Below 100: The choices we make often make us
The laudable and lofty goal of keeping police officer line of duty deaths under 100 in 2011 may not have been achieved, but we should never falter in our ongoing effort of increasing officer safety
In April of this year I attended the ILEETA Conference in Chicago as I usually try to do. As a trainer I find the gathering a “must see” opportunity to meet with other trainers and take in some of the fantastic training that is available out there on an international level.
As part of that training I attended the Below 100 instructor certification course. If you are not aware the Below 100 initiative it was designed to remind police officers of five basic principles:
Below 100 is an initiative started by Law Officer to reduce the number of line of duty deaths in the year to fewer than 100, with the input of some of the top trainers in the country..
Saddened Before Dawn
He didn’t need to say anything more I knew what he meant. We were both saddened by what he read. On July 20th it was reported that Deputy Rick Daly had been shot and killed the previous day in South Carolina making him the 100th officer killed in the line of duty in 2011.
The email notification read from ODMP (Officer Down Memorial Page) as follows:
The Situation Dictates the Tactics
I wasn’t on scene and I have learned over the years not to try and second guess the actions and choices of others in critical situations. I can only imagine why the choice was made. Regardless of the reason the results speak for themselves. Andy Casavant says, “The situation dictates the tactics.”
In other words, base your choice on the worst possible outcome not the best based on what you know at the time of the stop. There are three kinds of vehicle stops (hopefully, this is a review for all of you):
Unknown Risk stops are your standard traffic stops. We do them everyday. They are an Unknown Risk because at the time of the stop we have a low level offense as our reason to conduct the stop, but whether or not a greater risk exists is unknown.
We stop the car and do our approach cautiously. As the number of officers killed on traffic stops continue to rise I strongly suggest that you do a passenger side approach. I know for some it is tough to break tradition. But cops hit by cars aren’t tough to break. Watch the car cam videos and you can see the results of officers who choose to stand on the driver’s side — especially when traffic is heavy and at highway speed — so please, take the passenger side.
An Intermediate Stop is done when something about the car or its’ occupants sets off that little alarm in your head — furtive movement inside the vehicle, multiple occupants, high crime area, etc. Using the Intermediate Stop we maintain our distance and call the driver out of the car and back to us.
Again the words of Andy Casavant: “Bring them to you.”
As they exit the vehicle you can do a visual frisk and determine if a physical frisk is warranted. Conduct your business with the driver with them standing in front of your squad, while you stand on the passenger side, with the car serving as a barrier between you. You have the suspect and the suspect’s vehicles — and passenger(s) — in view as well. Have them place their ID on the hood and then have them step back as you approach and then you can get the documents. This will give you a barrier and a reaction gap during the records check and subsequent questioning.
If the situation allows for it, backup should be present. In turn, each passenger is brought back and put through the same process if the situation dictates it.
A High Risk stop is done when you are dealing with Felony Suspects and at the end of ALL pursuits. You want to wait until you have available back up on scene before initiating the stop. A greater distance is maintained between the squads and suspect vehicle. I suggest about 15-20 yards in case of gunfire. As Andy Casavant says, “Closer is not always better.”
The first two squads on scene park side by side to provide a cover position for all officers. If you do not have back up on hand when a vehicle stops or wrecks you have two options. Create distance and wait for backup or get out your long gun and hold the situation at gunpoint until help arrives. The situation and circumstances will dictate your choice.
The Choices You Make
Your department policy or state statutes may vary — make it work for you. We may be past the 100 mark but we each need to do our part to eliminate avoidable in the line of duty deaths. You go a long way towards meeting that goal by letting the situation dictate the tactics. Understand the risk level on a stop and choose the correct stop techniques to employ. You can live or die by the choices you make.
I write this article as a reminder to each one of us to bear in mind the options that we have. I think Massad Ayoob said it best, “To ignore the lessons learned from a police officers death is to spit on the graves of the martyred officers.” The lesson here was written in blood in a place called Newhall, California more than 40 years ago. Learn from history or history WILL re-teach you the lesson. If you are not familiar with the event I am referring to Google “Newhall Massacre.”
We may have failed to keep it below 100 in 2011 — as this column appears on PoliceOne, we have reached 131 deaths. We need to keep it from rising any further, and only you can do that. This article is dedicated to the memories of Officers Alleyn, Frago, Gore, Pence, and now Daly.
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