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April 21, 2014
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Duane Wolfe The Warrior's Path
with Duane Wolfe

How you can minimize auto-related officer deaths

Auto-related officer deaths are up 67 percent this year: how you drive is a choice

You’ve been assigned a big job. A small child with a debilitating disease is fading fast — they’re in desperate need of an organ transplant. 

The new organ has been placed in the medical cooler and put in the front seat of your squad car.

Your mission is to get that box — with the lifesaving organ — to the hospital that the dying child lies in, and time is of the essence. If you take too long, they will die. 

Every Second, Every Action Counts
You’ve picked the fastest route. Every minute wasted means that child may die. Their life is in your hands. Miss a turn or get lost and that child may not see the next day. 

If you hit a patch of ice, drive too fast and go off the road, smack into one of nature’s large creatures,  smash into a drunk driver, or any other mishap along the route, that kid dies.

Any accident will take your squad out of commission, either short term or forever. That precious cargo belted in next to you may be damaged or destroyed, so that even if another squad can get to you, it will useless. That child, even more precious, will never see their next birthday.

That route is fraught with potential hazards, but not making it is not an option. How do you choose to drive it? 

Too fast and you might not make it. 

Too slow and the child might not make it.

Reverse Roles and Replay the Scenario
Now imagine that you’re the parent of that child. Look down at that hospital bed and see your child’s face, see the tubes, hear the machines that help sustain this fragile life. How do you want that officer to drive to save your child? If you could talk to them , what would your advice be?

As you look down on that small, precious gift knowing that it may slip away from life’s grasp, imagine the advice you would give to your fellow officer as the squad is being readied for the run.You sure as hell don’t want him talking on his cellphone while he is driving.

What would you do? Pray? Plead? Beg? Scream?

What cost would you pay? Can you place a price on your child’s life? What check would cover the loss of that dear, sweet, precious smile? 

Take it to the Streets
Play the scenario out in your head. Drive through the streets of your city. Drive the highways of your county. Drive that run at the speed you need to drive to get their fast and guarantee your arrival, because a life hangs in the balance and it’s up to you, only you.

Promise yourself to drive no faster than needed. Commit yourself to maintain that perfect speed, a balance between the need to get there fast and the ultimate need to get there.

Have you figured it out? Have you picked the speed you’ll drive? That speed is the speed you need to drive the next time you get that hot call, shots fired, or officer needs assistance. If the call is less of a priority, then less speed will be needed.

The officer at the location of the assistance call was someone’s precious child. You are someone’s precious child. Now that you are grown up there those people, kids, spouse, family friends, who consider you precious.

The officer who needs help, needs help, not another call of an officer-involved accident to drain precious resources away. You have a sacred duty to get there, failure is NOT an option, but you have to get there to fulfill that duty. 

Make that promise. Live that commitment.

Imagine that the life-giving organ in that box is yours. It’s in that box speeding down the highway because of your commitment to help others, but, its’ there because you failed to help yourself. A part of what used to be you is in that box because you drove too fast, didn’t need to wear your seatbelt, didn’t don your vest, got complacent and you forgot. 

You forgot that you are someone’s loved one. 

You forgot about your duty.

You forgot your commitment to be there for them. You broke your promise to protect and serve. Part of you is in that medical box. The rest of you is in another box and now you serve and protect no one. 

You serve only as a reminder to other cops to slow down, wear their seatbelt, wear their vest, and to beware of complacency.

Brian Willis teaches us to ask ourselves a very important question: “What’s Important Now?”

Auto-related officer deaths are up 67 percent this year. How you drive is a choice. Only you can lower that number. In my first article this year, I called 2014 ‘the Year of I.’ I take responsibility for me. I am my priority. I will come home safe to those I love, because I choose to make sound, safe decisions. 

Complacency tells you it will be okay. Complacency lies. Complacency kills.

What will you do — what will you say — to save yourself and the officers you work with?


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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