FEATURED IN BELOW 100
In the Below 100 training programs we ask officers ‘Why do cops speed?” Every class answers the same, “Because we can.” Driving fast for many cops has developed into a habit and as a culture we have developed a sense of entitlement. We drive fast to priority calls. We drive fast to non-priority calls. We drive fast to coffee. We drive fast to the office at the end of the shift. We drive fast in marked vehicles with emergency equipment activated and we drive fast in marked cars with no lights and sirens. We drive fast in unmarked cars. We drive fast in our personal cars.
We are appalled if a uniformed officer in a marked vehicle is stopped for speeding and outraged if they are ticketed. We are appalled if we hear about an off duty officer stopped in another jurisdiction and ticketed by a fellow officer. Professional courtesy to some means you never write another cop a ticket regardless of the fact, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of their speed and regardless of the degree of danger they created by their actions. Many in the profession feel strongly that a cop who will write another cop a ticket is an asshole and should be put on some ‘Wall of Shame’.
This sense of entitlement is killing us, and it is killing innocent people. During the Below 100 presentations we cite numerous examples of officers who died when they were driving too fast and lost control of their vehicles. We share stories of officers whose excessive speed took the lives of fellow officers and innocent citizens. The sense of entitlement over speed is so engrained that officers even have the audacity to blame innocent citizens who died as a result of officers driving at excessive speed. We need to fix the problem, not the blame.
“The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it is conformity.”
The time has come to say enough is enough. Speed is killing good people. Speed is killing good officers. Speed is making single parents out of officers’ spouses. Speed is depriving officers’ children of the opportunity to grow up knowing their mom or dad. Speed is destroying families, lives and dreams. Speed has added hundreds of names to the Memorial Walls needlessly. Combine the numbers of officers dying as a result of speed and the number of officers dying because they chose not to wear a seatbelt and the numbers are staggering. The time has come to say enough is enough. Ignored behavior is condoned behavior and we can no longer afford to condone this behavior.
Just because you can does not mean you should. Driving at high rates of speed is not a God given right. It is a privilege. It’s a privilege bestowed on you as a law enforcement professional so you can respond quickly to high priority calls when the circumstances warrant. With that privilege comes responsibility and accountability. You are responsible to yourself, your family, your brother and sister officers, your agency and the citizens in your community. You are responsible to the citizens or officers you are responding to help. You are accountable for the decisions you make and the actions you take. The speed at which you drive is a choice. You can choose to slow down. That choice may save a life.
"There's plenty of intelligence in the world, but the courage to do things differently is in short supply."
Marilyn vos Savant
My challenge to you is to have the courage to do things differently. Here are some action steps you can take:
1. Start by modeling the behavior. It has been said that your actions speak so loudly that people cannot hear your words.
2. Go to www.below100.com and access the articles and resources available there for you to share with your fellow officers.
3. Attend a Below 100 presentation or Below 100 Train the Trainer course and arm yourself with critical information you can share with fellow officers.
4. Have a courageous conversation with at least one officer in your agency that you know has an issue with driving too fast. Let them know you care too much about them and their family to ignore this issue any more. Let them know how valuable they are to the organization, the squad or the team. They may not be happy at first, but that courageous conversation may save their life, or the life of someone else.
5. Host a Below 100 presentation at your agency. It can be hard to be a prophet in your own land and sometimes hearing the message from other people will help to change behaviors.
6. Speak to your FTO’s and your sergeants about this important message. Get them excited about the possibility of saving lives and encourage them to have those courageous conversations with officers on their watch.
7. Get the message out to recruits in the academy to help create a new culture in our profession.
8. Talk to your EVO instructors and get them on board. Driving programs need to focus more on control and decision making and less on speed.
You are going to encounter some resistance to change and that is ok. As a culture we are resistant to change. The result however, is worth the effort.