12/09/2013

Travis YatesPolice Driving:
Safety Behind the Wheel

with Travis Yates

4 threats to officer safety this holiday season

December is a deadly month — may a few reminders here help the heroes on the street during the end of the year

We’ve completed 11 months in 2013, and we have the lowest annual line of duty deaths at this point in any year since 1944. Much can be written on why that is — and the various efforts that have helped our profession in this area — but something else is of utmost importance. 

I want to sound an alarm of what could be looming ahead for us. 

Traditionally, December has been a deadly month for our profession, and it is my hope that a few reminders here can help the heroes on the street during this last month of the year. 

1.) Domestic Calls
December is a month full of fun and food, but it’s the family aspect that we should all be cautious of. You only have to be a cop for one December to know that family gatherings bring family disputes. 

For some, this month signifies additional financial stress, and individuals react to stress in various ways. Let’s be extra vigilant on those family calls. Take your backer, wear your vest, approach in concealment/cover, and don’t take anything for granted. 

2.) Equipment Check
Do you wear different clothing in the winter months? If you aren’t used to doing your job in that heavy coat or you haven’t practiced with your handgun while wearing those gloves, then practice. A fight is no time to find out that TASER doesn’t come out with that new coat on. A gunfight is no time to find out the gloves you’re wearing hinder your trigger control. 

3.) Bad Weather
Police work doesn’t take a break during bad weather. Every winter we lose officers because of snow or ice. Make sure you have the proper equipment on your car for bad weather. 

Do your tires have the appropriate tread and air in them? When you stop to help that stuck vehicle, make sure you take care of your position first and know where traffic is coming from. Wear your reflective vest, and if you have to sit in your vehicle blocking traffic, then put your seatbelt on. A year doesn’t go by where I don’t see an officer killed or severely hurt because a car rear-ended them during traffic control. 

4.) Suicide Season
Health professionals tell us that December is a time to be on guard for suicides. Remember when you respond to these calls that a suicide could turn into a homicide at any second. Do not be a victim, and do not get fooled that any suicidal individual only wishes to harm themselves. If it’s a suicidal subject with a weapon, don’t hurry. 

Use every method you can to communicate with them without having to approach. Time is on your side. 

Speaking of suicide, be aware of our own brothers and sisters at all times. Know the signs, communicate, and don’t hesitate to get help for those around you. We lose more crime fighters to suicide each year than line of duty deaths. 

This isn’t a secret anymore. Let’s do all we can to help our coworkers. 

In Closing
I want to thank PoliceOne, and especially Editor in Chief Doug Wyllie. Next year will be my tenth year with PoliceOne, and while I have seen many changes, one thing has been constant: Doug and the rest of the team at PoliceOne care about the cop on the street. 

Above anything else, we want to give you the information to help you do your job better and make you safer. It has been my humble privilege to play a very small part in that effort, and I will be forever grateful to PoliceOne for letting me be a part of their wonderful family. 

On behalf of myself and my family, I want to wish you and yours a very blessed holiday and happy new year

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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