The Law Officer team will be posting Below 100 tips once a week to promote officer safety awareness. These tips will be simple concepts and reminders that you can implement into your daily work routine. For more information on Below 100, check out Below100.com.
1. During some years more officers are killed by other vehicles while on a traffic stop than by gunfire from the bad guy in the car. Be aware of your surroundings. Think W.I.N.—What’s Important Now?
2. Body armor works better and lasts longer when it isn’t allowed to get wet or stay wet. Whenever it’s exposed to moisture, make sure it’s thoroughly aired out and allowed to dry.
3. Heat can degrade the effectiveness of body armor. Don’t leave it in a trunk or other area subject to high temperatures. Better yet—wear it! It only works when it’s on you.
4. Ammo left in the magazine of a semi-automatic can cause the spring to become fatigued and less reliable. Rotate your ammo and magazines to ensure the highest level of reliability. (Note: Most newer magazines take advantage of advances in technology and pose minimal risk. However, we have a lot of folks and departments who may not have the best or newest equipment. Giving the springs a break and cleaning the mags is just a good general practice. It's not worth your life to take a chance on a spring. Make sure you have operational equipment that you can trust.)
5. Guns have moving parts, relatively close tolerances and work better when lightly lubricated. When left in a holster, they may accumulate debris or dust bunnies. Check your firearm regularly—your life depends on it.
6. When you’re doing a field sobriety test on the side of the road, position the suspect so that you can keep an eye on approaching traffic. If you have a cover officer, agree on a word that can be shouted in the event that you need to dive out of the way. Plan ahead—it could save your life.
7. Passenger-side approaches should be considered on every traffic stop. Keeping yourself away from passing traffic is a way to improve officer safety. Approaching on the passenger side may give you an edge when a bad guy is looking for a driver’s side approach.
8. Body armor works but only if you wear it. Keeping it in the trunk or on the seat is like betting on a losing hand. Officers wearing body armor triple their chances of surviving a shooting to the torso.
9. Rain gear often has a reflective inner liner. If you’re working a traffic collision, wear the gear with the reflective side out. It’s important to be seen when standing in traffic.
10. Flashlights are a must—even if you’re assigned to day shifts. Carry a small but capable light on your duty belt. You never know when you may need to look in a darkened crawl space or search a trunk full of dark items.
11. Check the back seat area thoroughly at the beginning of every shift. Contraband and weapons are often left behind by prisoners being transported to the jail. Even if you’ve searched your prisoner carefully, a knife under the seat could get you killed.
12. If heat is causing you to avoid wearing body armor, consider getting a carrier that allows the vest to be worn on the outside of your uniform. They’re relatively inexpensive (compared to the armor) and many officers find that they're more comfortable and versatile.
13. Others watch your actions, especially if you’re an FTO. Set the best example in terms of officer safety and don’t compromise on the basics. Wear your belt, wear your vest and watch your speed! The life you save could be your own.
14. Transporting prisoners should never be considered routine. Thoroughly search them before placing them in your car, even if they’ve been searched by someone else. Too many officers have been killed by handcuffed suspects assumed to have no weapons.
15. If a violator won’t roll down the window and provides paperwork indicating exemption from government authority, you may be dealing with a Sovereign Citizen. Sovereigns are dangerous and often armed, sometimes striking during a moment of confusion over their paperwork. Call for a backup unit.
16. Body armor should go with your uniform just like your badge. The uniform makes you a potential target. Wear your vest, even if you work a “safe” assignment.
17. If you drive a marked unit, you should be wearing body armor. Think about it—the bad guys see the car as a threat. They don’t know that you’re just going to training.
18. Search as if you expect to find something and double check when you don’t. Programming the brain to look for something that you believe is there will make you a more successful and safer.
19. Visit the local dollar store and buy some clip-on LED flashers. They’re a great way to increase your safety when you’re directing traffic at night. Very, very cheap insurance.
20. Drivers are often confused by the flashing lights, flares and other distractions at a major traffic accident. Reflectorized vests can really improve your safety, especially at night. Make yourself highly visible and stay alive. This is a time when you want to be seen!