, and more comfortable.

We need a car that is larger and more comfortable and more adjustable for tall / short, fat / thin officers.

We need a device to disable a fleeing car and safely bring it to a halt.

We need a Tazer with a 100 foot range that is wireless.

We need legal protection that if we are acting in good faith trying to do our jobs, even if we do them badly, we can't be sued and lose everything we own. Let the agency discipline us, we don't need the double jeopardy of getting sued and getting fired. We should not have to worry that some judge is going to "discover" some new element of the law to make us liable for something that police do all the time as part of the job.

We need streamlined report writing systems. We should be on the street doing police work for most of our shifts, not in the station writing reports for most of the shift.

We need a streamlined legal system. We don't need to be on call or sitting in court day after day while defense attorneys delay the procedure hoping to wear out witnesses or that they will forget. Courts should run 24 / 7 just like the rest of the criminal justice system. Lawyers should be required to be in court for their clients, not be allowed to escape court because they are dealing with some other defense. Lawyers should be paid less and get one client at a time, when that case is over they can go onto the next. Instead of like now when they want dozens of clients and delay cases to generate more and more money.

We need jurors that are regular folks. They should get paid and there should be no excuse. If you can drive or vote then you can be on a jury. There should only be a couple challenges per side and no reason necessarily. They can excuse a juror for any reason or no reason, but only a couple out of the randomly selected pool.

We need a media that supports us when there is a problem, not blames us, that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Back Up Gun

Carry a back up gun. If you drop your duty firearm into the bushes at night time what do you do without one? The firearm one of those bits of gear that cannot be substituted by anything else and went you need it you need it now. Like any mechanical device it can be lost or broken or taken away. If the bad guys take your gun away how do you fight them? If your gun breaks or gets shot, how do you continue to fight?

I carry a .380 in an ankle holster. There are advantages and disadvantages to that. It is hard to run with an ankle holster, but I don't chase people anyway. It can be slow to get to but I wear pants that are a bit baggy in the leg or, I have had a special Velcro patch sewn into the pants so I can get to the gun. A .380 is a small bullet, but I shoot very well with it and I figure the back up gun is to use to shoot very close up. Ideally, the back up gun and duty gun would share the same caliber and the same magazines.

One way to give yourself an extra edge is to remember the shotgun or patrol rifle in your vehicle. That way your duty firearm becomes the back up gun. Then you have three layers of firearms. The shotgun is very intimidating and a patrol rifle gives you much greater reach. Even with minimal training a long gun provides much greater accuracy at longer ranges than a handgun. I frequently take the shotgun on alarm calls, and anything involving a crime of violence, that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Seat Belt, Body Amor, Wear Them

Are you wearing your seat belt today?
Are you wearing your body armor?

Yes, I say the same thing over and over again, and I will continue to write the same thing as long as we keep dying for lack of body armor, seat belts and back up guns. 120 officers a year die in the line of duty and many of them for those three reasons. Assaults on officers have grown over the years but the number of deaths have generally gone down until they leveled off a few years ago. Improved communications, better medical care, better training, better equipment have all helped to keep us alive at work.

It is time to move things to the next level, time to get that number down as low as we can make it. Wearing our seat belts is the first thing to do. Every unit has a seat belt and we should be wearing them. If you wear the seat belt you are not only less likely to be injured in a traffic collision but you are held in the seat when you drive quickly. I wear mine and take it off when I approach the scene of a call. That way I can exit quickly, yet still enjoy the benefits of a seat belt.

Wear your body armor all the time every day. If it is dangerous enough to carry a gun, it is a job that is dangerous enough to require body armor. I have never worn my police uniform without body armor. Not only does armor protect you against being shot, it also provides some protection in a car crash, helps you take a punch and some types provide excellent protection against edged weapons. Wear your seat belt, wear your armor, that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Every Move You Make I'll Be Watching You

Met Police officers to be 'microchipped' by top brass in Big Brother style tracking scheme Mail Online

London police are looking at a system that will give a microchip to every police officer so they can use GPS to track every officer for every moment of his shift. So if there is a call, the supervisor or dispatcher sitting back at the office can view the location of each responding officer. They say the plan is to better utilize their resources and to be better able to locate officers who are in trouble and unable to adequately communicate their location. Many officers have expressed a concern that it is an attempt to micromanage their daily activity and control their every move.

If the system is primarily for officer safety, why not have it as part of the radio that can be turned on when you are in trouble? A simple button or switch that when the officer needs help he simply hits the alarm button and his location appears on the GPS map should be easy enough. I suspect they really want to manage the officers from the office while selling the system as an officer safety tool. There are a few officers in every agency who sleep on duty, get a haircut, loiter in bars, and otherwise goof off. You don't need a GPS to catch them. Everyone knows who those officers are and good supervisors can weed them out or improve their performance with just a bit of work.

A company I used to work for had GPS in the patrol cars so that we knew where the cars were all the time. We set up a policy that said no employee could be disciplined solely on the basis of the GPS system. So just because the GPS said you were 30 miles outside your assigned beat, they employee could not be disciplined. But, the good supervisor seeing that would contact the officer on the radio, as his location and then meet him there in a couple minutes. If the employee was far outside his patrol zone, then obviously he would not make the meeting. If an employee had a vehicle that did not move for five hours and his daily field activity log said he was constantly patrolling then again the supervisor could call him into the office to discuss the possibility of a falsified daily field activity log. It worked well as an indicator that there was a problem for the supervisor to address, but it did not bother those officers who did their jobs properly, that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Register & Vote

There is an election coming up and you need to vote in it. There are important issues that need to be resolved and your voice is important. There are hundreds of thousands of police, correction officers, security guards and other law enforcement professionals and we are enough to change the outcome of many elections.

At the local level the funding for police and fire services is always an important issue. The folks running for city council and mayor have control over that. Do know who is pro-police and anti-police in your jurisdiction? Do you want to be involved in a major use of force event and find out your mayor is a police hater? Find out who is pro-law enforcement in your city and have your union endorse them, and then you vote for them.

At the higher levels of government, who is running for state assembly and are they pro-gun and pro-death penalty? Most cops are in favor of both. Your state government here in the US will have major impacts on gun ownership and also the penalty for criminals. Do you want cop killers and child murderers to go free or serve life in prison or get the death penalty? That is what is at stake in the state house.

In the national election there is a clear choice between two men who could not be more different. Do you want a war hero as president or a community organizer? Who do you think will do a better job keeping us safe and secure in this time of war, because all other issues are secondary to that one; that's what the SGT Says.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Sleep Tight

Are you tired at work? Not tired of work, but tired at work? Sleepy? Drinking coffee or soda to stay awake? Working a sixteen hour shift, driving home sleeping really fast and then going back to work after only six hours sleep or less? We stop drunk drivers many times because we see them weaving while driving their cars. Do you weave your car when you get tired?

Drunk driving kills thousands of people every year, and so does falling asleep at the wheel. If you are too tired to drive, are you too tired to carry a gun? Do you want to have a shooting and then go to court and say you were working 32 out of the last 40 hours with only four hours sleep? How does that affect your judgement? When you are off you need to go home and sleep. Get eight hours, uninterrupted sleep. Even if you have to sleep during the day.

I used to put aluminum foil over my windows, tape it up and it blocks out all the light. Toss a towel under the door to block the light. Then you can sleep in the dark. You are endangering yourself and your partners if you go to work tired. You owe it to them and your spouse and kids to come home in one piece, so get some rest, that's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Tazer Death

Officer Kills Self After Fatal Stun Gun Case

A mentally disturbed man creates a scene, his family call the police, the man steps outside onto a window awning that is only ten feet of the ground. To bring the event to a close the LT gives the order to Taze the suspect. The suspect falls a mere ten feet to his death! Only ten feet and the suspect. The LT had a hard call to make, you don't want to risk an officer out of the awning struggling with some mental guy. So he made a choice, and unfortunately, the mental guy died. It was no one's fault, it was a possibility, but one would guess that typically a fall of only ten feet would not be fatal, maybe break a leg or arm or something. No one intended for the man to die, but sometimes the unintended happens.

The LT waits a while and then kills himself due to his remorse at the event. One incident, two victims. Both victims died because officers failed to take into account the options. They did not have to Taze the suspect right away, the LT did not have to kill himself. But as law enforcement we often want to do something. We don't like to wait. We don't like to go slow, take our time, let things work themselves out. The guy was standing on a awning, he was not really a danger to anyone other than himself, an airbag was on the way to help break his fall. Perhaps a patrol vehicle could be driven up next to the wall below the awning to reduce the height of the fall from ten feet to five or six feet. Perhaps they could have contained the scene and just waited, you can't stand on an awning for very long.

Perhaps the other officers could have been more helpful to the LT and offered suggestions on how to avoid the death of the mental guy. Perhaps if they had offered those suggestions the mental guy would still be alive. Perhaps if the officer who fired the Tazer should have waited and disobeyed the LT. Perhaps, there are often alternatives to what we do, but often only in hindsight do we have the vision to determine what the best answer may have been.

What is more certain is the death of the mental guy was a critical incident. The officers involved should have been encouraged to talk about the incident and make their feelings known. The LT and the officer who fired the Tazer at least should have been sent to counseling. The LT had believed he had the most immediate responsibility for the death of the mental guy. The mental guy also made choices that lead to his death. Other officers should have watched their camrades and spoken to them about how they were doing. A simple conversation or even a phone call or email of support can mean very much. We in law enforcement need to do much more to make sure we don't lose our camrades to suicide; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Document, Document, Document

Document your training. Every time you give a class, no matter how informal, it is helpful to document. Even if you just to a ten minute roll call training class, do a short memo that says what you trained about and list the date and time and participants. The training information should go into each of their training files.

By documenting your training, your officers can't say that they were never told about something when they make a mistake, poor judgement call or simply decide not to obey agency policy. If you have to go to court, you can minimize lawsuits claiming inadequate training because you have documented your training.

When the time comes for a performance review, check the training files. See if the person you are reviewing has had any training. If the person has performance issues, consider recommending sending them to more training classes to help them to improve their performance. If the person has done well, consider recommending training for them that will allow them to advance in rank or position. Leadership training, management training, even fiscal planning training can be important for officers who are moving up in the organization. Training documentation can help insure your folks get the training they need; that's what the SGT Says.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Supervise Your Folks

Supervisors need to supervise their officers to prevent the officers from getting killed, hurt, sued, or fired. Listen to the radio. A good supervisor will know where all of his officers are at and what they are doing all the time. If you don't know what your officers are doing, ask your dispatcher to find out what they are doing. Many tasks are infrequent and difficult and so officers may make mistakes when they encounter them.

The best thing a supervisor can do is train his people. Remind them at the beginning of every shift of the agency policy or procedure or technique for handling recent problems that the agency has had to deal with. Have officers review their actions on a recent call with a look towards training rather than just recounting a war story. Give officers alternatives that they could have used for situations that did not work out as well as they might have done.

When the officer in the field is working, supervisors should back them up to review their behavior. Do a short debriefing of the traffic stop, burglary alarm call or any other routine activity that they do. Remind the officers of the potential for any call to go sideways. When reviewing their reports call them into the office to discuss any report that may be vague or fail to include enough details for detectives or prosecution. Constant repetition of the basic activities of the law enforcement job will help prevent officers from becoming complacent and maybe keep them alive, that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Burglary Bad, Burglary Prevention Good

Crime prevention is as important as crime response. How much do you know about locks and burglary prevention? By providing citizens with methods to protect their homes from residential burglary they can increase their own safety, reduce criminal activity and make their neighborhoods safer.

Home security is best accomplished by using a series of defensive lines. Proper door locks are important. Every exterior door should have a dead bolt lock on it. High end dead bolt locks can be made so that they can't be opened by using the 'bump' technique that has recently been shown on many videos. Window and doors should have landscaping trimmed back so that they are visible from the street. Burglars like to hide behind plant life while they make entry.

A burglar alarm and a yappy dog are very helpful. Burglars had noise that can attract attention, and a barking dog and a burglar alarm draw a lot of attention. Lighting is very helpful. I like exterior lights with light and motion detectors. Then at night the lights are off until something disturbs the beam and turns the light on. That also serves to alert the homeowner as well as scare off the burglar. Making things hard for burglars makes things easy for us, that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Halloween is Coming...

Halloween is coming and that always means trouble for law enforcement. What is your agency doing to prepare? Are you fielding extra officers? Are you communicating with school children so they know how to be safe on Halloween? Are you planning extra patrols in busy parts of town?

Halloween will bring very different traffic patterns to your city. The number of pedestrians will vastly increase, particularly the number of children outside after dark, crossing streets. Most of us like to cruise the boulevards looking for drunk drivers and other traffic offenders, but this is a good night to drive into those residential areas that seldom see a police car and let the kids see you on patrol. This is a good night to have stickers to give to the kids. Watch out for them as they dart across the street, but also have a low tolerance for other drivers who run stop signs, or speed. This is the night they really could run over a child.

Patrol those back alleys and loading docks and schools, anyplace where kids could hide and drink alcohol, smoke dope, or commit vandalism. A couple rolls of toilet paper tossed in a tree are an annoying prank but the fire sprinklers set off at the high school can do hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage. Later in the night be aware of adult parties and and increase in drunk drivers. Halloween is on a Friday this year and so we will have two nights of parties. Cruise the bars and parking lots where potential drunk drivers will be getting into their cars. Watch the convenience stores and liquor stores for beer runs. This could be a busy year, that's what the SGT Says.