2011 in Review: Saving cops' lives is simple, not easy
The strategies outlined below are simple but many require a change to the way we think and train as a law enforcement culture
I knew as I wrote this article that PoliceOne Editor Doug Wyllie would hold onto it until the “big, year-end” PoliceOne newsletter. Even still, back when I sent this to him, there were more than 150 law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty in North America so far in 2011. That can be considered a small victory, perhaps, if you consider that in April of this year we were on pace to lose more than 200 officers.
However, 150+ is too many, and many people have asked the question, “What can we do to reduce line of duty deaths?”
I believe the strategies to reducing line-of-duty deaths are simple, but not easy. Simple refers to lack of complexity. Easy refers to lack of effort. The strategies outlined below are simple. Many, however, require a change to the way we think and train as a law enforcement culture. Cultural change is never easy, especially in law enforcement. The following are seven simple strategies to reduce line-of-duty deaths.
Train to win gunfights. Simple, but not easy.
What type of training do you need to do to win a gunfight? Consider the following:
Wear your seatbelt. Simple, but not easy.
In fact, you may have been convinced that wearing a seatbelt will result in your being trapped in your vehicle and dying when you are ambushed. While there are cases of officers being ambushed and murdered in their vehicles, cases where the officer was trapped by the seatbelt in those ambushes and died because they were wearing a seatbelt are rare, if they even exist. More than 300 officers who were not wearing their seatbelt however, died in traffic collisions between 1980 and 2008.
Train to win up-close-and-personal violent confrontations. Simple, but not easy.
Slow down. Simple, but not easy.
Why am I talking about this? Because speed kills cops. Speed has killed hundreds of law enforcement professionals over the years. There are numerous examples of officers driving over 100 miles per hour to minor calls and killing themselves, their partners, other officers and innocent people on the roads. The time has come to say enough is enough. The time has come to slow down. Care enough about yourself and your family to slow down. Care enough about your brother and sister law enforcement professionals to have the courageous conversations with them concerning their driving habits.
Train for the crossfire scenario. Simple, but not easy.
Wear your body armor. Simple, but not easy.
Are you one of them? Are you willing to continue to make excuses and put yourself and your fellow officers at risk unnecessarily? Wondering how your refusal to wear armor puts others at risk unnecessarily? I will guarantee you that if you go down because you are not wearing armor other officers will put themselves at huge risk to come and save you.
Prepare your mind for where your body may have to go. Simple, but not easy.
Getting shot does not mean you screwed up. It simply means you have been shot. The realities of action versus reaction are that the first indication you may have that you are in a gunfight is when you get shot. The same with getting stabbed. Training your mind can be as simple as closing your eyes and imagining yourself in a variety of these situations. Imagine responding the way you would most like to and imagine feeling good after knowing that you performed well and saved a life.
If every officer and every trainer in North America focused on these simple strategies, the number of line-of-duty deaths would drop dramatically. In 2012, are you going to focus on the simple, or the easy?
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