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Mark Clark

Mark Clark

Mark Clark is the public information officer for a law enforcement agency in the southwest. He is also a photographer and contributor to POLICE Magazine.
Patrol

Silence is Golden

Don’t let common noise makers announce your presence and your intentions to the bad guys.

June 25, 2007  |  by - Also by this author

Silence is a source of great strength.—Lao Tzu

For the officer, this proverb is nowhere more important than when making an approach to a location. Reasons for sound-proofing our approaches are myriad. Domestic calls are notoriously dangerous, with over half of the officers who die on such calls killed upon approach. One way to counter this danger is to make your approach in stealth mode.

The preparation for operating quietly starts long before we ever arrive on site. And the first step is to make sure that we have good gear. For example, we don’t want to wear shoes that squeak or ill-fitting orthopedics that clip-clop inside of them. We also want to use silent baton rings to enhance our officer safety by eliminating the sound of metal on metal as a baton is drawn.

OK. Now let’s use some common sense. Let’s take the loose change out of our pockets from our last Code 7. And no cop needs a big ass ring of keys jingle-jangling on his or her belt. You don’t want to sound like a high school janitor when you’re walking into what could be an ambush.
Once we have our sartorial act in order, we have to adopt good practices. Do we blast our sirens longer than necessary when approaching a location? What is our safest angle of approach? At night, on arrival, are we backlit? Most cops are vigilant about turning off their headlights, but what about brake lights? Interior lights? Once on foot, how do we deploy our flashlights?

After we exit our cars, we're also at the mercy of the terrain leading up to the location. Unfortunately, property owners sometimes compromise our ability to make a safe approach. Loose gravel is not only slippery when wet, but its distinctive crunch can broadcast our approach. However, we can turn landscaping liabilities into assets by using tree lines for cover and paralleling gravel paths instead of walking directly on them.

Outdoor architectural elements can hamper our advance. Motion detection lights can be great for detecting suspects, but they also dime us off. Locked driveway gates can put us in danger as we fumble with noisy latches in full view of the suspects inside the building. If it's tactically more sound to back off a location, then do so.

Moving under the radar means turning off radios and cell phones and using visual cues and commands to communicate with others on scene. Use your finger to communicate something constructive for a change. By simply pointing, you can tell fellow cops where you need them to go, where to stay, and where to retreat to. This becomes paramount as you close in on your destination.

Gathering a little recon and intel can help you make a safe approach. Neighbors also might be able to give you additional information about the residents’ habits, belongings, and states of mind.

You may even want to consider stiffing in a call to the location, getting the suspect aurally committed to the person on the other end of the line instead of the cop on the other side of the door.

By staying out of the limelight and off the radar, we can retain the element of surprise when we initiate contact with people and increase our chances of success whatever the nature of the situation.


Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

fedcop76 @ 6/27/2007 9:24 AM

Goes back to the old military teachings of "Noise, light and litter discipline". ie. don't smoke on a call - a ciggarette cherry gives a good target for a head shot and flash lights are notorious for giving a good body shot target. Good article - it's the little things that keep us safe on a job. be cool and keep safe.

fcvulcan @ 6/28/2007 11:13 AM

I specifically like the cell phones but pagers need be be forgotten.

Seems like the radios more times than not are being turned off but the cell phones importance has been pushed to the front by the officers on the street. It never fails on a call one of the officer's phones on the scene or approach blasts the latest ring tone or jazzy tune at the exact time stealth and surprise are needed.

I remember when the cell phone was a luxury item. No one had them especially on their belt. You might found one in the Sergeants car but it was the size of a small television set. We got by without them then, we can do it now.

JBaird22 @ 10/23/2007 8:25 PM

It's amazing the crap that people have on their belts and you see them just strolling on up to the front door of a residence on a call. Every call is a potential ambush, not just the ones that raise the hairs on your necks. Cover always. Use your senses.

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