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January 27, 2006

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Travis Yates Police Driving:
Safety Behind the Wheel

with Travis Yates

Speech given by P-1 columnist Captain Travis Yates

On January 22, 2006, a rally was held at Kiener Plaza in downtown Saint Louis.  The rally was sponsored by the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the Missouri chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors.  It was designed to support Officer Matt Browning and bring focus on the issue of drunk driving and the dangers to law enforcement on the roadways of America. 

Below is the text of the speech given by P-1 columnist Captain Travis Yates

I would like to first thank MADD and everyone involved with this rally.  This event and the participation is a true testament to a great community.  You certainly should be proud. I would like to also thank you for giving me this opportunity.  I am certainly humbled by your act of kindness.

Let me begin by giving you some quick background on why I stand in front of you today.  Like many kids growing up, I had heroes to look up to.  The difference between myself and the majority of other kids was that my heroes didn't come from a comic book or from a sports team.  My heroes were those men and women out there wearing blue.

I didn't know a lot as a kid but I knew one thing…I wanted to be one of those heroes.  There was no question in my mind what I wanted to do the rest of my life.  God blessed me and gave me that opportunity 12 years ago and it has been every bit of a joy that I could have imagined. 

Something very unique has happened during my career.  Those heroes that I was in awe of as a kid, have never gone away.  I am still in amazement of the men & women of this country that put their lives on the line every day for us.  It is the greatest privilege I could ever have to work with and be associated with these True American Heroes.  That is why I stand in front of you today.  This community has heroes like my community has heroes. 

I was not going to turn down the opportunity to meet your heroes……..
St. Louis County Major Tom Fitch, Kansas City Officer Mike Brown,  Overland Park Corporal Scott Barthelmass,  St. Louis Metropolitan Officer Matt Browning and the hundreds of other officers you have here that serve humbly each and every day.

Every day these heroes face a fierce and formidable foe. Television portrays line of duty deaths as a shootout or some other extreme violent act.  While that is a definite threat, the largest threat to American Law Enforcement today occurs when they enter their patrol car each day. 

In the last three decades, the number of officers killed on our roads and highways has risen 40%.  Historically, vehicle related incidents are the leading cause of injury for Law Enforcement and in the last decade…it has been the leading cause of death. 

Everything from vehicle pursuits, vehicle collisions to being struck while working in the roadway has dramatically altered the lives of police officers and their families in recent years. 

Those in the police profession realize that there are madmen out there that want to do us harm.  Our agencies prepare us for that almost immediately when hired.  The fact remains that the most dangerous part of a police officers job is when they work on the roadway.  Our police chiefs, sheriffs, and the community must act now to prevent these tragedies in the future.

Police administrators must put resources into their driver training programs. How should we expect our officers to react in an emergency situation while driving when they have never received the training?  We would never dream of giving an officer a gun without training but we routinely hand them the keys to a $20,000 vehicle, without any training provided.  The days of ignoring this training must end.

More officers are run over in America than shot. Every officer working the roadway must be issued Ansi Certified reflective vests.  We frown on them not wearing a bullet proof vest but we continue to permit them to work in our streets without a reflective vest.  We have officers working in our streets with some of the best technology on their belts but they don't have a $50 reflective vest that could save their life.  If you are a law enforcement executive, go to work Monday and make this happen.  We cannot wait any longer to protect our officers.

Our community must demand the proper punishment for suspects that kill, maim and hurt our officers.  It doesn't start there.  The days of DUI drivers being given a reduced sentence or a small fine must end.  We've tried to be nice…We've tried treatment, education and giving them rides; It is time to get serious…..If the first time offender is given a mandatory sentence and dealt with harshly then maybe that 2nd or 3rd time will never happen. 

We must prosecute drunk drivers using what they could have done rather than what they didn't do.  God commands us to forgive but we should never forget….Suspects that maim or kill our law enforcement personnel must pay the ultimate price.

We are in the presence today of a courageous man.  Officer Browning…I have to admit that I have not been able to come up with words to express my gratitude for your sacrifice. I have been praying for the last week for God to give me those words and it just hasn't happened.  But I must tell you that my God is a wonderful God and when I got on the airplane this morning, I picked up a magazine and the first page that I turned to had the words that God sent me.  I would like to read it to you now; it is titled the power of attitude:

Our lives are not determined by what happens to us, but how we react to what happens; not by what life brings to us, but by the attitude we bring to life.  A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes.  It is a catalyst…a spark that creates extraordinary results.

Thank you Matt.

We should also not forget Matt's family and the family of our law enforcement officers.  If it wasn't for the dedication and understanding of spouses, children, mothers and fathers, your officers could not effectively do the job that they are tasked to do.

In closing, we have to caution ourselves as we leave here today.  In the busy World that we live and work in, it could become very easy to forget about this rally.  It is of paramount importance for Matt Browning and thousands of other officers working the streets of America that we DO NOT forget the task ahead of us.  I challenge each of you to do whatever you can to make the jobs of our police officers safer.  We all play a role in this.  After today, you should not need any more motivation….your motivation is here in front of you today.  These heroes are worth it.

Thank you & God bless.

About the author

Major Travis Yates is a Commander with the Tulsa (OK) Police Department. His Seminars in Risk Management & Officer Safety have been taught across the United States & Canada. Major Yates has a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the Director of Training for SAFETAC Training and the Director of Ten-Four Ministries, dedicated to providing practical and spiritual support to the law enforcement community.

Contact Travis Yates







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