Monday, December 17, 2012
The past few days have been absolutely deadly for law enforcement. We’ve lost six officers in only five days: five to gunfire and one who was struck by a vehicle. This brings the toll for December to nine. December can be a deadly month—last year 19 officers died in December, five of them in the last six days of the year.
December 14–17, 2012, were the final days of service for these officers:
December 14: Two Memphis officers were fired upon while serving a narcotics search warrant. The officers were both struck by gunfire and Officer Martolya Lang was killed.
December 15: Washington County, Missouri, Sheriff’s Deputy Christopher Parsons was ambushed with a rifle while he and medical personnel were loading a woman into an ambulance. The shooter was the woman’s son.
December 16: El Paso Police Officer Angel Garcia was struck by a vehicle while he was trying to remove a ladder from a roadway. He had stopped his vehicle in the traffic lane with his emergency lights on. A chain reaction crash resulted in an out-of-control vehicle striking Garcia and killing him.
December 16: Topeka, Kan., Officers David Gogian and Jeff Atherly were both shot and killed as they were making contact with several subjects in a vehicle. One of the subjects opened fire, killing both Gogian and Atherly. A third officer on scene was not injured. The shooter died in a subsequent confrontation with police.
December 17: Clayton County, Ga, Officer Sean Callahan was shot twice in the head while engaged in a foot pursuit. He died the following day. Other officers returned fire and killed the suspect. Officer Callahan had been with the department for four months.
Even the most basic traffic stop or subject contact involves a set of complex behaviors that are interwoven with potential danger. Making a safe approach while aware of passing traffic is a good example. Another is how you secure and search prisoners before transport. Too often we get ahead of ourselves and the consequences can be deadly. This year, warrant service has claimed a disproportionate number of lives. These are times when planning and preparation are essential. When it comes to making contact with subjects in the field, remember the principles of contact and cover
. This simple technique has saved many officers. When properly used, contact and cover minimizes the problem of complacency or distraction.
Critique yourself after calls, ask for input from those you know are tactically sound and make the W.I.N. (What's Important Now?) process a common practice. This will result in continuous improvement and increased safety. Finally, just because you get away with something doesn’t mean that you handled it properly. Reckless arrival doesn't equal survival!
Work through situations systematically and deliberately, continually invoking W.I.N. along the way. Doing so will significantly increase your chance of survival. “Do not run to your own death!”
This is a time for a self-assessment and recommitment to safety principles that form the core of officer safety. Please for the sake of your safety and that of everyone you work with, take a moment to revisit the tenets of Below 100:
1. Wear your belt.
2. Wear your vest.
3. Watch your speed.
4. W.I.N.—What’s Important Now?
5. Remember: Complacency kills!
Finally, we must have the courageous conversations
. If you see something that puts you or others at risk, say something!
It could be a long standing, but dangerous practice that has gone unnoticed at the firing range of a fellow officer just pushes the risk envelope too far. Trust me on this—if you don’t say something and a fellow officer dies as a result of behavior that you could have prevented, you will never, ever, forgive yourself. Have the courage to say something. Don’t wait, do it now. Let’s turn this deadly trend around.