Assignment: Write about the top law enforcement trends, as I see them, in 2010. Gads, where do I even start? Continued ambush attacks on our law enforcers in places like Hoonah, Alaska and McKinney, Texas. Gotta be on the list, right? Thwarted terrorist attacks in places like Portland, Oregon and Chicago, Illinois? Surely those have to be on the list, no? Battles waged — in courts and voting booths — over drug legalization and amnesty for illegal immigrants. A must for any 2010 list, correct? Hiring freezes, pay cuts, mass layoffs, and whole departments shuttering their doors. Doubtlessly these have to be covered in this space, yeah? New police automobiles like the Dodge Charger Pursuit, the Ford Interceptor, and the Chevrolet Caprice. Certainly can’t neglect those, can I?
Yep, I can and I will. Regardless of the specifics of those — and myriad other — watershed events this year, the most significant single issue is that we saw a nearly 40 percent rise in line-of-duty deaths in law enforcement in 2010. Nothing could be more important. As of this writing, 162 American law enforcers were killed in the line of duty this year, up from 117 in 2009. Ten more officers died by gunfire in 2010 — 59, up from 49 in 2009. Eighteen more died as a result of vehicle incidents — 73, up from 51 last year. Five more died of heart attack — 14, up from nine last year.
This is the current count at the hour I post this item to PoliceOne, with a full two days remaining in the year. I can only pray those numbers don’t go up before the ball above Times Square is lowered and the voices below are raised.
While writing a column that supposes some sort of “closure” on the events of the past 12 months might make everyone feel a little bit better about entering 2011 — or more accurately, about putting 2010 behind us — that’s not my job. I’m supposed to be a conduit of information that makes officers safer and more successful on the streets. So, that’s what I aim to do. Now, while every last line of what follows is something you’ve heard before, the calendar’s annual inflection point is also a natural moment of reflection — a time when people engage in repetition of hymns, mantras, promises, prayers, and resolutions.
Please be advised: This list is anything but complete. In fact, in order to even make it manageable I’ve pulled several fairly obvious — if somewhat redundant — tips out of it. Further, the list is in no preferential order. I’ve purposefully jumbled these foundational principles such that there’s no one item that may be perceived as more — or less — important than any other. Finally, this list is not one of my own creation. Every last tidbit and tactical tip has already appeared on PoliceOne as a member comment or columnist contribution at one time or another during 2010. They all have been presented as a direct — or indirect — thought stemming from the most important individual events of the past 12 months. I’ve merely re-phrased those life-saving, life-affirming lessons into a series of proclamations you can use as your internal self-talk, whether on patrol or off duty with your family and friends.
Here we go...
1. I will work out more and eat foods that sustain my physical and mental strength
2. I will go to the physician regularly, and heed his/her advice for my wellbeing
3. I will connect with my neighboring law enforcers before the poop hits the paddles
4. I will go to the pistol, rifle, and trap ranges more, and work on my dry-fire drills
5. I will care for my guns in a way that exceeds manufacturer’s recommendations
6. I will carry a backup gun if my agency allows it, and lobby for one if they don’t
7. I will not allow myself to become jaded despite the heinous crap I see on my tour
8. I will seek a friend’s ear — or a professional’s — when I’ve been traumatized
9. I will not allow a perpetrator to assault me without facing the appropriate charges
10. I will be polite and professional, but have a plan to kill everyone I meet if I must
11. I will not leave my gun — or guns — where my kids might gain access to them
12. I will practice with every one of the tools on my tool belt, from cuffs to TASER
13. I will know that practice doesn’t make perfect — perfect practice makes perfect
14. I will treat my dispatchers with the respect and dignity that they deserve
15. I will study the changes in the law, technology, and society happening around me
16. I will never say or do anything I wouldn’t be proud to have in tomorrow’s papers
17. I will not send or receive personal text messages while I’m driving — ever!
18. I will practice my visual acuity when I’m a passenger in a two-officer squad
19. I will get top-notch tactical training whether or not my agency pays for it
20. I will not be afraid to lose a little blood in training, lest I lose it all in real world
21. I will think in a when/then mindset as I pass places on my patrol path
22. I will wear my body armor during every shift and my seat belt during every ride
23. I will examine areas of interest — outside of police work — that enrich my mind
24. I will find a way to incorporate other public safety disciplines into my training
25. I will not assume that “somebody else” is thinking about terrorism in my town
I fully acknowledge that this is basic, ordinary stuff — it is well-worn stuff — that to some may come off as merely a series of positive-minded platitudes. That’s a legit opinion, but I’d dispute it. To me, these are lessons learned from a year of reading, writing, editing, and posting hundreds of tips and columns to PoliceOne. They’re an accumulation of concepts shared in thousands of email, phone, and personal conversations I’ve had the good fortune to have with law enforcers across this great country in the past calendar year. Yeah, you’ve heard it all before, but this stuff is timeless for a reason — it remains as valid today as it was the day it was first spoken.
So, as I tie up this, my final column of 2010, I want to simply say that the above sentiments go out to every law enforcer who protects and serves — every warrior who keeps our country and our communities safe. It’s my honor to serve with you in the capacity I do. You are in my thoughts and prayers, always. Here’s to a safe and successful 2011.
— PoliceOne Senior Editor Doug Wyllie