Agencies in my area are fortunate to have the latest in law enforcement technology. Automatic Vehicle Location was installed, and now beat cars and dispatch can see where everyone is at all times. If they’re moving, their ground speed is displayed. Some fear the bosses will use the GPS devices as a disciplinary tool and ding folks for being stationary too long or driving too fast. It hasn’t happened, but should it?
Everyone jokes about seeing units running 100 miles on two lane county roads. We’ve had close calls but haven’t had an officer or citizen killed in a high-speed crash. I fear it’s just a matter of time. In the meantime, can supervisory, administrative and executive-level officers afford to turn a blind eye? –Anonymous
Dear Hammer Dropper,
I have two major issues right off the bat here, slick. I think you’re on the prowl and looking to lay a whipping on some cops just because they like to drive a little faster than you think is reasonable. And your agency has a culture where people are laughing about cops hauling around at 100 mile per hour.
Lots of cops see the ability to drive a bit quicker than the rest of the population as the last bastion of the “we’re the po-po and you better shut up” days. Where Ol’ Bullethead works, those days are long gone. People where I live aren’t okay with cops driving much faster than that guy who drove Miss Daisy.
Recently, some lady called in and complained to me about a police car that drove through a four-way intersection with its lights and siren. I asked if the officer had run the intersection unsafely and she said “no.” The officer went safely through the intersection, but he had a red light. Some cops blow through intersections and kill themselves or civilians but this guy did everything right. She was still upset.
I had steam coming from my ears. I explained that the officer was on his way to an emergency call. She still didn’t get it and wanted me to speak to the officer about not doing it in the future. I laughed out loud and told the woman I’d try to fire the officer if he didn’t drive in the exact same manner in a similar situation in the future. Then I hung up.
Cultural & Educational Change
Your agency’s culture needs to change. If it becomes OK to zip around country roads and the supervisors and brass laugh about it, someone is gonna die. However, dropping the hammer isn’t the way to fix this. Watch commanders need to speak about it in briefing to let the guys know it’s stupid and won’t be tolerated. Go online and pull up some footage that shows the results of idiotic driving. Supervisors need to monitor their people and use their leadership and their stripes to stem the behavior. If officers need pit crews because they tear around like NASCAR drivers, put them in check.
If you try to drop the hammer right out of the gate, the officers may say they were chasing someone. When Ol’ Bullethead is going to tune up a troop, I make damn sure I don’t give them enough rope to hang themselves or lose their integrity. The troops have to be comfortable enough to tell the truth without fear of much more than a nice tail chewing and the knowledge that a change in behavior is expected.
You also need an educational program. Start with math. When officers roll around at Mach 2 they aren’t saving much time because the distances they travel aren’t far enough. Include the survivability of accidents at different speeds. The cruisers we roll aren’t built anything like the limo Princess Di was in, and we know how that ended.
Most officers think they’re superhuman, so appeal to their selfish side. My agency retains historical GPS data. Yours probably does too. Any officer naïve enough to think that won’t be used to hang them in the event of a crash should be flipping burgers. Start a peer pressure campaign because it will work best.
I applaud you for seeing fast driving as an issue. Your orders are simple: Save the hammer, and use culture, education and peer pressure to lighten some lead feet and save some lives.
Watch Your Speed—It’s one of the core tenets of Law Officer’s Below 100 initiative. Learn more at www.lawofficer.com/below100. And be sure to check out this month’s Cruiser Corner column on p. 18 to read more about safe driving tactics.
Got a question or complaint? Let Bullethead hear about it. He'll give you his opinion WITH BOTH BARRELS. Contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or fax him at 619/699-6246.