Police Officer Safety
I have to say as an officer for over 11 years, and now a sergeant, its very disturbing when I hear of cowboy cop type situations that could have gotten an officer killed. So I decided to put this article together on my opinions for new officers and veteran officers as well.
First off, I'm a firm believer that if I wasn't there, that I don't "truly" know what happened. I can only go from what I was told and/or what the reports indicate. But there are certain facts that are clear in some of these cases. And in one case was where a police officer went to a call by himself. The call was a "shots fired" call, which on the surface is not a real big deal checking by yourself (i.e. just driving through the area is fine). But once the officer decided to get out of his vehicle with his shotgun and check a backyard that he believed occupied people with guns is a whole different story.
A: If you feel there's someone anywhere with a gun, then call for back up and wait for back up, period. The exception is unless you feel there is an immanent threat to life.
B: Trying to be the nice guy by cancelling other police cars because your city or department doesn't want to hire more police isn't your fault, and shouldn't put more risk to you. I hear so many officers tell our dispatch to cancel the other car simply because the other police car is coming from another district (because there's no one else to send). The officer takes the risk because he/she doesn't want to inconvenience the other officer since most of the time the call will not amount to anything. I've even heard our dispatchers talk in a way that indicates that they're not happy that you're making the other car come, or sighing for example when the officer doesn't take the call alone. What sense does this make? We're suppose to take the risk because there are not enough cars on the street in the first place? This in itself not only puts more risk on you (being alone), but it also sends a message that your department doesn't need anymore police officers, as call volume is staying down because of the risks officers have decided to take.
In this particular story, the officer was severely outnumbered and almost everyone had guns. A person on scene was shot by the officer and he was lucky to not be shot himself. If this group of people decided to turn on the officer, he probably would have been killed, with no backup around. Was it worth it? I say no.
I have to tell this last story that is just amazing to me. As a sergeant on the road, I heard our dispatch send a one man police car to a "suspicious person" call, and instructed the police officer to please "check and advise." What the heck does that mean? So if I'm getting my butt kicked or get shot, go ahead and advise at that point that I need help? Anyway, our dispatch felt it was ok to send one officer because the business that called it in said that the suspicious person (hanging around the business getting ready to close) said he was only "waiting for a ride." In addition to that, the officer being sent was a rookie which was more cause for concern. I get on the radio and advise them to send another car with them, and our dispatcher gets mad. She calls the other car and says "Go along to check a man that's just waiting for a ride!" in a louder, sarcastic voice. Of course I wanted to say "If its just a man waiting for a ride, why are we going in the first place? We're going because he's suspicious right?" But I don't because its just silly. Most departments would write a dispatcher up for using that tone over the radio, but I know that ours won't, so I let it go.
So my suggestion to you is to "practice" safe police work. For instance, responding to alarm calls, domestics, etc. should be mandatory 2 officers, period. If you let up once, you'll let up again. And the more it happens, the more its expected from other officers. I've told other officers "Hey, I'm sorry, I'll wait for you because all it takes is one call to go bad." To the sergeants: Teach your officers this basic concept and it might just save someone's life, including yours.
- Next: Crime Scene Basics
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