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Halloween is a scary time for everyone

The last day of October – Halloween – is just around the corner. It’s a frighteningly fun time for kids, but October is a scary month for cops too. In October of 2007, sixteen police officers died in the line of duty and as of October 26th of this year 12 have made the ultimate sacrifice. Of those 28 cops, two died by gunfire, one by vehicular assault, two by heart attack, and the rest by accidental means, primarily vehicle related, but also including a fall, drowning, and a ground-related aircraft accident. In fact, every October 2008 police death except one (again, as of October 26th) has been as the result of an accident.

October is by no means the deadliest month for cops, but just by the sheer volume of accident deaths, we are reminded that accidents account for far more law enforcement deaths than do felonious assaults. What are the best anecdotes for accidents? YOU!

Attend to what you are doing; accidents often occur when we’re distracted. When you are “running code” attend more to the other drivers than to your in-car computer, your cell phone, or trying to bury that speedometer needle a little deeper. We all know cops love to drive fast—its one of the reasons we’re cops—but as the tried and true saying goes, “you don’t help anyone if you don’t get there in one piece.”

We all know police work is dangerous, but we have to focus on balancing risk with safety. Examine your own behavior. If you’ve been pushing the envelope and getting away with it, its time to re-evaluate. Maybe your “risk thermostat” is set way too high (check out Dave's 2006 article on that, Deadly routine, which remains as valid today as it was when it was first posted). Or maybe you’re making assumptions that aren’t valid. When you’re out directing traffic, on a stop, or investigating a crash, do you assume people see you? Don’t! In fact, assume that they aren’t paying any attention to your overhead lights, your flashlight, your flares, or especially, to you. Just like when you’re approaching a house on a domestic, or doing a building search, or making an arrest, you are responsible for your own safety and the safety of those around you.

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