Planning for the unexpected while on patrol


“Plans are useless, but the planning is indispensible.”
— Dwight D. Eisenhower

Officers are constantly told to “expect the unexpected.” Perhaps the phrase should be “prepare for the unexpected” because by definition, the “unexpected” cannot be expected... Assistant Chief with the California DOJ Dale Ferranto (ret.) says that police officers should plan for all sorts of contingencies. For example: Just because you’ve never seen a train on a stretch of tracks doesn’t mean there never will be one.

“On an undercover narcotic surveillance in a rural portion of a major California city,” Ferranto recounts, “I directed a team of agents to post up on positions around the restaurant where the deal was to take place. The positions would vary in order to cover all possible escape routes of the suspect and his vehicle. I established my point spot, and in order to see the activity I had to park my police vehicle on the other side of a set of railroad tracks that I had never seen used. You guessed it, just as the deal was going down, a train approached. The train not only blocked my view but also kept me from crossing the tracks if the undercover agent needed my help. Luckily, the undercover agent noticed the unexpected situation, delayed consummation of the deal with extraneous chatter — I listened to the conversation over the body wire — and did not conclude the narcotics transaction until the train had passed. That was some extra 10 minutes!”

The lesson learned, says Ferranto, is to plan for all contingencies after fully evaluating the area and terrain and discuss the options with all involved law enforcement personnel.

About the author

Doug Wyllie is Editor at Large for PoliceOne, providing police training content on a wide range of topics and trends affecting the law enforcement community. Doug is the 2014 Western Publishing Association "Maggie Award" winner for Best Regularly Featured Digital Edition Column, and has authored more than 1,000 articles and tactical tips. Doug hosts the PoliceOne Podcast, Policing Matters, and is the host for PoliceOne Video interviews. Doug is a member of International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA), an Associate Member of the California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA), and a member of the Public Safety Writers Association (PSWA).

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