Cops Line of Duty Deaths Rising in 2011 "APPLYING"Lessons Learned

A very good article shared by SGT Bill Lewis of Tactical Debriefs “City Police across U.S. Learn Sad Lessons from Shootings of Officers” where Police commanders from Lakewood, Wash.; Oakland, Calif.; and Seattle attending a national conference in Seattle on Thursday described the huge emotional toll on their departments after officers were slain in the line of duty.

"March 21 (2009) was our version of 9-11," Oakland Assistant Chief Howard Jordan said, referring to when a parolee took the lives of four Oakland officers. The department later lost 11 officers to disability leave with psychological problems and one officer to suicide as a result, he said. In the aftermath, the department offered to double up officers in patrol cars, reinforced training and reassured police of their vital role.

After Seattle Officer Timothy Brenton was fatally ambushed in his patrol car with a trainee on Oct. 31, 2009, relatives of other officers urged them to change careers. "There was a lot of fear from families and pressure to leave the job," Seattle Deputy Chief Nick Metz said. His daughter asked him, "Why do you have to wear that uniform?"

The Seattle shooting, soon followed by the Nov. 29, 2009, killings of four Lakewood officers while doing paperwork in a suburban Tacoma coffee shop, had an especially heavy impact on the relatively young Seattle force. Seattle has hired more than 450 officers in the past five years. Many stopped writing reports in their cars or coffee shops, instead working at their stations.

"Since then, it's been a challenge to reinforce our beliefs that they have to engage the community," Seattle Assistant Chief Jim Pugel said.

The article has me both alarmed and fired up as to the lessons learned. Alarmed because as gracious and well intended the conversation, sharing of the lessons learned and the conference was, my concern; will the rest of us listen and then lead. Lead us to becoming better, more effective and safer on the street. Fired up because; I believe we can make the necessary shift of mind as a profession to do so. Although changing the law enforcement culture of status quo and the mindset of; this is the only way or the way we have always done this mentality will be difficult.

In the first four months this year, 65 officers have been killed nationwide, up from 51 this time last year. Of the 65 officers, 32 were killed by gunfire; 24 in an ambush or unprovoked manner; seven while serving arrest warrants; and nine while working on a multiagency task force.

Preparation and readiness requires a mindset on our part of adaptation and continued learning, unlearning and relearning in an effort to maintain the initiative in a given set of unique circumstances. It is not following a canned response or following check lists or policy and procedures. Canned responses, checklists and policy and procedures take insight, innovation and initiative away from the individual(s) on the frontline. This is part of the problem and nowhere near close to the solution. Lead, leadership is not an event driven thing, leadership is a daily thing that involves teaching, training, interacting and engaging your people, so excellence in execution is the outcome.  Leadership is about critiquing and harnessing lessons learned…daily!  This is TRAINING! Real on the job training and powerful training!

The solution is found in our collective ability to constantly strive to be better at what we do and learn from experience, to include experience from others. Many have paid the ultimate sacrifice by making mistakes and having them exploited by those who would do them harm. These mistakes and lessons learned have been written and talked about for over 40 years now and yet many of those killed in the line of duty today perish from the same mistakes being repeated again and again.

What's missing? CONSISTANT ONGOING TRAINING is what's missing. Yes we have evolved training programs. Yes we have simulators and simmunitions! Yes, we have courses on bullet proofing the mind, tactical and close combat firearms courses. Yes we have defensive and EVOC driving courses. Yes we have active shooter and crisis response training! We do have more knowledge today in our profession. But what we do not have, is those who train and understand how to apply the knowledge they possess to circumstances presented on the street.

"There's definitely something that's happening in the U.S. that's really putting our officers at risk,'" said Joshua Ederheimer, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Justice's COPS office.

Training must seek to condition both the cognitive ability to think on your feet under pressure combined with the ability to interact and accord with people, an adversary or otherwise. Step by step check list on how to do or solve a particular problem have cops searching for answers (those they were told) in the heat of the moment when they should be using their insight into the tactical problem and their imagination to solve the problem.

The Washington, D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum drew big-city supervisors to its annual meeting in Seattle to discuss recent cases, the effects and possible responses.

Cops are more than capable of make sound decisions, if we first train them accordingly. Train them, not as we do currently in what to think but instead in HOW TO THINK and solve problems, including violent problems. It is necessary to allow street cops to make decisions from the bottom up. They are there! They see the problem! They are the one to fix the problem! Allow them to do so and those of us in leadership positions will be amazed at what they accomplish.  Train and trust street cops. Earn their trust while they earn yours through consistent effort the outcomes of this mutual trust will produce positive outcomes.

We in law enforcement have talked about DECENTRALIZED CONTROL for over 30 years now and how important it is to our being effective on the street and solving the problems communities face. But CENTRALIZED CONTROL is the leadership style most often in practice. Even in those organizations, where the BUZZ WORDS trust, teamwork and individual initiative are preached day in and day out. Quite frankly I am tired of hearing the talk, while cops, continue to die on the street. It is time we walk our talk

It’s time we change our mindsets and begin to walk the path to readiness and create and nurture full spectrum police officers with the ability to apply knowledge effectively in dynamic encounters. Then someone we can preach the results of Stopping Evolving Threats through Preparation and Readiness! And do so with confidence because it is so!

Stay Oriented!