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Street Survival Q & A: How can you be tactically prepared at home?

Recently a PoliceOne member shared the following off duty incident which raised a a critical question: How tactically aware are you at home?

“I am a single mom of four children ages 16 through 9. I am constantly trying to keep my kids aware of their surroundings and always giving them tips on what to do in certain instances.

“Just tonight, my dogs were barking and my daughter came back in and said, ‘Black male was across the street running toward our house.’ People walk the neighborhood all the time, so it didn't seem out of the ordinary.

“A few moments later, my son came running to me and said a black man was knocking on my door. As I came around the living room corner, I saw this guy open my door and poke his head in. I ran to the door and slung it open and ‘cop’ took over.

“He told me he was running from some guys who were trying to beat him up. He saw the cop car in the drive and wanted to talk to my ‘husband.’ I called and got some uniformed units over and once I got off the phone, I decided to pat him down.

“I asked if he had any weapons, and he immediately went for his back right pocket and pulled a steak knife out. I was within arms reach, I grabbed his arm and luckily no fight ensued. I took the knife from him and laid it on my front porch keeping him completely away from it.

“Now that look back on it, boy, I could have been a little more tactical for the safety of my kids and myself.

“My whole deal I guess is, in a situation like this, I should have tackled him and cuffed him up. But if you really think about it, are you really that tactical at home?

“I had my cuffs in my room as well as my gun. I had no way to secure him because I made my kids stay in the house. I couldn't get to either of them with this guy on my front porch. I did have my phone with me, but had already hung up with dispatch.

“My kids are in and out the front door in the evenings playing. I have told them to lock the front door once they are done. It slips their minds to do it, but now since this happened, they will be more aware of it.

“We (cops) are not immune from any violence.

“Here’s a question:

    “In instances like this, where I should have handcuffed him and detained him until units arrived, how are we, as officers, supposed to stay tactical at home? What are some good tips on keeping my equipment close at hand?

    I didn't see this coming, so I wasn't prepared and I could kick my own ass for it. I am usually more tactical than this. I do not want to get lazy on my kids' safety. Any advice you can give will be greatly appreciated. I will pass it on to my kids and hopefully they will keep it in mind.

”Thanks for a great website and all the info. I always look forward to reading articles.”


Street Survival Seminar Instructor Sgt. Betsy Smith responded with the following:

Thanks for writing in. I’m so glad you were able to contain a potential bad guy and keep your family safe and secure…all in a day’s work for a crime-fighting mom! You’re a true 5%er for reviewing your tactics, even after a successful conclusion, to determine if things could have been improved.

Realistically, you’re probably not going to walk around the house with your gun and handcuffs on all the time. However, you can easily train your kids to assist you in this type of situation.

As police officers, we often shy away from teaching our kids about our tactics, our weapons, and the general nasty nature of our job. In the “Street Survival” seminar, we encourage officers to train their families to be able to assist them.

One of the best books available to help with teaching your kids to be strong and resourceful is Raising Kids Who Can Protect Themselves by Mike and Debbie Gardner. The Gardner’s (both are law enforcement officers and trainers) use “courage coaching” to help create a family defense systems, and help parents teach kids come of the tactics we (the police) use such as tactical breathing, positive self talk and special awareness.

Start with age appropriate firearms safety (the NRA’s Eddie Eagle Gunsafe®Program is a great resource for the younger ones), and then teach them how to safely retrieve your gun and handcuffs from your room and bring them to you in a subtle, “tactical” manner (IE: away from the bad guy).

Teach them that they are part of a warrior family, and some day you may need their help in protecting the family and/or the community. As a single mom of four, I’m sure you already know that if you empower kids to help out and take control, they will amaze you!

Also teach them to call “911” if it looks like you need immediate assistance. Have them tell dispatch that an off duty officer needs assistance and to stay on the phone to help the responding officers determine your location, description and your specific needs.

If you’re home alone, consider keeping your gun and handcuffs in a secure area closer to the front door. Wherever you keep your home defense weapon(s), practice retrieving them so that in a crisis you don’t have to “think” about where it is.

And remember, cops often get hurt when they “rush in.” Train yourself to assess the situation and consider the safest alternative…for example, there would have been nothing wrong with pushing this guy (or verbally directing him if he’s cooperative) out the door and then calling “911” and waiting for back up. You could have even said, “Wait here, I’ll go get my husband” and shut the door as well. However, your actions probably saved an untrained citizen from having to deal with a guy with a knife on their front porch.

You also bring up another excellent concern: “take home” squad cars. Officers who bring a squad home have to be extra vigilant in dealing with people in their neighborhood, since the squad in the drive way is basically a bill board saying “a cop lives here!”

If your department allows, consider parking it a few blocks away in a church, school or other “public” lot (with permission, of course) or put it in the garage. The less you can advertise that someone in the house is a cop, the better, especially if the kids play outside a lot. If you have to leave it in the driveway, discuss potential scenarios with your kids to help them deal with people who may approach your home looking for assistance.

Again, congratulations on taking the time to improve your off duty tactics…after all, 14% of police officer murders occur off duty; it’s a warrior’s destiny to protect ourselves, our families and our communities both on and off duty.

Stay safe!

Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith
Street Survival Seminar Instructor

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