Law enforcement leaders reflect on 2007

With 2007 coming to a close we asked several PoliceOne columnists to share their insights on the issues they felt most impacted law enforcement over the past year. We asked them to reflect on what concerned them, what inspired them and what drives them into the coming year. Here are their responses:


Chuck Remsberg
10-8:Life on the Line
Sponsored by Blauer

The end of the year inspires most of us to take inventory of our lives; to savor the things that have gone well, to reflect on what didn't go so well, and to revisit the poignant moments, good and bad, that will watermark the year past.

For those of us involved in law enforcement, a solemn moment of reflection always associated with another year's passing is the release of the final tally of officers who died over the last 12 months, either in tragic accidents or in felonious assaults. For nearly three decades, that number has driven me into the coming year with a renewed sense of mission and a rededication to helping officers come home safe and undamaged after every shift.

This year, we lost more than 160 officers. I'm entering 2008 with them in mind, both in tribute to their sacrifice and in determination to significantly reduce that number in the months ahead. When it comes to certain crimes, like weapons in schools and drugs on the street, we speak with conviction of Zero-Tolerance Zones. I'm committed to making wherever you work a Zero Tolerance Zone for officer fatalities and grievous injuries in the coming months. I urge all of you — whether you're an administrator, trainer, manufacturer, or someone's partner in the field — to do the same.

Lt. Jim Glennon
Surviving the Streets

The end of the year inspires most of us to take inventory of our lives; to savor the things that have gone well, to reflect on what didn't go so well, and to revisit the poignant moments, good and bad, that will watermark the year past.

For those of us involved in law enforcement, a solemn moment of reflection always associated with another year's passing is the release of the final tally of officers who died over the last 12 months, either in tragic accidents or in felonious assaults. For nearly three decades, that number has driven me into the coming year with a renewed sense of mission and a rededication to helping officers come home safe and undamaged after every shift.

This year, we lost more than 160 officers. I'm entering 2008 with them in mind, both in tribute to their sacrifice and in determination to significantly reduce that number in the months ahead. When it comes to certain crimes, like weapons in schools and drugs on the street, we speak with conviction of Zero-Tolerance Zones. I'm committed to making wherever you work a Zero Tolerance Zone for officer fatalities and grievous injuries in the coming months. I urge all of you — whether you're an administrator, trainer, manufacturer, or someone's partner in the field — to do the same.

Dave Smith
Street Survival Insights 

As 2007 draws to a close, I hope the terrible lessons of this year are well-learned. We have seen several sad landmarks such as Virginia Tech and the largest number of officers killed in decades come to pass. The challenge is to act on both an agency and an officer level.

Going into 2008, agencies must consistently review their policies, procedures, and training to look for any artifacts or weaknesses that must be addressed. Don’t wait for  your agency to suffer a loss but keep up on all the things that injured and killed our people this year and act now! Each of you must act to insure your safety and the safety of your brothers and sisters. Officer safety and survival is a balancing act of probabilities and risk and your actions should always err on the side of safety. Here are a few reminders we should think of everyday to immediately affect the rate of officers killed for 2008.

  1. Do the little safety things you were trained to do. Stand to the side of doors, have a flashlight on day shift, always wear your armor, etc.
  2. Wear your seatbelt, wear your seatbelt, wear your seatbelt!
  3. Practice cover in real life not just on the range.
  4. Control your light and sound.
  5. Use your binoculars to observe before arriving on a scene, especially on an ambiguous call.
  6. If it is routine, it is dangerous — whatever it is. Routine 'de-trains' you, lulls you into bad habits. . .and is invisible!
  7. People are unpredictable. It doesn’t matter that this guy has always been a “yes” person—today is a new day.
  8. Never make yourself predictable; differ your routes, timing, and manner of patrol.
  9. Keep your skills sharp…practice, practice, practice. Use both physical and mental rehearsal.
  10. Stay alert for bad habits in your fellow officers. It isn’t just about making them safe, it is about keeping you safe as well.

I pray you all have a great holiday season, but more importantly, a safe one that kicks off a brand new year of winning confrontations and avoiding accidents!

Capt. Travis Yates
Police Driving: Safety Behind the Wheel

Police driving in 2007 saw some notable accomplishments along with a renewed commitment for every law enforcement officer to advocate for more training. The biggest story of 2007 was the Supreme Court Decision in Scott V. Harris. Unlike what many thought about the case, it was not about he PIT Maneuver, but rather about the Fourth Amendment and whether it is violated if the police take active measures to stop a high speed pursuit. The case is seen by many to be a win for law enforcement but a true win would entail the court’s discussion of driver training for officers as 2007 has once again shown that the most dangerous activity our officers do is to be behind the wheel of a patrol vehicle.

We have seen a number of departments and states take the issue of training seriously and their attention to the safety of their officers should be applauded. Florida and Tennessee each implemented mandatory driver training for their officers in 2007 and the Washington State Police along with the Seattle Police Department have mandated driver training for each of their officers on a regular basis. We should all advocate that every officer in America gets these same training opportunities in the future.

Richard Fairburn
Law Enforcement & Firearms

2007 has been a tough year with a new record set for murder at the Virginia Tech active shooter massacre and a sharp increase in the number of police officers murdered. In particular, we've seen several incidents with multiple officers killed at the same incident.

Clearly, our adversaries are becoming ever more violent and better armed. We need to fully digest and analyze these trends before any major changes are made to the way we train, but more and better training always pays dividends. The widespread training of Rapid Deployment tactics for active shooter response has laid the ground work for quickly creating coordinated teams of police responders. Perhaps we need to look at expanding this technique to create 'fire teams' of officers who can respond to high risk calls to provide backup and, if neccessary, fire support against heavily armed felons.

Dr. Laurence Miller
Practical Police Psychology

2007 was a critical year for critical incidents both locally in Florida and around the country. Several events have highlighted the need for both proper critical incident response planning and appropriate law enforcement and mental health response, including the Virginia Tech rampage and the shooting of several Broward County deputies.

Despite gains in understanding and collaboration, many law enforcement agencies still underutilize psychological services, mainly because they believe that these apply only to limited areas of police practice such as fitness-for-duty evaluations or substance abuse counseling. Police agencies need to understand the role that psychologists play in both clinical services (critical incident response, officer-involved shooting, line-of-duty death, depression, burnout, and substance abuse) and operational assistance (hostage and crisis negotiatons, suicide-by-copy, undercover assignments, behavioral profiling, interview and interrogation, terrorism and mass casualty response).

It is important for law enforcement administrators to be proactive in learning about and seeking out such services for their personnel. At the same time, qualified police psychologists need to be proactive in educating law enforcement leaders about their contributions. Law enforcement officers and psychologists both deal with intimate and often life-and-death aspects of human behavior; we need to redouble our collaborative efforts in this increasingly dangerous and unpredictable world.

Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith
Career Survival

At year’s end every police publication puts out the year end LEO killed stats, warning us of how we can and must do better in the next year. As I write this, we’re up to 177 line of duty deaths in the United States, and yes, I’m telling you (and myself) that we absolutely MUST do better, be more vigilant, train harder, fight better, WIN!   But what I want to say to you at year’s end, really, is something that Dave Smith says at the end every Calibre Press Street Survival seminar: Don’t forget to look in the mirror and see the hero.

See the heroes all around us, the ones who made the ultimate sacrifice and the ones, like you, who continued to work, to fight, to train, and to walk into the unknown, day after day, night after night, on or off duty, and battle evil.  Think about the cops who were shot and survived, the off duty officers who stopped active shooters, and the patrol officers, and there were several this year, who had to respond and do battle with, tigers; yes, tigers.  Also think about all the building searches you did that went well, the traffic stops you made that were picture-perfect, the domestics you responded to where you helped someone, and the cases you worked that had a successful outcome.  This profession isn’t about death, it’s about life, about adventure, about heroics.  Usher out 2007 by looking in the mirror and seeing that hero looking back at you, and take a moment to appreciate yourself, your brothers and your sisters and this profession.  Have a safe New Year.

Ralph Mroz, The Police Officers Safety Association
Weapons and Tactics Training

2007: The year that the Rapid Deployment Response to an active shooter was shown indisputably inadequate

2007 was a year in which the active shooter training that most of us have received has been shown to be woefully inadequate. The ineffectiveness of the Rapid Deployment methodology that nearly every agency has received training in since Columbine was starkly apparent in the Virginia Tech massacre and the Amish schoolhouse killings in late 2006. The most salient point of these high-profile murders, as well as almost every other active shooter incident, is that all the killing is done before the first officer arrives on scene. What does that tell us? It tells us that relying on the police to react to an active shooter is not an effective way to stop or minimize the loss of life. This is a hard pill for both officers and management to swallow. Officers, being who they are, want to do something! The running and gunning of Rapid Deployment training thus feels good. It makes us feel virtuous, effective, and gives us something to do in such an event. For management, a few days of Rapids Deployment training allows them to say that they've addressed the issue.

But it doesn't work. What then, can we do? What is apparent is that the security measures that a location has in place, and the actions that on-site personnel take as the incident starts, are the keys to minimizing loss of life. What this means for law enforcement is that we need to concentrate our efforts on pre-attack planning and site hardening. This is relatively 'soft' stuff compared to Rapid Deployment, but by picking the top ten most likely locations in our jurisdiction or precinct, and working extensively with them in the prevention of and immediate reaction to an active shooter, we have our most likely chances to save lives. This new area of focus is so important that the Police Officers Safety Association's next free program will be devoted to it.

Rick Armellino
Outside the Box

When I teamed up with Lt. Al Baker in 2003 to bring Al’s improved ballistic shield concept to the mainstream law enforcement marketplace, neither of us was quite ready for the learning experience in store for the two of us. We quickly discovered that our product, the Baker Batshield®, is loved by those officers who risk being fired upon, but loathed by many administrators who would rather keep their officers from entering situations that could require gunfire to end.

We have encountered many police agencies that have never formally considered the use of Immediate Action Rapid Deployment (IARD) tactics by their patrol officers, plus others aware of newer tactics and equipment but not willing to consider changing their existing styles of operation. Fortunately, we have encountered a significant number of law enforcement leaders asking “what took you so long?” as they accepted and initiated change for the better.

My collection of observations found within this year’s various Outside the Box articles is based upon two personal goals; first, informing police decision-makers that new protective equipment exists that greatly enhances the patrol officers’ ability to survive an armed encounter to better assist endangered citizens. And secondly, to identify and question any unreasonable bureaucratic policy, procedure or departmental cultural issue that inadvertently restricts patrol officers from effectively conducting their primary duty of protecting themselves and the endangered public from the ravages of evil.

Navigating the complexities inherent in modern day policing is becoming increasingly difficult for all law enforcement agencies. Legal and administrative rules and restrictions are often designed to protect the administration first, the criminal second, the street cop third and the endangered citizen last. Even so, history has proven that when innocents are threatened many street cops are willing to assume more personal risk than their own agency allows or expects ... it's called bravery, heroism and doing what the public expects.

It has been an enjoyable professional experience to work with a large number of dedicated and highly experienced law enforcement leaders who share the vision and assist our efforts to save lives. I consider it both an honor and duty to help protect those who risk their lives to protect all of us from society’s predators. During the upcoming year I will continue to observe and comment upon the status quo and wonder, why? And why not?

Capt. Greg Meyer
Less Lethal Issues in Law Enforcement
Sponsored by TASER International

This year, we've seen some new tactical nets and flashlights that spray OC. But in the nonlethal weapons world in 2007, the major focus has been on TASER. With videos of controversial incidents played worldwide on television and the internet, the public was caught up with the drama of TASER naysayers versus TASER supporters. While the controversies made the front pages, the numerous recent medical studies that show the relative safety of TASERs was downplayed.

Looking toward 2008, we will see continued focus on TASER issues. The critics have got ahold of something that the media won't let go of. Policy, training, tactics and review processes will continue to receive focus by the media and by the critics. Agency leaders and trainers who are smart will seriously examine their own policy, training and review processes. We know through decades of trial and error in the law enforcement business that if you don't clean your own house, someone will come in and do it for you! Ultimately, it's better public service if we stay ahead of the curve and make sure we are operating legally, ethically, and as safely as we can in a difficult world.

Wide implementation of the TASER-Cam will treat us to some videos taken from the officer's point of view, unlike nearly all videos we've seen of police use of force encounters. And we need to give greater scrutiny to the naive, false reports we sometimes see in the media when there is a video. The stories are usually written by people who wouldn't know a legitimate use of force incident if it him them in the face! Take a close look, for example, at the infamous Vancouver Airport situation. Why hasn't the media bothered to tell you that the subject (who unfortunately later died for reasons yet undetermined) was wielding a full-sized stapler in his right hand, in a threatening position at shoulder level, when the RCMP used a TASER on him? Check it out yourself here and pay close attention when the timer is at 3:50 to 3:55.

The issue of 'compliance' versus 'control' while using nonlethal weapons will continue to be a big issue. Let's face it folks, some of our brothers and sisters behind the badge haven't made it any easier, because of a handful of well-publicized incidents that show the TASER being used in situations that may not involve active or aggressive resistance.

It may be that we'll need to rethink our tactics based upon the number of officers at the scene. In fact, tests of reasonableness under Graham v. Connor usually list 'number of officers' as one of the items of consideration when evaluating a force incident. We might find out that an officer who is alone might use pepper spray or TASER on an unarmed suspect at the 'active resistance' level, but when multiple officers are present it may be more prudent to require the 'aggressive resistance' or 'assaultive' levels. Local studies of injuries to subjects and injuries to officers would yield informative data, and policy should should be driven by data, not whim or fancy.

Just thinking out loud, and we all should be. ''Tis better to debate a question without settling it, than to settle a question without debating it.'

Richard Weinblatt
Weinblatt’s Tips

2007: The Year of the Taser and Skyrocketing Officer Deaths

2007 has been a busy year for law enforcement. One of the hottest topics has been the use of the Taser. Vastly misunderstood, the Taser’s status as valuable technologically driven tool for law enforcers has been called into question. High profile incidents from Florida, Ohio, and Utah dominated the headlines, airwaves, and youtube. The device came under fire from many corners including the ACLUA and the United Nations.

The massive attention on the use of the Taser ignored the countless applications that brought about a relatively low confrontational resolution to potentially deadly encounters. Many states revamped their legal stance and a plethora of agencies created, clarified, or modified their policies. Of course, that is not to say that some officers have forgotten their obligation to behave as honorable representatives of the badge. Many departments moved Taser from being deployed at the passive resister level to a slot reserved for those who act as active resisters.

All of this happened as 2007 shaped up to be the deadliest year for law enforcement in some three decades. This past year saw almost double the officers killed in the line of duty as 2006. While some would like to draw a correlation of the “abuse” of the Taser and the increase in officer deaths, officers know that you can’t bring a Taser to a gunfight. Those issues are very different.

So what is your New Year’s resolution to deal with these two pressing issues? Though the issues are divergent, the solution is not. My suggestion is that each and every law enforcer revisit their resolve to be a true professional and act honorably in the face of adversity.

Continue to improve yourself on all levels: physically, mentally, emotionally, and morally. Train harder (because the bad guys do), learn more (yes, they do that too), and act with the honor and respect that you would want your family members to see if they were watching you or interacting with an officer. The bad guys do not act with honor or respect. It’s our honorable conduct that separates us from the behaviorally challenged members of our society.

Richard Davis, ALM
Ideology, Crime & Public Policy

How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.

—Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881)

Each year for the last 10 years there is rarely a day that I do not think, read or write about domestic violence and its intersection with the criminal justice system. I have become increasingly troubled by public policies that are founded on the proposition that we can arrest and incarcerate our way out of the very real and complex enigma that is domestic violence.

Domestic violence as defined by the National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) is:

Abuse is a pattern of coercive control that one person exercises over another. Battering is a behavior that physically harms, arouses fear, prevents a partner from doing what they wish or forces them to behave in ways they do not want. Battering includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation.

Mandatory arrest policies are based in ideological beliefs that have little to no criminological empirical support. As noted by the NDVH, there no longer needs to be violence in domestic violence incidents. This “dumbing down” of the definition has proved to be problematic for law enforcement and dramatically increased the number of arrests, particularly of females. In an article, the November 2002 issue of Criminology & Public Policy by Meda Chesney-Lind, a professor of Women’s Studies at the University of Hawai, Manoa, documents that between 1991 and 1996 in Sacramento, California the number of females arrested for domestic violence increased by 95%.

Reams of criminal justice data clearly document that males are more violent than females; however, the same crime data document that females exhibit approximately the same manipulative or coercive behavior as males. My 2008 www.policeone.com columns will examine the unintended consequences of dumbing down the definition of domestic violence has had on the criminal justice system and battered victims.

Ron Avery
The PoliceOne Firearms Corner

Looking back on the year 2007 I can say that there is a definite surge of expectations the general public puts on law enforcement. School safety and active shooter situations, as well as responsibilities for prevention and management of terrorist incidents, were a top priority for 2007, and I see this trend continuing in 2008.

The threat of terrorism and the possibility of a disruption of the presidential election process for 2008 will draw increased demands for law enforcement services. Active shooters remain a growing threat and now they have spread from schools into malls and other areas.

However, many law enforcement agencies report that they are chronically short on training budgets and manpower to support the increased demands for services. The general public is not yet willing to pay for the training and manpower requirements that the demands for services entail.

Because of these shortfalls, there seems to be a trend towards deleting or reducing training days down to 1 or 2 days instead of more traditional 3-5 day sessions. This will continue to have a negative impact on the capacity of officers to perform. As training time continues to be compressed, learning and maintenance of critical tactical firearms skills will be further compromised and skills levels will continue to drop. There continues to be no substitute for adequate time to train and re-train perishable skills on an organizational level.

More and more officers report to me that they are paying for training on their own dollar because they feel that training is either insufficient or their department lacks the funds to provide the training they feel they need. This trend will continue in 2008 as the threat levels rise.

As always, individual officers and agencies are stepping up to the plate and making do with what they have to work with or creating innovative solutions. From what I can see, morale and resolve remains high for most officers that I have had the pleasure of training.

Gary T. Klugiewicz
Klugie's Corner

Let's look at the police/correctional headlines from 2007. They were full of violent confrontations that ended in custody deaths related to drugs, alcohol, and Excited Delirium.  Nationally and international, we have experienced people dying in police custody that span the spectrum from an intoxicated woman, to a upset Polish traveler, to the mentally ill, to a wide range of drug users, to the criminal elements of our societies.  The fact of the matter is that people are dying after the use of police force so stabilization, restraint, and post incident medical care become major issues. Searching is always an issue with officers at every level of custody missing weapons that can be used to attach the officers involved or hurt the person in custody who now has become suicidal. This also impacts on how we escort and transport individuals while providing for the 'care and wellbeing.' Finally, we need to turn over the prisoner to someone which often requires the removal of restraints that can lead to renewed resistance from the subject.

Follow-Through Considerations made the news in 2007. This often under-emphasized and forgotten component of the Disturbance Resolution Model was often in the headlines. 'Follow-through' refers to what happens after the use-of-force in terms of stabilization, monitoring/debriefing, searching, escorting, transporting, and turnover. Although not as exciting, normally, (as the approach considerations and intervention options components of the Disturbance Resolution Model), when follow-through considerations go bad, they cause real havoc with officer safety and subject safety, not to mention criminal and civil repercussions for the officers and departments involved.

Yes, 2007 has been the year of Follow-Through Considerations related incidents. There is a reason that Calibre Press, through its Street Survival Seminars, refers to them as Level Three Cases. Yes, the intervention options – use-of-force ('type one' cases) will continue to cause us problems. And we will continue to deal with approach considerations ('level two' cases) that deal with poor decision-making, tactical deployment and threat assessment. 2007 has also shown us that we need to remember the follow-through considerations ('level three' cases) in terms of officer safety and our legal survival.  Remember that is not “Miller Time” until you have stabilized, monitored, searched, escorted, transported, and turned over your prisoner. To relax earlier is a mistake that can cost you big time.

Invetigator James Smith
Firsthand Tactics and Techniques

Life in Police land is getting hard. If it were truly easy everyone would be doing it. But this year cops are getting killed, injured and assaulted in record number.

I am always looking forward to more and better training for street officers who are handling assignments on a nightly basis. Better doesn't mean more advanced or involved it means techniques and strategies that will work most of the time to accomplish legit law enforcement objectives. Too often we are seeing  dwindling and valuable in-service time  given to non-essential topics beyond any mandate.

Many times it's because it's easier for unmotivated trainers and administrators to bring in adjuncts or  guest instructors or a canned power-point that someone can read to the initially eager audience.It is almost criminal to steal that time from a professional peacemaker who really needs a little help to get the job done efficiently. How cruel to treat adult learners that way. The real mission is the bottom performing 80% of the Patrol Bureau. The top guys and girls and bosses and management are all taking classes and committed to the cop calling. The vast middle audience is neglected and never addressed only criticized for a lack of enthusiasm. There is the challenge to the change I envision. In 2008 I am looking forward to reduced LEO fatalities, accidents and assaults.

If all active trainers would step it up or step out and let the race horses run, we might have a pretty safe new year in spite of ourselves.

Have a happy and safe new year!



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