Back in 1995, Chuck Remsberg coined the term 5%er... kind of a takeoff on the old biker 1%er thing. Outlaw bikers use that 1%er term to define themselves as the chosen few motorcycle club members who take pride in being on the wrong side of the law. Police officers use the term 5%er to define themselves as the exceptional minority committed to outstanding performance on the street.
As we near the end of the year, we’re closing in on 160 line-of-duty deaths for 2010, 55 of whom were shot and killed by assailants. It’s anybody’s guess what the LEOKA stats will show come January 2011, but regardless, we are well above the 128 figure posted for line-of-duty deaths (48 of which were feloniously KIAs) for 2009. So, here’s a New Year’s challenge I want to make to all of our PoliceOne.com and Calibre Press Newsline readers. Re-commit yourself to being in that elite group of 5%er cops for 2011.
I had the honor of speaking at the inaugural PoliceOne Members Event the evening before the final 2010 Street Survival Seminar in Las Vegas earlier this month. My address highlighted some of the latest findings culled from the 3-part FBI study of police officer assaults/murders that covered the 15-year period 1992-2006. While time and space do not allow me to address all the material presented, three police officer descriptors or characteristics showed up consistently during that FBI study. The researchers — FBI Special Agent Ed Davis and his associate Dr. Tony Pinizotto — found that officers who get killed on the job were often described by their peers as out-going, “friendly” officers who feel that they have the ability to “read people and situations” and who also frequently “dropped their guard” as a result of this perceived ability.
However, the number one characteristic that was identified in each of the three studies that comprised that 15-year compilation of police officer murders was this: they failed to wait for a back up before committing.
That FBI study didn’t stop at just examining the officers. It also profiled the offenders. It found that without exception, the bad guys practice with their equipment (weapons) more than we do, have a higher hit rate with those weapons than we do, are consistently younger than we are and are less worried about the legal implications of their using deadly force than we are. Not a pretty picture. But, there is room for hope.
Old timers on the job will probably remember the Survival Triangle introduced in the first Street Survival text book and which eventually morphed into the Survival Star in the early Street Survival Seminars. That five-pointed star identified the most important traits of officer survival:
• Mental Conditioning
• Firearms Skills
• Physical Training and Fitness
Most trainers agree that with effort, officers can have some influence on every aspect of that star; and while some cops might think that because their agency chooses their equipment, there’s no limit to how proficient or expert you can become with that equipment. If you have any doubt about that statement, pick up a copy of Las Vegas-based police trainer Bob Hindi’s DVD, “The Hindi Duty Belt Safety System.” So, with that five-pointed icon in your mind and the knowledge of those fatal errors that consistently get more of us killed every year, let’s recap a few of those 5%er traits.
1.) 5%er cops are always alert and tactically prepared for any potential threat. “When/Then” thinking isn’t just a slogan — it’s a concept that flows through their veins every shift, every day. “When such and such happens, I’ll do so and so.”
2.) 5%ers are aware of bad guys’ tactics and thinking, and that awareness and knowledge can only come from frequent and constant training. When was the last time you sought out competent police training in the area of adversary tactics?
Rather than head home to sunny southwest Florida after my PoliceOne Members Event speech earlier this month, my wife and I stuck around for the two-day Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar that followed. And even though I taught more than 350 of those seminars during the 12 years I was with Calibre Press, I still learned a lot at this two-day program that will benefit me as a police trainer and use-of-force consultant. Pat McCarthy’s three-day Street Crimes Seminar is going to be presented in more than 30 cities beginning January 3 through June 27, 2011. I’ve met Pat and he’s a cop’s cop. His program focuses on offender tactics; and via live video footage including interviews with both police snitches and prison inmates, walks attendees through the complicated maze of the gang and drug culture. And if neither of those seminars are coming to a city near you in 2011 or you can’t spare the time to get away to attend one or both, think about subscribing to the PoliceOne Academy for access to relevant officer survival training when its convenient for you — 24/7/365.
3.) The 5%er mindset is also insatiably curious and skeptical of appearances. Savvy streets cops learn to trust their instincts and are wary of making assumptions.
4.) 5%ers are skilled at communicating with all types of folks and are determined to constantly improve and expand on those skills; and that includes staying current with the full gamut of those constantly changing legal force options available to us to not only stay safer out there, but also on what we can use to thwart the bad guys efforts to further their criminal enterprises, like Terry stops, and new U.S. Supreme Court decisions that come down the pike every so often.
5.) 5%ers learn from the mistakes made by those who have gone before us and are resilient even after experiencing setbacks. And while we hesitate to criticize the errors made by our peers, we can honor those fallen brothers and sisters by committing ourselves to making sound tactical decisions even when under extreme emotional stress and physical disadvantages.
6.) There’s no doubt that 5%er cops are passionate about the job. Our equipment and uniforms display it, our demeanor reflects it and the dedication to serving our community reflects it. But, as 5%ers, we are able to “turn it off” when it’s appropriate to do so.
7.) Lastly, 5%er cops are committed that no matter what, we will WIN!
Take care, and here’s wishing all of you a safe and prosperous 2011!