Friday, May 30, 2008

Homeless

Everyday in the big city we have to deal with the homeless. Often we tend to dismiss them as harmless, wacko, and minor criminals. They are not always harmless. They are not always wacko; and their crimes are not always minor.


Sometimes things happen and regular, normal people make a few bad decisions and they end up living in their car, or on the streets. Often, they are young and have few friends or relatives to help them. These folks often just need some referrals to social services and they will return to the mainstream. I carry a card of organizations that will feed, house, or otherwise care for the homeless. People like this can often benefit from a referral and they will eventually no longer be a law enforcement problem.


Many of the homeless got there because they had a lifetime of bad choices, immoral lifestyles, drugs and alcohol. Sometimes these people can be quite intelligent. I knew one homeless person for years who was a doctor who just could not stop using drugs. Very intelligent, but a slave to addiction. When people like this are not actually high, you can often reason with them and gain compliance.

Finally are those who have severe mental disorders. They can be very intelligent, they may or may not have drug or alcohol problems, and they can be very unpredictable. When dealing with people like this try and keep a few simple precautions in mind. They often don't like authority figures because police and others often make them do things they don't want to do. So speak calmly and quietly. Don't raise your voice or wave your arms about. Don't get too close to them, so that they could grab you, your gun or your other weapons. Don't handle them alone, if possible have another officer with you. Wear rubber gloves when contacting these folks. Living outdoors is not a healthy lifestyle and they may carry disease or parasites.

If you have to take enforcement action against them, try and talk them into handcuffs. I have seen officers chat with the suspect for quite a long time and finally just ask them to put their hands behind their back and since there is a bit of a rapport going the suspect will do that. Often these folks have been in jail before and sometimes they don't want to go. So that is another reason to have plenty of back up with you if you think you have to make an arrest.

Should you find a homeless person who is down, one way to deal with the problem is to summon the paramedics. If the person has had a drug overdose or alcohol poisoning you are going to have to take them to the ER anyway, so why not let them ride in the ambulance rather than in your police car? I try not to make much of a medical assessment on people, if they look sick, or act sick, I assume they are sick and let the medics tell me otherwise.

Once you have completed your homeless contact, wash your unit and your hands. Use disinfectant. Take care when removing and disposing of your gloves. You don't know where they have been besides your car. That's what the SGT Says.

Hands Free

Watch the hands, is what we always say about the suspects. But do you watch your own hands? You gun hand should generally be free of anything whenever possible on duty. Now I am right handed and I have to use my right hand to write with, but other than a pen, I try and keep my right hand free.

Use your left hand to use your flashlight, carry things and otherwise performs tasks. When you stop for coffee, hold it in your left hand, your non-gun hand. After a while you get used to it and it seems second nature. It leaves your right hand free to do the most important thing it can do, draw your gun and save your life.

When you draw your gun, look at the target, don't look a the holster. You need to be able to pull your shooting iron and keep your eyes on the suspect. In the fraction of a second that you glance down at your holster, he can jump to cover, drop his gun, or have a friend show up. Conversely, don't be in a hurry to return your gun to it's holster. Make sure it is not needed before you re-holster your weapon. And again, don't look at your holster. Keep your eyes on your suspect, or if he is gone or dead, make sure another one does not show up to continue the fight. Most of the time when officers are killed, there were multiple suspects.

Don't give up your advantages, keep your gun hand free, and your eye on the bad guys; that's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Stealth Mode

How noisy are you on patrol? Do your shoes squeak when you walk? Do your keys jingle?

If you are making noise when you move, you are giving an advantage to your adversary. You should be able to move as quietly as a shadow. Shoes should be soft soles that don't squeak or click when you move. I used to work with a guy who actually put taps on his shoes! Why would you want to give up the element of surprise?

I don't carry coins in my pockets. I only carry the police keys on my person. My personal keys are kept in my mailbox or in my locker at the station. I am not going home nor am I driving my personal car at work, so I don't need my personal keys. My work keys are on a key keeper, tucked into my pants pocket.

Prior to going on patrol, check your uniform out. Stand in front of a mirror for a moment and check your gig line, your shoe shine, your haircut, but also jump up and down. Do you jingle? Do you rattle? If you make noise when you move, modify your gear so that it is quiet.

Many times I have been able to sneak up on suspects while they were prying on a door, spray painting a wall, smoking dope or otherwise engaged in criminal activity, because I was quiet and they did not know I was there, until I was ready for them to know.

Keep the noise down and help to keep yourself safe; that's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Always point your gun in a safe direction.
Always keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
Always be sure of your target.
Always be sure of your backstop.

These basic firearms rules have been around in various forms for decades, and they are still worthy of review and of following even today. The next time you see the end of a pursuit on TV, or youtube, or in person, see how well these rules are followed.

Are all guns pointing in a safe direction? How often do we see officers pointing guns at each other? The suspect stops his vehicle and officers approach the vehicle from both the front and the back at the same time! Crossfire with the officers pointing guns at the suspect, but any misses or through and through shots and you are shooting your partner.

Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. In the length of time it takes to move the weapon from a low ready position to a shooting position, you have plenty of time to move the trigger finger from the side of the frame to the trigger. Too often officers are running and fall down and shoot themselves, or they end up shooting because the officer next to them shot. Keep that finger on the side of the frame until you are certain you are going to shoot.

Always be sure of your target. Don't shoot where you think the suspect might be hiding, shoot at the suspect. Sometimes you have to move to get a better view, somethimes the people around you will shoot and you won't fire. That's okay, you only shoot at what you know to be a threat.

Always be sure of your backstop. Firing at a suspect who is standing in front of a crowd of people may not be the best tactic, but if you move a bit left or right, or up or down, you may be able to improve the background enough to allow you to shoot safely.

In the high stress of an officer involved shooting, these few simple rules can be difficult to remember, but they can also save you from shooing yourself, or your partner, or an innocent civilian. Remember, if you shoot your partner, no one is going to want to work with you anymore; that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Guards

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20080321-9999-1m21guards.html

A security guard company goes out of business and the security guards keep working. The guards were having their paychecks bounce, while the big boss was being paid over five million dollars a year. The government is seizing houses and yachts, and the guards are working for free. I have worked as a guard for years and have worked with thousands of security guards. While it is true that many guards don't make as much money as police, and they don't get the training and screening police get, most of them are highly dedicated to their professions.

While the boss was driving a new luxury car, the guards making hardly more than minimum wage were working graveyard shift outdoors, in the rain. Guards take the bus to work, and often work shifts at parking lots, factories, and junk yards; often alone, often without food, water or sanitary facilities.

Guards pay an important role in keeping facilities safe from vandals, theft, fire and other criminal acts. They respond to alarm activations, and move along skateboards, the homeless and other nuisance criminals. I am proud of the guards I have worked with, and when working as a police officer I try to remember that they are good guys too. That's what the SGT Says.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. Celebrate the lives of those who died in the line of duty in the military to keep our nation free. When you celebrate, remember their sacrifice and remember you too are a professional who keeps us free. In the War on Islamic Terrorists, public and private law enforcement is part of the front lines that keep us safe.

Terror attacks on 9/11 and others since then like the DC Sniper remind us that these attacks can happen anywhere and anytime. Two of the 9/11 terrorists were stopped by police prior to the hijackings. You never know who you may meet when you walk up to that car you stopped. Timothy McVeigh from the Oklahoma City Federal Building Bombing was captured by an officer who noticed a problem with his license plate.

Most of the police killed in the line of duty have more than five years of service. Complacency kills more police than any other factor. Don't let your guard down, and don't forget to do a good search of the suspect. Handcuff suspects with their hands behind them whenever possible and remember, don't sacrifice your safety for the comfort of the suspect. That's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Law enforcement is a 24/7 operation and dealing with shift work can be a real problem. Back in olden times when I worked the graveyard shift, I found it easiest to simply shift my entire life to nights. So just like a bank employee who works from 9 am to 5 pm does not get up at 4 am before they go to work, I would get up a couple hours before my shift started. So when my shift started at 11 pm, I would get up at 9 pm, two hours before work. That gave me time to get ready and do my commute. After work when I got home at 7 am, I did not immediately fall into bed. I stayed up a few hours until noon or 1 pm. Then I could go to sleep and get a full eight hours rest before going to work.

We often underestimate the toll shift work takes on our bodies. Grabbing a few hours sleep here and there, a few quick naps rather than a good long rest. It increases our blood pressure, makes us jumpy, and causes our reaction times to slow. Being tired on the road can be as dangerous as DUI, and we all know how dangerous it is to drink and drive.

I put aluminum foil over my windows to make my bedroom totally black. Just tape it up with a bit of cellophane tape and it will stay up for years. Drop a towel at the threshold of the door so the light does not shine through. These few things make it dark in the room and easier to sleep. Sleeping in the dark is more natural, and you will sleep better.

On my days off I tried to keep the same basic schedule as my work days. Many officers try and work nights but live days. It does not work well for you to do that, the stresses build up over time. Too many officers leave law enforcement with stress related illnesses and often failure to adapt to shift work is a part of that. I got so I liked going shopping at the supermarket at 3 am. Aisles were empty, no lines, park right up front. With so many businesses operating 24 hours a day, and most items we buy sold on line, it is easy to get much of your business done at odd hours.

When my wife and I had a small child at home, we tried to work opposite shifts, with different days off, it is not ideal but it helped us to minimize the paid child care options. As a nurse she worked swings, and I worked graves and between our different schedules and different days off we managed to care for the kid without too much difficulty.

Try a little creative thinking to solve those shift work problems, but make sure that getting a good days sleep is a priority. It can save your job, it can save your life; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Big Problem, Small Solution

Does your agency hire women and minorities? Of course they do. How long would it take for federal money to be cut off from your agency if they did not? And federal judges and agents would be all over you. Does your agency enforce federal laws, like kidnapping or counterfeiting? Of course they do, federal laws are felonies and should be enforced.

So why doesn't your agency enforce immigration laws? They enforce other federal laws. They abide by federal hiring laws. Why should immigration laws be any different? We hear all the time how immigration is such a huge problem, and no one has a solution. I have one. A very simple, easy solution.

Every agency that makes an arrest, as part of the booking procedure checks the citizenship status of every person. No discrimination, not, "That's Bob and we know him." Not, "That guy looks like an illegal alien so check him." Just check everyone who gets arrested and booked for any crime. No matter how small, or what the crime may be.

Most of us don't really care about the illegal alien that comes into the USA to work, do a job, send home a little cash and make a better life for himself. But when they commit crimes, big or small, they should be sent home.

Some people say the problem is just too big, you can't send home twenty million people. Maybe not, but we can at least send home the criminals. There are about a half a million sworn police in the USA. If each one arrests one illegal alien per week, then that means two million a month are shipped out of the country. That means all twenty million illegal aliens would be out of the country in a year, if they all committed crimes.

I am not advocating sweeping Home Depot parking lots looking for illegal aliens. But every time you arrest one for driving without a drivers license, DUI, burglary, illegal drug possession, robbery or any other crime, they should be sent home. Any agency that fails to do this should have federal funds cut off until the they do. That's what the SGT Says.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Starting Report Writing

Report writing is always overlooked on those TV cop shows. High speed chase, shootout, capture the murderers, and then go home on time. Not hardly. Report writing takes up a lot of time, but there are tricks to both speed up the process and make it more accurate.

I always carry my note book, field interview cards and two pens in my shirt pocket. Field interview cards are great note taking tools. Everyone you talk to in an investigation you can use the FI cards to gather their information. How many times have you gone back to the station to write a report and realize you forgot to ask how to spell a name or fail to get the subjects work phone number?

Nearly everyone I speak to, I get their drivers license, or state issued ID card. I copy all the information on it, just like it is on the license. This at least gives me their "official" information. It also saves me from having to ask them to spell everything. Once I copy the information down, I then ask them to tell me their present address, and phone number. That way if they have moved they are more likely to give me the updated information than if I simply ask if the drivers license is correct.

Getting this simple information is the first step in writing good police reports. That's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

In the Rear With the Gear

We all wear our bat belt with the gun, and ammo, and radio, and etc. But that is not enough to do our jobs. We need other stuff too. I carry a gear bag in the trunk with extra personal gear. Riot helmet with face shield. It is not a party until the police show up, and if I have to show up twice, I am wearing the helmet the second time. Nothing says serious to party goers than police wearing helmets with face shields. If you start taking rocks and bottles that helmet is your best friend. The second best item is that gas mask. When someone deploys tear gas that gas mask will become your new best friend.

I carry a bag that is actually a piece of luggage. It has the long expandable handle and the rollers at the bottom. There are many pouches for all my bits and pieces of gear. Buy a good one, with a name brand that will last you for years. After 30 years I am on my third one, they are lasting me about fifteen years each.

One pouch has waterless hand sanitiser in it. That gel stuff in the squirt bottle. Always nice to use after you have had to handle some homeless guy or any other suspect or medical aid victim. Rubber gloves, a hobble, extra handcuffs, two sets, two extra magazines of duty ammo, two extra magazines of back up gun ammo, extra shotgun ammo, a length of rope. The rope has been very helpful over the years. Round up and tie off that stray dog, tie up that fence or gate that won't stay closed, tie that bicycle into the trunk of the patrol car.

Nail clippers, I hate breaking a finger nail at work and having it snag on everything for the rest of the shift. A snap link; I am not sure why, but it always seems like a good idea to have one. I am sure someday I will use it for something. A small tool kit with screwdriver, Phillips screw driver, and wire cutters and pliers. While I am not handy, I have used the tools a number of times. And finally a yellow cone that fits over the top of my flashlight for traffic direction.

What items do you carry in your war bag? I don't carry first aid supplies, we have a good first aid kit in the car. And I don't carry water or earthquake supplies, I work in a small city and I am always within walking distance of the station and my personal car with water and such. If I covered a large rural area, I would consider those types of supplies too. That's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Walk Towards The Light

When making a traffic stop, light is you friend. If possible, make the stop in a well lit areas, rural dirt roads out in the middle of no where are not ideal. The most dangerous part of a suspect is the hands. The hands hold the knives and guns and other weapons and good lighting will aid you in seeing the hands.


Your vehicle headlights should be on the high beam setting. Your two vehicle spotlights should be on and pointed at the suspects car. The driver side spotlight should be pointing at the driver side rear view mirror and the passenger side spotlight should be pointed at the center mirror. By directing the spotlights at the mirrors you will minimize the suspects ability to watch your approach to their vehicle. Your take down lights, those on the roof of the patrol car, should be on as well.


Your flashlight should be on too, in your non-gun hand. This leaves your gun hand free to open and close doors, hold papers for inspection and draw your gun. Once you arrive at the suspects vehicle you may want to tuck the flashlight under your armpit, but in the event of an emergency, you will probably end up dropping it as you take evasive action.


The intent of all this lighting is to create a light barrier that will make it impossible for the suspect inside the car to see how many officers are approaching their vehicle and how they are approaching. In fact, I often don't turn my flashlight on until I am in front of my patrol car to further hide my approach. While not providing cover this light barrier does provide a form of concealment. Next time you are at the station at night, turn on all these lights and then walk out in front of your patrol car and see just how hard it is to see someone inside your car, or standing next to it. All of this is to give you an extra edge in case things go bad, that's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tazer Me For a Parking Space

'Bonehead' Skirmish Leads to Taser Duel - AOL News



Some things are just not worth the trouble. Someone has parked in the wrong space and the guard comes along and boots the vehicle. The vehicle owner and friends show up and soon return with a pair of bolt cutters to chop off the boot. The guard and one of the people both have Tasers and they both get shot.



Okay, what's wrong with this picture? If the guard is wrong and the vehicle should not have been booted, you pay the money, and he takes off the boot. Then you appeal to the guard company, property management or sue them. And you get your money back, plus court costs. No big deal.



If the guard is correct, you pay the fine, the boot is removed and you don't park there anymore. No big deal.



But either way, if you get involved in a screaming match, and then Taser the guard, you are probably going to jail and that is just no fun.



Now if you are the guard, and someone tries to cut off the boot, and screams about it and wants to Taser you, remember, it is a parking violation, and perhaps vandalism. It is not worth getting killed over, nor is it worth getting Tasered over. Back off, call for your supervisor, call the police and let the guy rip the boot off if he wants to. You know who they are, because you have their vehicle description and place of employment.



Some criminal acts are not worth the time and trouble and danger of jumping in and enforcing right now. Back off, call for help, wait for help, and then go back in and handle the problem. That's what the SGT Says.

Monday, May 19, 2008

You Are Allowed Sharp Things

Carry a knife on duty? I do, in fact, I carry several. A knife is an important tool in law enforcement.

You will never cut a seat belt. So don't claim that is why you carry a knife on duty. It is a tool. Cut string, cut boxes, open copy paper, jimmy gates and locks open. Defend yourself. In a close quarters battle a handy knife can allow you to stab or slash your attacker so you can prevent your gun from being taken. I carry one in a pouch on my belt near my handgun. It is a regular folding Buck knife.

I carry two others, one in a front pocket and one clipped to a rear pocket. I practice several times a year with all three, I can open them one handed, with either hand. This is an important skill so that you can defend yourself against an attacker. My intent is that I would only use a knife in a potentially deadly encounter. A knife is a deadly weapon and should generally not be used unless you would be justified shooing.

Do you have a department policy on knives? Have you practiced with your knife? Did you document the training? If it is not documented, it did not happen, and documentation of formal training is important; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Back Up Gun Holsters

A couple days I ago I wrote about back up guns. Did you rush out and buy one yet? Well, when you do, give some thought as to what you want for a holster. Some officers I have known just carry the gun lose in a pocket. No, bad plan. The gun will wear out your clothing much faster than if it is in a holster and will be more secure in a holster. First determine where you will carry the back up gun. I have seen photos of Cops in New York City who are carrying an exposed gun on each hip. I like that sort of Wild West look, but not every agency is going to go with that. There is also a certain advantage to having it concealed. Some officers I know carry the gun in a jacket pocket and point it at people as they approach the suspects car. If you need to point a gun at someone, you probably should be doing it in the open. So not my favorite technique. Many argue for carrying the back up gun on or near the waist, on the belt, under the belt or in a pants pocket. Nothing wrong with any of these. I carry mine on my inside left leg in an ankle holster. I figure I may have to get to it left handed and may have to get to it while I am on the ground. That may be difficult if I have the gun at my waistline. Get a quality, sturdy holster that will last a long time and has good gun retention. That's what the SGT Says.

Back Up Guns

Do you carry a back up gun? If not, why not? If you drop your gun in the ivy at night,what other lethal force options do you have? If your gun malfunctions, what will you do? If the bad guy gets your gun, what is your secondary plan?

When on duty in uniform I always carry a back up gun. Check out the law and your agencies policy, if you can carry a back up gun, I think you should. What to carry?

The ideal back up gun is smaller than your regular duty weapon, but will use the same ammunition, and will accept the same magazines as your duty weapon. Your off duty carry weapon should be the one you carry as your back up gun.

By using the same type of gun, you will already be trained with the back up gun. Most police in the USA carry the Glock, and Glock makes several small handguns that accept the same magazines as the full size guns. This allows you to use all the ammunition you have on your belt with your back up gun, if necessary.

If you don't carry the same kind of weapon, what else makes a good back up gun? Hammerless, light weight revolvers, like those made by Smith & Wesson are good. No safety to have to remember to switch, just point and shoot. In the extreme heat of combat where a suspect takes your duty weapon, you may not remember to take the back up off safe.

I carry a Walter, PPKS, not because it is the best gun for the job, but because I have carried it for decades and I shoot very well with it. My years of practice, and ability to shoot well with it, mitigate the safety and the lack of interoperability of magazines with my duty Glock. If I did it all over again, I would go with one of the small Glocks.

Any firearm you carry on duty, should be lawful, a quality, well made, durable weapon with agency approved ammunition. And finally, practice both shooting it and drawing it from where you carry it on duty. That's what the SGT Says.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Listen to Your Neighbors

Monitor the radio, monitor your neighboring agencies, monitor the news. Know what is going on all the time in your city and around your city. When I work patrol, I try to listen to my own agency, our neighboring cities, and the commercial all news AM radio station. It helps cut down on the surprises.

My agency is a city bordered by many other cities. So it is not unusual for crimes near the border or pursuits to spill over into our city. By listening to the scanner, we can pick up the activity of our neighbors. Often is allows me to be in position when they call for assistance, or to join a pursuit that runs into my territory. Many criminal acts develop very fast, and a robber who runs out of the liquor store, and hops in is car can be two or three miles away before the first unit arrives. By the time the first units go on scene and call for help from a neighboring agency the bad guys can be five or even ten miles away. By monitoring the neighboring agencies radio frequency, you can often be on the lookout for those crooks before the information can reach you through normal channels.

One sign I watch out for is helicopters. A helicopter circling, or flying along shining a light on the ground, or a group of helicopters hovering over a single area, is usually a sign that something bad is happening below. I intensify my monitoring when I see that happening. Listen for suspect descriptions, direction of travel, vehicle descriptions, and nature of the crime. Listen to the radio, and keep watching the skys. That's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Keep An Eye On the Kids

Interpol Searches for Pedophile Suspect - AOL News

Most of us while on patrol perform rather basic functions. Respond to calls for service, do some traffic stops, handle problems we stumble on while doing patrol. There are many other crimes out there that are just as terrible, but that we many not find as easily, unless we are on the lookout for them.

Do you know where the children are in your town? School, parks, playgrounds, skateboard parks, video game stores, day care centers. What are you doing to keep an eye on them? When your high school has a football game is there some forty year old guy in the stands taking video of the cheerleaders? Is he taking close up photos of the girls in inappropriate ways? Would you even think to look for such a person? If you noticed him would you do anything? Maybe it would be a good idea to get his picture. He is in a public place. He has no expectation of privacy. Perhaps you can do a permissive encounter and talk to him, find out who he is, maybe one of the girls is his daughter. Or maybe he has no connection to the school other than to look at teenage girls. Watch which car he gets into, fill out a Field Interview Card on him and his car.
Someday that information may prove useful to detectives looking for a child molester or kidnap suspect.

Do you cruise by the playgrounds and daycare centers looking for men parked in cars? What reason can there be for some adult male to be watching the children? Perhaps he is waiting for his kids to get out of school. Perhaps he is waiting to kidnap his own kid because the wife has custody. Again, probably a good person to talk to, a permissive encounter to ask who he is, why he is there, what he is doing by the school? Another opportunity to write a Field Interview Card. Connecting these guys to children and to a vehicle can be important tools for detectives who may have few leads in cases involving child molestation or kidnapping.

What about the MacDonald's with the playground or the skate park? Are you checking those for men behaving in a manner that is not typical of those who have legitimate business? Much of the activity of child molesters is out in the open and visible for all to see, because we can easily explain it way. When you approach them or their vehicle, is the car full of pornographic magazines? Is their zipper down? Do they seem overly nervous, are there condoms in the car?

But don't get lazy, be suspicious, make them explain it to you, and record your contacts for future reference. Keep your eyes open and don't be unwilling to contact people who don't quite seem to belong where they are. That's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Emergency Preparedness

One thing we all count on in this job is at some point things are going to go really bad in a big way over a large area, and it will be our job to restore order. As if order was there to begin! So no matter if it is earthquakes like we get here in Southern California, or wild fires, oh we get those too, or civil unrest, okay we get that, or mudslides, okay those too, or tornadoes and blizzards, okay two we don't get; eventually it will strike your area. Then you will have to leave the home and family and go to work. Maybe for days before you come home. Your agency is probably prepared, but what about your family?

If you were at work and the next big disaster hit, is there a plan in your family to deal with it? We all have a dual responsibility, our family and our jobs. If we worked at an amusement park we could probably stay home for a week and attend to the spouse, and kids, and dog, but since we wear a badge, we need to be at work. During the Katrina floods a certain number of officers failed to show up for no good reason, and got fired. Good for their agency that they did. But let's learn from their mistakes and figure out now what our plan is going to be when that bad thing happens to us.

My agency is fifty urban miles from my home. If I am at work and the 9.7 earthquake hits I could not even walk home in a week. And if I were at home, I could not likely make it to work. So our plan is that if I am at work, the family is to go to our local hospital, which has an emergency room and volunteer to help. Both the wife and teenage daughter have had first aid training and could provide some benefit to those who have minor injuries. This would leave some of the real traumas to be treated by the doctors. The hospital is less than a mile away and most of the distance is open ground. There are no rivers or lakes or freeways or bad neighborhoods to cross to get there. The hospital is also next to a major regional park which is supposed to be used as a disaster center in the event of a region wide emergency.

A major hospital will have electricity, food, water and security if anyplace has it. And rescue and recovery efforts are often centered around hospitals, since the injured are taken there by nearly everyone. It seems a good place to start as a rallying point for the family. It is also close enough that they can walk between there and home several times per day. You may need to find similar places for your family to go. Perhaps a large church, city hall, police station, fire station, or similar place where there will be rescue personnel in place at the beginning of the event.

If you live in a major rural area, and nothing is close, then you should coordinate with neighbors, always a good idea anyway, and decide what to do. You should have enough food and clear water for at least five days, if not a week or more. Our supplies are kept in each car trunk, in our storage shed in the yard, and in each bedroom and the garage. That way if part of the house falls down, or burns or is looted, perhaps some of it will be left over.

Some advance planning is essential so that you can respond to your professional responsibilities in the event of a major regional disaster. The SGT Says, plan on it now.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

He Can't Sit Next to My Kid

Poll: Should dad be banned from son's graduation ceremony? - ParentDish

The media is quite concerned that a dad can't attend his son's graduation. How terrible. As convicted sex offender he is not allowed at the school and so can't attend the graduation. Too bad for him. Good for the kids.

When someone is convicted of a sex offense there are often requirements to register and to keep away from potential victims. Apparently in this case, the dad can't go to his son's school. That's okay with me. It is not about the dad. It is about the other children and keeping them safe.

If a convicted sex offender has served his time and not been convicted since, why should he not be allowed to go to the school and watch his son graduate? I find it interesting that the article only quotes the convicted felon and the school officials. They don't ask the victim what she thinks about allowing him around school kids. Perhaps she would have a different take on the matter.

They don't ask the prosecuting attorney about the case or ask the local chief of police if he thinks it is okay for felons to attend school graduation ceremonies. How do we know the initial conviction was not a plea bargain for a guilty plea in exchange for dropping numerous other charges? How do we know he has not been arrested since for similar crimes since then? They only mention talking to the felon about his criminal history. Perhaps he has been a good guy and would not do anything bad as a result of his attendance. But the information we get in the article seems very incomplete to me.

Then, how about the next time? Suppose someone still on parole or probation wants to see his kid graduate from school? Or maybe attend a parent / teacher conference? Or maybe just see his niece graduate? Or his neighbor? Or his child's friend? Where do you draw the line? How about drawing the line where the law says it should be drawn, and let the felons stay home. They can see their children after the graduation. It is too bad for the child that his father will miss seeing him graduate. But it is too bad for the victim that they were victimized.

I don't think he should be allowed to attend the graduation, and if he does attend, he can't sit next to my kid. That's what the SGT Says.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Flashlight

Do you have your flashlight? Even if it is daytime? Proper illumination gear is important at all times. In the field I carry my light on my gear belt. On my support side. Since I am right handed, that would be my left side. My firearm is on my right side. I don't want my flashlight in my gun hand, so it does not go on my right side.

I carry my flashlight all the time, even during the daytime. When you enter a building, you may have to visit the basement, or the attic, or the crawlspace, or even that dark nasty corner of the warehouse full of spider webs and rat droppings and a hole you can't see, without your friend, the flashlight. Always have a lighting device with you; that's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

How to Safely Apply Your Lipstick While on Patrol

A patrol car is more than just ordinary transportation. It does many things. It's presence deters criminal activity, and reassures the law abiding public. It is the lunch room, report writing office, and storage shed for the patrol officer. I have known officers to eat, sleep, drink, smoke, comb their hair, make out, conduct interrogations, write reports, make phone calls, conduct surveillance, and yes, even apply their lipstick in a patrol vehicle.

Just like any other employee, officers have to do certain things while they are at work, like eat and drink a lunch, perform their work, and conduct certain personal business. I have done most of the things on the list at least once, I don't smoke for example, and with my cowlick combing my hair is pretty futile. Unlike most office workers, those of us in the field have an added concern, our safety. Unlike most office environments, people walk right up to the vehicle and interrupt us all the time. And a small percentage of those people intend to do us harm. I certainly have arrested more than one person who has walked up to my parked patrol car, usually because they were drunk.

Anytime you park the patrol car, be aware of your surroundings. Don't park near bars, or liquor stores, or other very high traffic areas. Try to park in a location where you can back into a solid wall. Park where you have a good view to the front and to the sides. Keep your car doors locked, but keep at least one window down a bit so you can hear noises from outside.

As you write your reports or eat your lunch in the car, stay aware of your surroundings, look up frequently, every thirty seconds or more to prevent surprise. If you are writing, keep your clipboard up so your eye level is up and your head is not down. Having your head down makes it look like you are asleep. It is unethical and dangerous to sleep on duty. Your partners are expecting you to be able to respond to their calls for help, to say nothing of the public. You are letting them down by sleeping on the job. A suspect can walk up to your car and murder you in your sleep, it does happen.

So, just how do you safely apply your lipstick while on patrol? At the station, in the restroom. Preferably the ladies room, but use your best judgement on that; that's what the SGT Says.

Another Disaster Waiting

Health News - Fitness, Medicine, Alerts - AOL News

"A group of physicians has drawn up a grim list of recommendations on who should not be treated: the elderly, those with serious traumatic injuries and people with severe dementia."

In the event of a pandemic, like the flu outbreak of 1918, severe strains will be placed on medical facilities. Has your agency made plans for such an event? Have you as an individual made plans for such an event? In 1918 in some American cities morgues were full and bodies piled up, waiting to be removed. How would your agency deal with this problem?

Many people were so frightened that they refused to go outside. How can your agency function if ten percent of your officers don't come to work because they are sick, or caring for ill family members, or just refuse to leave their homes? Not my officers, you say, they are dedicated, they won't stay home in an emergency! Okay, but what about support personnel? Dispatchers, jailers, radio technicians, or even judges? What happens when the jails fill up because the lawyers won't come to work? And you know that in any pandemic, jails will be one of the first areas to spread the disease.

Just like preparation for any other major regional disaster, stock up on food, fresh water, and other supplies. You need at least enough for five days, and every extra day is a bonus. A pandemic could mean no trucks running to the supermarkets, electricity may go out due to shortages of coal or oil to power the electrical generating plants. I keep my duty rig, and body armor at at least a uniform shirt at home and at work all the time. In the event of an emergency I can start work as soon as I change my shirt.

When I commute, I carry at least one gun, several gallons of water, a first aid kit, and a small amount of food. All my cars have water in them so that family members have supplies in the event they are not home when the major event happens. Clean clear water is the main thing, most of us can live five days without food without any ill effects.

You need to keep prescription drugs, a few hundred dollars cash, in case the ATMs don't work, extra blankets, in case the heating goes out, and a battery powered radio. Check out what the Red Cross or FEMA have to say, their websites are filled with good information.

During such an event, you will need to treat everyone you contact as if they may have a highly contagious, even deadly disease, because they might have one! Don't touch people unless you are gloved. Don't stay in confined spaces breathing their air, like a police car. You may want to wear a face mask, will you agency support that? Use disinfectant on your hands, and face after contacting subjects. Disinfect surfaces, like your baton, your leather, your police car hood, and back seat when they touch a suspect.

Planning, it often takes only a few minutes and yet can save so many lives, even your own. That's what the SGT Says.

Friday, May 9, 2008

In Pursuit of Officer Safety

Video Shows Police Kicking Suspects - AOL News

A group of police officers are seen on video, at the end of a pursuit, kicking a suspect. Is this bad police work, evil men performing evil deeds, or just how things really are on the street? Maybe.

Police respond to a shooting and soon after perform a traffic stop. Three subjects are in the vehicle, and the police get them out of the car and kick and hit them before placing them into handcuffs. The mayor has already stated that the officers behavior was "inappropriate."

I wrote about video recently and I said that it is just one point of view. Until all points of view are heard from, I find it "inappropriate" to condemn the officers behavior. Perhaps the officers perception was different from that of a helicopter news video a hundred feet in the air. I did not see the suspects hands. Perhaps officers perceived the suspect had a gun or other deadly weapon.

Until the facts of such incidents are collected and analyzed, I find it best if supervisors and elected officials wait for the investigation before expressing conclusions on the behavior of their employees. It sounds to me as if the officers are guilty until proven innocent. Perhaps they did use good tactics, perhaps not. Perhaps they were evil. We don't know and we won't know for sure until the investigation is complete. Once the process has been completed, then it is time for police chiefs and mayors to condemn the guilty and commend the good.

It is not too early to begin the analysis of the event from an officer safety viewpoint. If you have three armed and dangerous suspects in a car, is the best plan to have officers in front and behind the vehicle, run up next to the suspects car? I think not. Officers to the front should back away and block off the street to prevent traffic from interfering with the stop. Officers to the rear should be directing their spotlights onto the suspect vehicle, and ONE of them should issue verbal commands.

The officers should take cover behind their vehicle, telephone poles, buildings or whatever is available. Their weapons should be drawn and pointed at a low ready in the direction of the suspects. The suspects should be ordered to put their hands up and the driver should be required to turn off the engine and toss the keys out onto the roof.

Officers should not rush the car; if the suspects are armed, they are only giving up the advantage of cover, and will be in a poor shooting position with officers on all sides of the car. It is very difficult not to run up on a vehicle you have just chased, but avoid that temptation at all costs.

Once the suspects have their hands up and the vehicle engine is off, have the suspects exit the vehicle one at a time and individually walk to the rear of the first police vehicle. Have an arrest team of at least two officers handcuff and search the suspect, and then secure him in a vehicle far in the back of the pack. Leave one officer behind as a guard.

I like to get the driver out of the car first, but the order is not really important. The key is, don't prone them out next to their own vehicle. That still leaves an unsecured vehicle to your back when you are trying to restrain the suspects. Once the vehicle is apparently unoccupied, two officers should approach and clear the vehicle. Check the trunk. Push down on it to close it as you approach. Clear the back seat, and then the front seat. Remember those keys the suspect tossed onto the car roof? Take them and open the trunk. Be ready for a suspect or victim to pop out when you open the lid.

The end of a pursuit is difficult, but it is also dangerous. Take your time. If the suspects sit in the vehicle and don't obey commands, handle it like any other barricaded suspect in a building. You may have to toss in tear gas or have your SWAT team approach the vehicle in that circumstance. In any case, maintain control of the suspects, your partners, and yourself. That's what the SGT Says.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Our Own Worst Enemy

http://www.policestress.org/suicide.htm

In a typical year about 120 police officers are killed in the line of duty, half in accidents and half by suspects. But more officers kill themselves, than are killed by suspects. They say that white, male, officers, over 50 are in the highest group for officers who kill themselves. One of the triggers is a traumatic event in their lives, pushing them over the edge. When I was 50, my first wife died, after 28 years of marriage. I was very sad, but never considered killing myself, despite being in that 'at risk' group. How did I survive, when others did not?

Just as in a financial portfolio, diversification is a good thing. How many officers do you know who live, eat, sleep and dream police work? What happens to them when they can't be cops any longer? They get hurt, or put in their 30 years and retire, or some other career ending move puts them out of work.

All officers need to achieve a balance between law enforcement and the remainder of their life. A priest I used to know said he never went to a death bed and had a parishioner say he wished he had spend more time at the office. Police work is more than a job, it is a lifestyle. We have to be in condition yellow whenever we are out in public. We have to set an example for the community. The things we do outside of work can get us fired, unlike most jobs.

That lifestyle must include other things besides law enforcement. How many of your friends are not cops? How much time do you spend with your wife and kids when you are not at work? Doing shift work and working weekends often makes it hard to be with other people, but the rewards are worth the effort. When was the last time you went to church? What hobbies do you have that are not police related? Shooting and gun collecting don't count.

The ol' SGT is not all about the 'feelings,' don't expect me to get all mushy on you. But just as we are there for our partners when there is a robbery in progress, we need to be there for them after the blue baby call, the horrible traffic accident, the officer involved shooting. When my first wife passed away, I had a large number of officers show up at the funeral and reception. I got cards and emails and phone calls and visitors checking up on me. It helps. It is good to know that we have each others' backs even when it is not in response to a crime.

Response to a fellow officer who is hurting can save his life, just like he was there for you, when you needed him on that traffic stop. That's what the SGT Says.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Tank Up on Tactics

http://www.granbychamber.com/Site%20Map/granby-colorado-bulldozer.htm

A deranged man with a grudge against the local city council armored up a bulldozer and went on a rampage. He was not stopped by the 200 rounds fired at him, he drove the bulldozer into buildings to destroy them and was only stopped when he drove into a building with a basement and got the vehicle hung up on the edge. He killed himself and it still took police twelve hours to get inside the vehicle. This is at least the fourth time armored vehicles have been used by wackos to destroy property. There was a guy with self-propelled armored artillery, one with an armored car and, of course, the guy with the tank in San Diego from a few years ago.

What are you going to do when you get that call of "man with a gun, on a tank?" I suspect that like most police you don't carry a lot of rocket launchers inside your patrol car. While this is not a likely scenario, it is one that seems to happen more often then I realized. And it is one that requires some advance thinking.

To be effective, the rampaging tank must have the engine running, the vehicle must be able to move, and the operator must be able to see. So we must devise techniques to disable those functions. Our administrators are not going to allow us to spend money or train on this type of scenario, so we must be able to conjure up something on a moments notice.

First of all, recognize that the vehicle is a deadly weapon. A 60-ton tank will flatten a car and kill the occupants without even slowing down. A giant armored bulldozer can knock down a house an kill those inside without any strain on it's systems. This is a potentially deadly situation that must be dealt with right away. Call for all the help you can get and institute your mutual aid program. Be sure to have paramedics standing by also.

Direct gunfire on the view points. Most armored vehicles have vision blocks made of bullet proof glass. You are not trying to hit the suspect, you are trying to scruff up the surface of the glass to the point he can't see out of it. If he can't see, he won't be able to move and attack effectively. Automatic rifle or submachine gun fire is the best option for this type of fire. The armored bulldozer had cameras set up behind the armored glass for added protection. Just because the suspect has gone off the deep end, does not mean they cannot make effective plans to kill innocent people.

Have other responding officers obtain black paint and glass bottles and funnels. Fill the bottles with paint and they can be thrown against the vision blocks to help obscure the suspect's view. This will take some time to get together and you can't wait around doing nothing while this is going on. Remember a modern tank can travel 30, 40, even fifty miles per hour, and so this will be a very dynamic situation.

Other officers need to clear roads in the area to insure the suspect has limited targets for his attack. You also need to be mindful of your background as you are shooting at the vehicle. You are responsible for the decision to shoot and where each of your rounds lands. Your perimeter is going to be very large.

A helicopter is essential to track the movements of the tank and to direct responding units to safety. A tank may have a range of 500 miles so this could be a long event. Notify surrounding agencies and have back up helicopters available so one can remain on station during the entire event.

Use tear gas grenades can be effective. The driver must be able to breath. Pepper balls can be directed towards vents as well. Many tanks have filters built in to protect the occupants from chemical agents so this may be not work against military vehicles. Tear gas or smoke grenades tossed or fired onto the vehicle can also obscure the suspect's vision.

High octane fuel can be poured into glass bottles and tossed onto the engine deck to attempt to set the vehicle on fire. It may also produce enough smoke to obscure vision. This option also may not work. It is difficult to set modern military vehicles on fire.

This situation is a difficult one and may be beyond your agencies ability to handle. You should consider an immediate call in to your local military for assistance, as they may be the only ones who can effectively stop the rampage. It could take them hours to deploy, so you have options to employ while you wait for them. That's what the SGT Says.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Smile and Say Cheese!

Vikings' Otis Grigsby Posts YouTube Video: 'Illinois State Police Murdered My Uncle' - FanHouse - AOL Sports Blog

Illinois State Police officers responding to a domestic disturbance call and it ends up in a shooting with one person killed by one of the responding officers. If that is not trauma enough, now it has become a major public relations issue as the man killed was related to a professional football player who is concerned about the outcome of the event.

You never know these days who you will contact or who will see you. When on patrol I try and perform all my duties as if I was being followed around by a camera crew, because chances are someone with a camera phone, red light camera, ATM machine camera, or other system will be taking your picture. And with the advent of services like YouTube, everything you did can be worldwide news in minutes.

Know the law, know your job, know your department policies, practice your skills and go out there and do your job. Never compromise the safety of yourself, other officers or innocent civilians because you fear the camera. The camera is just another witness. It does not lie, but it does not tell the whole truth. It is just another viewpoint. If you are doing what you are supposed to do, you should be fine.

Write complete and accurate reports. One thing that often happens is officers do great in the field and then come into the station and write a report that leaves off half of the stuff the suspect did that lead to the probable cause, or the reason force was used. In a complex report, have someone who was not there read the report and provide you with feedback. This can be helpful to insure you said what you intended to say.

I always tell new officers, write the report like you wanted your grandmother to read it. She does not know anything about police work and while she does not want anyone to get hurt, she is also willing to give the police officers the benefit of the doubt. Just like your average jury member. That's what the SGT Says.

Toss the Spike Strip

http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tiretech/techpage.jsp?techid=56

Today vehicle pursuits are a major liability and public relations concern for many departments. Watching that scofflaw drive through LA traffic for three hours while a hundred cop cars follow him, impotent to stop his dangerous trip, is a PR nightmare. Many agencies have taken to employing the Spike Strip to stop such cars. We all know the drill, the streets are cleared ahead of the suspect, and an officer darts into the roadway and lays down a plastic mat. As the suspect vehicle drives over the mat, the officer flips up hollow pointy metal tubes that let the air out of all of the suspects tires. The officer drops the spikes down as the pursuing police cars run over the now safe spike strip. The suspect faced with four flat tires gives up quickly without injury.

Of course, it does not always work the way it does in the movies. Civilians manage to get between the suspect and the spike strip and we can't use it without endangering them. The officer trying to employ the strip can't get it set up in time, or worse, gets hit by a car. The suspect manages to avoid the spike strip or it only flattens one tire. Then the crazed motorist drives down the street at 100 miles per hour with sparks and flames spewing a hundred feet behind him. This usually happens at night for the greatest possible PR impact!

Now we have a new concern. Several technologies have made their way into the car market that have the unintended effect of rendering the spike strip useless. Many tire companies now make "run flat" tires. There are many variations but basically letting the air out of the tire will no long cause it to become flat. In fact, some of these systems don't even use air. This is a great advantage to the average motorist who will no longer be stuck on the side of the road with a flat tire, or get run over while trying to change a tire on the freeway, so there is some upside for law enforcement.

The down side is we have to develop new tools and techniques to stop pursuits, the spike strip is headed for retirement. The other good news is these tires are expensive and not likely to be found on average car driven by the average criminal. It will likely be years before we have this problem with all vehicles. But just like Columbine and North Hollywood, criminals are learning to plan, so a smart crook who wants to get away, may include run flat tires as part of his planning checklist.

Perhaps we should begin testing such tires for our police cruisers too? Don't let the bad guys have all the advantages. That's what the SGT Says.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Deadly Hobby

Civil War Cannonball Kills Relic Collector - AOL News

This man was an experienced explosives expert, and yet he was killed while working on a shell from the American Civil War. Explosives are very dangerous and unpredictable. Soldiers and collectors often bring items home to collect or to remember their service.

With the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan anticipate that troops will somehow manage to get things home. If you are on site and find materials that could be explosives, don't hesitate to evacuate the area, get to a land line and phone in for bomb squad help. You can't determine just by looking if that box labeled "Land Mines" is full of mines that are 50 years old and ready to explode, or just an old box that looked interesting.

Be careful. Don't hurry. Get help from the experts. Explosives are dangerous and tricky, even the experts blow themselves up once in a while. That's what the SGT Says.

Car Keys

Do you have car keys for all your units? Is your fleet, fleet keyed? If not, why not? How often have you needed to move a vehicle out of the middle of the street, or get flares out of your partners trunk, only to be unable to open it because your key did not work?

You need to have keys for all the vehicles on active patrol so that you can operate those vehicles in an emergency. It is not a big thing, but it is an important one, at least, that's what the SGT Says.

Make an Impact

Never leave your baton in the patrol car. Always take your baton when you leave the patrol car. The baton is your friend. Don't leave your friend alone in the car.

In the spectrum of use of force, it is always a good idea to have options. Leaving your baton in the car gives you one less option. When the defense attorney askes you, "Officer why didn't you hit the suspect with your baton, rather than shoot him?" The answer, "I left my baton in the car." is not a good answer.

Over the years I have had to hit people with my baton. I have also used it to break a car window. And to fend off dog attacks. Most dogs will attack whatever is presented to them, so if you poke them in the face with the end of your baton, they will snap and bite at the stick, rather than your leg. This is a good thing.

There have also been several occasions when people were approaching me in a threatening manner and a fast, obvious draw of the baton followed by a defensive stance stopped them cold, without any actual physical contact.

At three a.m. when you get the dead cat/ possum/ dog in the road call and you are not sure they are actually dead, a bit of a poke with the baton is a good way to check on the critter before you actually touch them. Better to have them bite the stick, than bite your hand. That's what the SGT Says.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Can of Worms

Cry of Rape Lands Cheating Wife in Jail - AOL News

Every go on one of those calls where everything is a mess? Sometimes you just gotta take everyone to jail and sort it out at the station. In the story linked above, a scantily clad, married woman is in the driveway of her home, in a truck with her boyfriend. The husband comes home and the woman says she was being raped by the man in the vehicle with her. Naturally, the husband whips out his shootin' iron and blasts the man in the truck with his wife.

Eventually it all gets sorted out and they prosecute the wife for the death of the boyfriend. The husband was just defending his wife from a 'rapist' and mistake of fact is a good defense against criminal wrongdoing. How do you deal with such events? What would you do if you rolled up on this call?

You have a man down, bleeding to death, a woman screaming "rape" and a pistol packing vigilante running around. First thing to remember is you are in charge and you will be responsible for what happens once you arrive. This is one that is going to require a lot of help. As soon as you get this call on the radio, you need to get paramedics, and plenty of police help rolling.

First unit on the scene needs to find out where the husband is at, disarm, search, and cuff him. Put him in a police car and keep him away from the other two. Have a female officer, if available, take charge of the "victim" and I would recommend having her sit in a police car too. Not handcuffed, but not left alone. Once the scene is secure, have your paramedics administer whatever aid they can to the wounded man. If he must be transported to the hospital, make sure a sworn officer goes with them in the ambulance. If the victim can talk he may provide important information about the event.

The woman needs to be checked by the medics, and I would recommend that she be taken to the emergency room for a rape kit and examination by an MD. This will help to determine if there was a rape or consensual sexual encounter. The truck needs to be impounded to insure any rape evidence is collected.

When interviewing the woman, try and find out how she got from inside her home to inside the truck. A careful inspection of the home will be needed to see if there was forced entry and to confirm any story she may tell.

Make sure to interview neighbors and get their information. Ask if they have seen the vehicle in the neighborhood before, or if they know the man. If it is a boyfriend, there is a good chance the neighbors will know. If it is a rapist, he may have been staking the victim or casing the house.

A complex incident can be handled successfully, if you take charge, get plenty of help, and break it down into small bites so it is manageable. Remember, to first stop the threats, then render aid to the victims, and finally investigate the crime. That's what the SGT Says.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Patrol Rifle

The Ol' SGT was out doing Patrol Rifle training today. It reminded me that these new weapons are not really so new after all. Back in the days of the Wild West, every peace officer carried both his trusty six gun and a lever action rifle. As we became more urban, the lever action rifle gradually was phased out because they were a relic of the old west.

Fifty years later, the car criminal, Bonnie and Clyde types, came onto the scene and again law enforcement found themselves outgunned. So in the early 1930's, police took to using the Browning Automatic Rifle and the Thompson Submachine Gun to help even the odds. For a few decades these powerful weapons were commonplace in patrol cars all over America.

Fast forward to the 1960's, and we got the Basic Car Plan, and Community Based Policing and we were told we no longer needed that type of firepower to handle modern police work. Gradually the automatic weapons and high powered rifles were withdrawn from patrol service. SWAT would take custody of the of the big guns.

A few decades later and again we act surprised that we are facing criminals that have better weapons than those carried by patrol officers. Suddenly we are faced with Columbine and North Hollywood and responding patrol officers are left without the firepower they need to effectively and immediately stop the criminal acts of the suspects. Once again, agencies run out to buy patrol rifles to combat this new threat.

The threat posed by well armed suspects never went away, we simply chose to ignore the reality of life on the streets and then when something particularly bad happened, we were not ready. If your agency has patrol rifles, train with them, deploy them, keep them ready and don't give them up when the next new thing comes along. Those who do not learn from history are condenmed to repeat it, that's what the SGT Says!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Officer Safety is More Than Your Vest

We all know that every year in the USA about 60 police officers are murdered, mostly by criminals with handguns. Many of those officers were not wearing their body armor at the time. It is rare for an officer to be wearing a vest that does not stop the bullet that hits them.

What we often don't realize is the number of officers killed in accidents is about equal to the number killed by criminals. Most of those are driving deaths. Most of those driving deaths were not wearing their seat belt.

Much of the time we spend at work we are in the car, driving around. Doing traffic stops, driving to calls, or simply patrolling. That seat belt should be on. I understand the arguments against wearing the seat belt. It rumples my uniform. Good uniform appearance is important, but not so important that you should risk your life to look nice.

The seat belt limits my tactical options in case I need to jump out of the car. When rolling to a call, wear your seat belt until you are a block or two away, then unbuckle. As you approach any call you have a list of tasks to perform. Notify dispatch you are on scene, start checking the area for fleeing suspects or victims, look for a safe place to park, and checking for the correct address. My rule of thumb is, if I am close enough to the location to start looking for the address and looking for a place to park, then I am close enough to take off my seat belt.

Practice getting in and out of the car with the seat belt on. Learn how to function the button in the dark and leap out quickly in case you are surprised. It is a skill like any other and needs to be practiced. Once you get the hang of it, you will avoid getting your gear caught up in the seat belt or fumbling with the mechanism. Make it part of your routine and you will do it automatically under stress.

Finally, how can you in good conscience, write seat belt tickets to the public and not wear your seat belt? We are supposed to be an example to others, and wearing our seat belt is a small part of the moral high ground where officers should dwell.

Putting that seat belt on and taking it off should be an unthinking act, that you do every time, just like grabbing your baton as you leave the patrol car, but the SGT Says, that's another topic!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

SGT Says

Do you wear your vest? It's hot out and the darn thing can be uncomfortable. This year probably 120 police will die in the line of duty. Many more will be injured. That body armor will protect you from practically every handgun used in crime. If that is not enough, taking a steering wheel to the chest in a head on collision is much nicer if you are wearing armor. Oh sure, you have a unit with an airbag, but they only inflate once. You hit another car, and bounce off and hit a light pole or tree, that vest will save you, the deflated airbag will not.

On your lunch break, go back to the station and change your tee shirt, a fresh shirt makes that hot vest much more comfortable. Drink plenty of water, not just colas and coffee with caffeine in them. You need to stay hydrated in this hot weather.

Some companies make special tee shirts for wearing with body armor. I have tried a couple different ones and they do make a difference. If I am working day shift and anticipate being out directing traffic for much of they day, I wear my special tee that wicks away the sweat from the body. It makes the vest much cooler.

If you are wearing a uniform and a gun, you are not fully dressed unless you are wearing armor. If you don't need armor, you don't need the gun. That's what the SGT Says!