Responding appropriately when a cop is killed

Are you prepared to be the warrior that you’re expected to be?


Shock and sadness turned to outrage and frustration when I received word of the violent death of yet another St. Petersburg, Florida cop.

Officer David Crawford’s murder comes 28 days after the shooting deaths of two other SPPD colleagues, and he is the 9th Florida law enforcer to die this year, the 30th in the United States.

It’s not looking good for “the good guys,” and it’s frustrating for those of us involved in officer survival training and information. Are we not putting on enough training classes, writing enough articles, getting the information out there? Frankly, I feel a bit helpless, and I’m guessing some of you do too. But we can’t wallow in self-pity, and we can’t allow ourselves to feel like victims.

So, where do we go from here?

First of all, acknowledge our collective loss and lament our dead. Cry, scream, slam your locker door, shout obscenities. Be angry! Every time a fellow cop dies, you should pause. Read their names, learn their stories, and acknowledge them and who they were, how they lived. Mourn for them, grieve, involve yourself and your agency in the rituals of honoring them, wear the black bands, lower the flag, and most importantly, reach out.

Reach out to each other, to the families, to our communities. “The Blue Band-Aid” is powerful, don’t underestimate it.

Next, assess yourself, because no one else is responsible for your safety and survival. Are you mentally prepared? Tactically ready? Or are you still allowing “routine” to lull you into complacency, telling yourself that “stuff like that doesn’t happen here.”

Examine your own mindset; accept that there are people out there who are ready, willing and able to kill you without a moment’s hesitation.

I’m neither a psychologist nor a pundit, but I firmly believe that the “super-predator” we talked about five or six years ago is here, and he’s hunting cops. Are you ready for him? Are you going to be his prey? His victim? Or are you going to be the hunter? Are you prepared to be the warrior that you’re expected to be?

When St. Petersburg’s Chief Harmon announced that Officer Crawford had not been wearing body armor, I was saddened, but not necessarily surprised.

I think most of our readers would be surprised to learn how many cops don’t wear, or don’t even own, protective vests. Many departments, like SPPD, don’t make body armor a mandate, and many more agencies and individual officers cannot afford to buy their own.

Don’t judge David Crawford because he didn’t wear his vest. Instead, learn from his sacrifice. Tell his story to the rookies, remind the veterans; take comfort in knowing that others will live because they will learn from his sacrifice.

David Crawford, like so many others before him, willingly confronted evil. That’s what warriors do. We just have to be as completely prepared as humanly possible when we do.

And remember, as Dave Smith says, tell yourself every day, on every shift, “Not Today.” Stay safe!

About the author

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy's website at www.femaleforces.com.

Contact Betsy Smith and Follow Betsy on Twitter

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