Coffee and Conversation: Issues that Affect Law Enforcement and Security: Walking our Talk to Officer Safety

The month of November was filled with conflict and violence: Fort Hood, Orlando, Lakewood Washington and numerous other incidents across the country that gained little attention in the headlines. The blogs and articles I wrote in relation to these events and the efforts we need to make to prevent them focus mostly on the community or workplace. This morning while sitting here with a hot cup of coffee I am thinking about cops and officer safety.

I have been honored enough to be a cop for nearly 24 years. I am honored and proud to serve with a fine group of officers from my department. For 23 years, I have been fortunate enough to train and participate in training with police officers from various places throughout the country.

I have learned through hundreds of conversations with cops that officers talk a lot about “officer safety.” The “talk” stems around safety in numbers or staffing, back-up, contact cover principle, cover and concealment, firearms training, situational awareness, recognizing the signs and signals of crime and danger, reading body language, decision making under pressure, active shooter response, hostage negotiation, barricaded subject response, tactical response and approach to calls, off duty survival and many more tactical concepts as well. Talking about the concepts behind officer survival is great, BUT IT’S NOWHERE NEAR GOOD ENOUGH!

How many of you apply these officer survival concepts on the street? How many of you take short cuts or possess a complacent mind? How many think ‘it will not happen to me’ or ‘it will not happen here’? I ask you the question is officer survival a game or is there real threat? The answer seems obvious to me, the threats are real and evolving despite the fact that most people would never do harm to us. There are still those who, for whatever the reason, know who we are and what we do and will unleash their rage and fury at times unprovoked. The fact that few would resort to this type of violence against cops is all the more reason we must develop a relaxed but superior situational awareness, no matter where we are and no matter what we are doing.

Talk is cheap and its time we started walking our own talk and applying the concepts we say are so near and dear to our survival. In the end it comes down to doing the things we talk about; applying what we know to the evolving situation at hand. This takes effort in leadership ensuring proper realistic training is brought to officers as well as individual initiative. It’s time to stop merely talking and learn to discipline yourself to walk the walk of officer safety by doing what you now is necessary, and by seeking out more training so you consistently strive to nurture what you know and evolve your skills.

A simple concept, Observe-Orient-Decide and Act, is the crux of officer survival and can be developed using simple scenarios to enable adaptability. OODA LOOPS also known as the Boyd Cycle, is a concept that applies to everything we do. No matter what we are doing this concept is part of how we learn about what’s going on, make decisions as to how to handle it and take actions to effectively and safely get it done. Obviously it takes physical skills as well and time must be spent developing these skills, but by and large its lack of awareness (complacency) and lack of good sound decision making that’s gets us killed. Yes the bad guy has something to do with it, but the fact is we know they are out there stalking the public and cops. The bad guy watches us, learns our habits, and plans his actions and when the opportunity presents itself the bad guy puts his plan into action. His planning and plotting gives him an advantage because he is putting an effort forward and walking his own talk. We should be aware of, prepared for and ready to prevent this type of advantage from developing.

This preparation takes “doing”. I don’t care what anyone says, I know that “doing” takes “doers.” Doers are initiative driven individuals who possess a winning attitude. Winning takes superior situational awareness and a willingness to step outside the lines and use individual insight and innovation in applying what we know. Applying what we know takes consistent practice and “practicing what we preach!”

Stay oriented! Stay safe!

Fred