(Photo Dale Stockton)
FEATURED IN BELOW 100
Despite an extra day because of Leap Year, February losses totaled “just” five officers. Only four times in the last 25 years have losses for an entire month totaled five or less and it’s been more than 25 years since a February total was this low. Cause for celebration? With five officers dead, the answer is definitely not, but it’s noteworthy and encouraging.
As I write this, the LODD numbers are 43% lower overall than last year at this time. Gunfire deaths are down 44% and auto related deaths are 36% less than same time last year. Although we have only two months behind us, this is definitely progress and we should build upon this, refusing to accept any loss as normal or acceptable.
Let’s take a look at what occurred during February.
Two officers were killed by gunfire. A Washington State trooper was gunned down during a traffic stop and was found by another officer beside his car. The suspect fled and later committed suicide as officers closed in. A Clay County (Fla.) Sheriff’s detective was killed when he and another detective were shot as they approached a house filled with drug users. The shooter was shot and killed by another deputy.
Two officers were killed in vehicle related incidents. A Monongalia County (W. Va.) Sheriff’s deputy was killed after his car crashed when it was rammed by a suspect during a pursuit that crossed state lines. A Dale County (Ala.) Sheriff’s reserve deputy was killed when his car left the roadway and struck several parked cars. The deputy may have suffered some type of medical crisis right before the crash.
A Mobile, Ala., police officer was stabbed to death by a suspect who stole the officer’s gun and car. The suspect had been tackled by an off-duty officer during a store robbery and had been processed at the police department before transport. After a pursuit and gunfight in which another officer was wounded, the suspect was fatally shot.
So far this year the average age of fallen officers is 44 and the level of experience averages 12 years and nine months. Think about that—we like to rationalize that it’s the inexperienced officers making mistakes but a review of the information on www.ODMP.org shows this just isn’t the case. This is a factor that should be considered in terms of training priorities and efforts.
Bottom line: We continue to lose officers in traffic stops, prisoner transport, entering houses during raids or warrants and vehicle crashes. So let’s concentrate on some key training points for each of these.
1) They are never, never routine.
2) Although you know the reason for the stop, the violator may assume something else is involved and feel the need to escape or take offensive action. Be ready for that possibility.
3) As much as you can, choose the stop location to provide a tactically sound and safe environment. Look for lighting advantages and be very aware of the real dangers of traffic—it can be as deadly as the occupants of the car that you’re stopping.
4) Watch for danger indicators like the driver moving around a lot, being slow to pull over and watching a little too intently in the rear view mirror.
5) Whenever possible, consider a passenger-side approach. It works and often gives a better view of the interior of the car and the suspect, as well as providing more protection from traffic.
6) Use the principles of contact and cover. If you have the luxury of another officer present, make sure that one of you is serving in a cover role. Many officers are killed when more than one officer is present and this technique will prevent many of those losses.
Entering Homes or Serving Warrants
1) Have a plan. Take advantage of every bit of information and intelligence known. Make sure this is shared with the rest of the officers involved.
2) Regardless of any expectation of minimal trouble, wear your armor. There is no downside to doing this and the benefits are obvious.
3) In spite of what you know, plan for the unknown.
4) Check and double check your equipment and safety gear.
5) If you have people with emergency medical training, have them available and make sure they’re trained to operate in a tactical environment.
6) Carry a tourniquet and know how to use it. Proper use of a tourniquet can prevent death from almost any gunshot wound to an extremity.
Never assume that a prisoner has already been searched or is safe to transport, even if they’re coming right out of a custodial facility.
Search as if you expect to find something. And when you do find something, search even harder for the second or third weapon.
Secure prisoners properly for transport. Unless waist chains are being used, handcuffs in front are seldom a good way to go.
Seatbelt them – it limits their ability to move around and it’s the right thing to do.
Learn from Mistakes
We have to review every line-of-duty death and commit to learning from them. Otherwise we’re not honoring the sacrifice of those we’ve lost. Ask: What could have been done differently? What were the warning signs? Could the incident have been predicted and therefore prevented? Take a look back through the losses of this past year by going to www.ODMP.org. The summaries are sobering and provide insights to the last moments of some of America’s finest.
If we do everything right, we’re still going to have losses. That’s the unfortunate reality of our job. As challenging as it is to always be ready, you must keep your edge and remember that complacency kills.
As you get ready for your next shift, take a moment to check your gear. Take a close look in the mirror. What impression will you make? Does your appearance convey confidence and readiness or complacency and reticence? Get squared away and make sure you have a WIN (What’s Important Now?) mindset. Body armor works, but only if you wear it!
Finally, remember the tenets of Below 100:
1. Wear your belt.
2. Wear your vest.
3. Watch your speed.
4. WIN – What’s Important Now?
5. Remember: Complacency Kills.
The mission of Below 100 is to drive LODDs to an annual loss of less than 100. Make a difference and challenge others when you see them engaged in actions that can lead to serious injury or death. Yes, the conversations are sometimes uncomfortable but they’re nothing like going to a funeral. Don’t suffer the regret and guilt of not having said something that could have prevented a loss.
Police Officer Steven Green
Mobile Police Department, AL
EOW: Friday, February 3, 2012
Cause of Death: Stabbed
Reserve Deputy Don Williams
Dale County Sheriff's Office, AL
EOW: Wednesday, February 8, 2012
Cause of Death: Automobile accident
Detective David White
Clay County Sheriff's Office, FL
EOW: Thursday, February 16, 2012
Cause of Death: Gunfire
Sergeant Michael Todd May
Monongalia County Sheriff's Department, WV
EOW: Saturday, February 18, 2012
Cause of Death: Vehicle pursuit
Trooper Tony Radulescu
Washington State Patrol, WA
EOW: Thursday, February 23, 2012
Cause of Death: Gunfire