My eyelids were heavy. By heavy I’m talking serious weight. Those things were tipping the scales higher than a SWAT team hanging off the back end of the BearCat. It was 0400 and my first week back on the Yard. I was leaving the Barn to head to the scene of some violence to make sure the troops had the resources they needed.
Driving through the gate, I saw a sign I’d driven by hundreds of times: a silhouette of a woman throwing a baby into the air and the words, “Buckle up for them!” I was struck by how great this message is. I couldn’t believe I’d never acknowledged it. You hard working lady cops out there, don’t be ticked off. My agency was playing the odds and, as all of you know, our profession has fewer women then men.
I continued thinking about that sign. It reminded me of three recent Editor’s Notes published in Law Officer. They cover the Below 100 project, a Law Officer initiative to get the annual number of line-of-duty deaths below 100. The last time U.S. law enforcement had fewer than 100 line-of-duty deaths was 1944. That was before Mr. and Mrs. Cannonhead—my parents—even met; that was before they graduated high school. Our tactics are nothing like they were back then. Our gear today would make a 1944 cop’s head explode. Our training compared to a 1944 cop’s is the difference between a preschool graduate and a PhD. Given that, how’s it that we’re still losing our friends and family members at this rate?
I was initially pleased my agency is pushing this by putting up that sign. Later, I was upset because I’m one of those annoying people who doesn’t miss details, and I missed that message a bunch of times. We can do more. I can do more. I wear my seatbelt, but I don’t force others to. There was a time I didn’t wear mine unless I was running Code-3, but I outgrew that.
I started with the question every one of you does: Can I get my gun out while I’m wearing my seatbelt? The answer—yes! I know because I practice. Every shift, I strap up and drive a few feet, and then I brake hard and break leather. Sometimes I jam the crap out of my elbow on the shotgun rack, but I still get my hog leg out for business. If it goes bad, I run the drill until I’m ready.
Seatbelts Aren’t Bad, Stupid
Back in the day, my FTOs taught me to not wear my seatbelt. They said seatbelts are bad for cops. I’m sure many of you have heard the same stupid thing. In fact, it’s as stupid as teaching a cop that contact and cover isn’t necessary.
In an ambush scenario, human nature is to dive for cover. But think about it: Aren’t you better off sticking with the battering ram that you’re driving than jumping out where there may not be cover? Remember: Your mobility depends on your getaway sticks (legs for those of you with too many bars). If all you need is your calf muscle to stomp on the gas, you can outrun or run over an ambush. Why would you jump out? If you took a round during the ambush, you’d probably want to put some distance between you and the creep with the gun. I want that scumbag as dead as the rest of you do, but getting out of your car injured makes much less sense than getting out of the kill zone!
My take on wearing a seatbelt is simple. I wear it when I’m off duty, so why wouldn’t I wear it when I’m pushing a Black & White and I might end up in a pursuit? That seems pretty simple to me, so why do so many of us refuse to wear our seatbelt? I’ll tell you why: Because most of us have our heads so far up our rear ends we either don’t think we need it. Or, as I mentioned, we were taught wrong. We don’t wear it because we know we won’t get in any trouble for not wearing it. No one is going to give us a ticket and most of our supervisors have the same wrong training or a lack of desire to do their jobs. This needs to stop—now!
Officers must buckle up, and supervisors must hold their officers accountable. We all need to raise the bar to put a stop to deaths and injuries made preventable by seatbelts. I’m as guilty as many of you of letting the troops slide on this. But I’m done with excuses! I hope all of you are too.
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