Just days before attending the Below 100 Train the Trainer session at ILEETA 2012, I was speaking with two of my very good friends in law enforcement and said something to the effect of, “I’m a cynic — I fall out of bed cynical — so while I think Below 100 is a laudable goal, I don’t really know that it’s an achievable goal. I just think that 100 number is problematic.”
I was wrong. This objective is not just achievable, it’s achievable by beginning with one simple thing for which I guess I can be the poster child: Change our mindset about what’s achievable. Done. Well, almost done. Once you’ve changed your minds about what’s possible, there are five simple tenets that can (will!) get us there.
• Wear your belt
• Wear your vest
• Watch your speed
• Think WIN: What’s Important Now?
• Remember: Complacency Kills!
A Little History
Below 100 was conceived back at ILEETA 2010 by my friends Dale Stockton over at Law Officer Magazine and PoliceOne Columnists Brian Willis and Travis Yates — as well as a handful of others — attending a ‘Contributors Dinner’ hosted by Stockton.
“Honestly, I can’t remember all who were there but there were about eight or nine of us,” Stockton explained to me. “Travis made a comment relative to driving and that started the discussion. Over the next few weeks, I looked and looked and looked for an existing program to get behind that was essentially ‘low-hanging’ fruit, predictable is preventable. There was nothing.”
Over the months that followed, Stockton worked with Brian Willis, Jeff Chudwin, and others to refine the concept, and unveiled it in the October 2010 issue of the magazine. At ILEETA 2011, about 75 people attended the first ever Train the Trainer — one of those attendees was John Bostain from FLETC, who this year was awarded 2012 Law Officer/ILEETA Trainer of the Year — and the program began to spread in earnest.
Admitting the Problem
Below 100 challenges every police officer — and frankly, every law enforcement spouse, sibling, or friend — to accept the fact that we have a problem over which we actually have control to make change.
Wearing your vest is a decision. Wearing your belt is a decision. Watching your speed is a decision. Asking the most powerful question, “What’s important now?” is a decision. Being vigilant and not complacent… a decision!
These are decisions over which each individual law enforcer has supreme and exclusive control. It begins with what happened to me at ILEETA last week. I changed my mind. I changed my opinion of what is really achievable.
As I listened to those presenters, I was awestruck by the concept that when this is successful, we will never really know which LEOs were saved by the effort — because they will have been a non-story. They’ll still be alive to go off shift and home to their families because they changed a few simple behaviors.
One Behavior at a Time
My friend and PoliceOne Colleague Travis Yates has been leading the charge on all issues related to police driving for a long time.
During the Friday morning session, Yates said, “It should piss you off that there are more trees killing officers than psychopaths.”
Yates let that thought hang in the air just a moment before taking the tension away by adding, “I tried to get rid of all the trees in Tulsa, but they wouldn’t go for that.”
The fact of the matter is that a significant number of calls to which officers are responding do not necessitate excessive speeds — upon arrival to the scene, there will no longer be a bad guy at the location. There will be one or more victims and/or witnesses to interview. There will be evidence to collect. There will be a variety of things to address, but there will not be a crime in progress with a criminal there to engage you.
To put that into perspective, let’s talk about the numbers 10, 80, 90 and 100. For an officer driving a 10-mile stretch of road, the difference between response time at the speed of 80 miles per hour and 100 miles per hour is 90 seconds.
Naturally, if you’re responding to an active-shooter call, or an officer-down situation, you’re probably going to be driving like a bat out of hell — and that’s okay. That’s what’s appropriate to the situation. Asking, “What’s important now?” can help you clarify when you should be going 100 and when you should be going 80.
An Achievable Goal
Can we get Below 100? Yes. Will that number ever be zero? No. Not possible.
For one thing, there are more Maurice Clemmons out there. That is just a fact. Furthermore, policing is an inherently dangerous activity, and it is done by hard-charging men and women who have a higher tolerance for risk than the average human being.
“There is always going to be a certain level of risk associated with this job,” Yates said during his segment of the four-hour-long seminar. “But we take that risk and we elevate it unnecessarily because we like it — we enjoy that higher risk.”
And that’s not okay, Yates declared.
By reducing the number of officers killed by telephone poles and trees, by reducing the number of officers ejected from said vehicles or fatally impacting the windscreen, by driving at safe speeds en route to calls for which speed truly is not a factor, by simply being true to your training on vigilance and officer safety, by asking, “What’s important now?” that number could very easily be Below 100 this time next year.
“It is a powerful program, which has an immediate emotional connection with officers regardless of their length of service and most importantly it can be implemented immediately at no cost to an agency," said PoliceOne Columnist Brian Willis, in an email to me after ILEETA came to a close. "Below 100 will continue to save lives and make a significant impact on line of duty injuries and deaths.”
John Bostain also followed up with me via email, saying, “Getting to Below 100 is absolutely achievable... It’s not a pie-in-the-sky number. The data tells us if we eliminate predictable deaths, the number falls below 100. Period! The choice is ours. If we want to get there, we need to be the change.”
My dear friend, Coach Bob Lindsey, concluded, “Thank you for this program. I fully intend to include Below 100 in every presentation that I’m doing at the colleges and the academies.”
I’ll say it again. This time next year, we could well be Below 100.