01/14/2013

Andrew HawkesHighway Drug Interdiction
with Andrew Hawkes

Answering the call: Our core 'tools' as police officers

We should often look at our initial, basic police academy training and realize that we are given many tools from it that we can use to save lives

Thank God for the great advancements over the years in our profession regarding weapons, vehicles, training and tactics, technology, and so on. We have to keep up with new age bad guys so that we can protect and serve to our highest potential.

Every incremental improvement to be better equipped, trained, and educated will help us to more effectively do our jobs.

I suggest, however, that sometimes we over-think some things. For example, in the early 90s — few years removed from the big SWAT push, where the latest and greatest thing was to have a SWAT team — we started seeing an increase in active shooter incidents.

The first response from the patrol officer was to set a perimeter and call out SWAT, because that was what they were told to do and trained to do. We all know how those incidents turned out; the active shooter was given that much more time to wreak havoc on more victims.

Sometimes saving lives and protecting and serving doesn’t have to be rocket science. I think we should often look at our initial, basic police academy training and realize that we are given many tools just through this training that we can use to save lives. 

Let’s take an example from history. In 1966, at the University of Texas, the infamous active shooter Charles Whitman was picking innocent people off on campus while barricaded atop the clock tower. 

Ramiro Martinez and Houston McCoy — both on-duty Austin Police Officers — made their way without hesitation, and without any specialized training, to the top of the tower, engaged the threat, and took that threat out.

They used their common sense, the basic training, and took their calling and oath of office seriously... to do what needed to be done.

Someone will misconstrue this article as me somehow saying we don’t need continual training (that’s not what I’m saying at all).

Please do not get me wrong, as I have reiterated from the beginning of this column, I am 100 percent in favor of as much training as we can possibly get. My point here is that we often already have the tools we need to solve a situation — many times it is just acting in that situation to bring it to an end as quickly as possible.

Sometimes those tools are nothing more than what is in our core as police officers: honor, duty, courage, and valor. Officers McCoy and Ramirez simply “answered the call” that day, and took care of business, the business they were sworn to take care of.

When we’re similarly faced with “answering the call” — that call where we will have to make life-or-death decisions in micro seconds — sometimes the most important skill will be to be mentally prepared and having that mindset that we are going to WIN, no matter what.

I know. I’ve been there, and I know many of you have too. 

About the author

Lt. Hawkes is a 23-year police veteran. In addition to his years of highway drug interdiction, Lt. Hawkes has worked in patrol, K9, investigations, narcotics, and administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Dallas Baptist University and is a graduate of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Justice Leadership and Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.  He has been the recipient of both State and Local awards, including the Medal of Valor. His book, Secrets of Successful Highway Interdiction, which can be purchased here, contains eleven chapters on Highway Drug Interdiction.

Back to previous page