Photo Kire R. Helgesen
FEATURED IN TRAINING
I’ve been a police officer for nine years, and I’ve spent countless hours training in both patrol and SWAT tactics. I served seven of those years on a SWAT team. Like any other team, we used mirrors to safely peer into the unknown before exposing ourselves to a potential threat. Our mirror equipment ranged from trade-show purchases of collapsible, tactical, black, pole-mounted mirrors to those we fabricated from an aluminum broomstick and a truck mirror. Invariably, when the time came that we could really use one of those mirrors, they were right where we needed them least—either on the raid truck or worse, in the locker in the garage. As designated SWAT tools, the mirrors were locked away from patrol officers not trained to use such equipment. For years, I’ve kept a break-resistant mirror in the shirt pocket of my uniform, the 2.5"x4" plastic type you find by the camping equipment for a couple of bucks.
A step up from the tactical mirror, the tactical camera comes with a price tag that prevents most departments from equipping every officer with one. But many of us do carry a camera without realizing its potential for tactical use: the camera on our cellular phone. For whatever reason, it took me a year to finally take an interest in the camera feature of my cellular phone, a Motorola RAZR. Yes, I’ve had a tactical camera on me while at work and didn’t even realize it.
When entering a room, hold your RAZR (or similarly designed phone) in your off-hand pinched between your thumb and index finger at the phone’s microphone end. With the flip in the open position and working from either side of a doorway, move the phone from behind cover with the camera lens pointing toward the area in question. View the threat area through the phone’s display, which has a natural offset of approximately 5 degrees in the open position. This increases your field of view into a room by approximately 45 degrees, and you remain behind cover while performing this tactic, limiting your exposure to a potential threat. While you’re at it, feel free to snap a picture of that threat once you’ve located it (for evidentiary value or scrapbook collections).
To naysayers and “what-if” folks, I respond, “Situation dictates tactics.” Use common sense and do what affords you the most safety. Think of using your cell-phone camera in terms of a weak-hand operation. It goes without saying you should have a cover officer with you. Have your partner add illumination to darkness. Check out-of-reach areas on top of cabinets and hutches for weapons and contraband. Make sure the ringer is turned off or set to vibrate.
I’m probably not the first cop to think of this tactic, but I haven’t come across any articles about it. Evaluate this idea for yourself and pass it on to interested officers.
Kire R. Helgesen is an officer with the Pasadena (Texas) Police Department. Contact him at email@example.com.