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September 16, 2011
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Duane Wolfe The Warrior's Path
with Duane Wolfe

Police pursuits, seat belts, and the 'Pearly Gates'

You were given intelligence and the ability to make decisions of your own free will. It is your job to consciously decide to keep yourself safe and preserve the precious life that has been granted to you

“Officer, has your agency ever sponsored or participated in a program to encourage the use of seat belts by drivers like ‘Click it or Ticket’ or some similar program?”

“Yes.”

“Officer, are you aware of the reasons that seatbelt use is encouraged by these programs?”

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“Yes.”

“What are those reasons?”

“The statistics show that people who use seatbelts who are involved in accidents dramatically reduce the likelihood of serious injury and death”

“Do you have any first hand experience responding to traffic accidents and crashes?”

“Of course.”

“In your experience as a police officer have you come to any of your own conclusions regarding the use of safety belts.”

“Yes, I have.”

“And what conclusions would that be?”

“People who wear their safety belts have lower injury rate and a higher survival rate than those who don’t.”

“Have you personally experienced accidents where people did not use their safety belts?”

“Yes.”

“How many?”

“Too many.”

“Specifically officer, how many?”

...silence.

“Well, officer? Ten, 20, 100, 1,000?”

“I can’t give you a specific number. I haven’t kept track. Crash deaths are something I try to forget.”

“Well then officer, in your own words how many?”

“Too many... a lot... more than I care to remember... too damn many!

“In your jurisdiction is there a statute or statutes regarding the mandated wearing of seatbelts by drivers?”

“Yes.”

“Have you as an officer ever issued a warning — verbal or written — to someone for not wearing their seatbelt?”

“Of course.”

“Have you ever issued a citation for the statutory violation of not wearing a seatbelt?”

“Yes,”

“Officer, does that badge you wear exempt you from the law?”

“No,”

“Officer, would you do me a favor?”

“What’s that?”

“Jump up in the air.”

“What. What is this? I’m not gonna jump...”

“DO IT!”

...with a shrug, the officer jumps up in the air.

“Thank you.”

“I don’t understand why…”

“Did you land back on the floor?”

“Obviously!”

“So that badge doesn’t suspend the laws of physics either, does it?

“No.”

“You have personally seen the devastating injury and death that can result by those who choose not to wear their seatbelts.”

“Yes.”

“So, to summarize — you know that wearing a seatbelt saves lives and prevents injury?”

“Yes.”

“You know that it is statutorily required and you have taken law enforcement action against those who did not?”

“Yes.”

“You know and understand that one of the basics of physics is that a body in motion will remain in motion unless acted upon by an outside force.”

“Yes”

“That outside force could be a seatbelt, right?”

“Yes.”

“Are you aware that more law enforcement officers die each year from traffic fatalities than gunshot wounds?”

“Yes.”

“I believe in law enforcement circles, that is what is referred to as a clue... and yet here you are....”

This is a conversation that could take place at the Pearly Gates. The next question might be: “If you know all this, why did you choose not to wear your seatbelt?”

The answer might be because of ambush. How many police officers died this year or any other year as a result of being “trapped” in their squad car by their seatbelt? How many died or were seriously injured as a result of not wearing their seatbelt? Compare the numbers. Do you realize that the same car that brought you into the scene can also exit the scene? There is a D and R on the transmission for a reason. Go over it, go around it, or go away from it if it is trying to kill you.

The answer might be, “So I am ready to get out of my car quickly if a suspect runs.” Have you practiced quickly taking off your seatbelt? Take your right hand, hooking the thumb under the belt, slide the hand right down to the release and hit it. See how easy it is... kind of like drawing your gun, smooth, simple, fast. “Was keeping that perp from escaping worth your life?”

The answer might be, “That’s what I was trained to do.”

“You were given intelligence by your creator. It gives you the ability to reason and make decisions of your own free will... which is what separates you from the animals. It is your job to keep yourself safe and preserve the precious life that has been granted to you.”

Now imagine you are the trainer who taught officers not to use their seatbelts. Imagine that you are being judged for the death of an officer who died or was seriously injured because they were not wearing a seatbelt because of your training. I believe it is called negligence. That negligence would cost you dearly in court.

Now imagine that your judge has a reddish tint to his skin, horns, and a pitchfork and you are in that special place reserved for cops who train other cops to get killed.

Wear your seatbelt. Wear your vest. Watch your speed.

About the author

In February 2014, Duane Wolfe retired from his career as a Minnesota Peace Officer after more than 25 years of service (beginning in 1988). During his career he served as patrolman, sergeant, S.R.T., Use of Force and Firearms Instructor, and is currently employed by the Parkers Prairie Police Department. He is also a full time instructor in the Law Enforcement Program at Alexandria Technical College, Alexandria, Minnesota. Duane has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Bemidji State University, and a Masters Degree in Education from Southwest State University. Duance has previously published articles on Calibre Press and IALEFI and served on the Advisory Board for Lt. Col. Dave Grossmans book, On Combat. Contact Duane Wolfe



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