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The phrase, Tactics, Technology and Training has been our tag line since this magazine was founded, and it s my belief that these three areas are integral to safe and effective policing. Recent experiences and observations have made me realize that some agency administrators would probably add a couple additional T s to our motto. If it were up to them, it would read, Tradition Trumps Tactics, Technology and Training. You might wonder, How can that be? After all, we re standing on the shoulders of some of the greatest trainers and tactical experts of all time. Plus, we re benefiting from technological advances unlike anything seen before in the history of mankind, right? Well, not always.
Many of us remember the time when a lot of agencies required officers to wear their hats at all times, even if it was tactically unsound to do so. Fortunately, there are very few places that still demand this of their officers, recognizing that an officer needs flexibility when operating in field conditions.
But there are agencies that exhibit this old style of thinking when it comes to other areas, which puts their officers at a disadvantage. Let me offer some examples and see if you can identify with one or more.
Many departments permit their officers to bring violators back to the patrol vehicle and have them sit in the front seat while the officer writes the citation and checks the driver s license. This seems to be more common in regions with harsh weather, but I ve seen it throughout the country. I don t understand it at all; it goes against every principle of officer safety. A violator should either wait in their vehicle or sit on the curb, whichever the contacting officer determines is best. The U.S. Supreme Court has made it very clear that officers are entitled to direct occupants to stay in or exit their vehicle, recognizing the officer is in the best position to make the determination.
On a similar note, I ve seen several departments put officers out on the road without a cage in the vehicle for transporting prisoners. Sometimes this is a matter of economics, and sometimes it s a desire to appear less offensive. Regardless, it s absolutely wrong. Any officer involved in making arrests and transports needs a cage or prisoner partition in their vehicle. And by the way, this means a cage or partition designed and fitted for the vehicle to protect the officer. Doing otherwise is tactically unsound. More than a few suspects have managed to work a hand around a poorly designed or makeshift cage and injure an officer.
A little over a year ago, our magazine was involved in an effort to bring relief to officers affected by the devastating hurricanes in the Gulf region. Part of that effort involved donating equipment from generous manufacturers. Recently, I learned a donated high-tech sighting device was rejected by an officer s department. The reason? The person in charge of the tactical team believed the technology would cause officers to lose iron-sight skills. (For an interesting view on this, take a look at Dave Spaulding s test of the Leupold Tactical Prismatic sight on p. 10).
In approximately half of the United States, it s possible for an officer to work on the street with a badge and a gun without attending a basic academy. In at least one state, officers can perform up to two years of street work before an academy is required. And once the academy is completed, there s no requirement for on-going training.
In more progressive states, officers begin working only after they complete several months of academy work. And even then, extensive in-field training with a field training officer is required, and regular updates are required to maintain certification.
If you work in an area where tradition stands in the way of sound tactics, technology or training, it s also standing in the way of basic officer safety. You owe it to you and yours to do everything you possibly can to initiate change. Tactics must reflect today s reality; technology should be evaluated and embraced if effective; and training remains the foundation and prerequisite for all police officers.
Dale Stockton, Editor