FREE e-Newsletter
Important News - Hot Topics
Get them Now!

The Law Officer's Pocket Manual - Bloomberg BNA
This handy 4" x 6" spiral-bound manual offers examples showing how rules are...

Departments : Officer Survival

Remember the Basics

Good cops carry more than a gun and a badge. They are also armed with solid basic training and common sense.

March 01, 2000  |  by Capt. Gerald W. Garner

Almost every year American law enforcement officers are slain because they stood dead-center in front of a door they were knocking at, let someone get to close to their gun side, marched right up the front sidewalk to site where a violent crime or criminal was believed present, positioned themselves between two suspects, allowed a suspect to get behind them, or pulled alongside to address a suspicious pedestrian while still seated in their patrol cars, or put an unsecured suspect or violator in the front seat of the police car next to them while they asked questions or filled out a ticket.

Rushing When Speed is Not Required

True, a life or death situation may be at hand the very instant an officer arrives on-scene.  But in reality, that scenario is a rare one.  Much more often, the first responder has time to stop, look, listen, assess and wait for his cover to arrive before committing himself to a confrontation.

Failing to Handcuff Properly

As one veteran street cop put it, "if they're worth arresting, they're worth cuffing."  To that safety-smart officer, it doesn't really matter if "they" are age 15 or 80.  Improper handcuffing can mean the cuffs are too loose, too tight, or a prisoner is cuffed in front of his body, without a transport belt or other device that secures the cuffs to his waist.

Doing a Poor Search

The only thing worse?  Failing to do one at all when you have a legal right to do so.  Not surprisingly, virtually every year in the U.S. good cops are killed with weapons they failed to find on a prisoner or suspect.

Relaxing Before the Threat Has Passed

The only way to stay safe on the street is to remain alert for sudden danger for the entire time that you are in the presence of a potentially threatening situation or individual.

Practicing Poor Weapon Retention

Every year, cops are killed with their own firearms.  Experience has taught that once an offender gains control of an officer's weapon, most often he uses it not to bluff or gain compliance but to attempt to kill its former owner.  All too often, the attempt is successful.  Failing to maintain a "reactionary gap" of several feet between officer and subject us one fatal error.  Other officers are disarmed because they failed to keep their weapons snapped securely into adequate safety holsters or failed to remain alert to the proximity of other persons to themselves and their sidearm.

Making Poor or No Use of Cover

Facing a potentially armed and dangerous offender out in the open when adequate cover is available makes no sense at all. Yet, otherwise sharp cops do it all the time.  Thinking about cover possibilities and exactly where they are located is a good habit to practice on the way into every single call and contact you make.

Neglecting to Maintain Proficiency with Survival Equipment

It could be a firearm, baton, set of handcuffs or even a police vehicle.  The reality is that no matter how fancy or capable it is, it amounts to little more than a paperweight if you cannot use it successfully at crunch time.

Being a "Cowboy" (or "Cowgirl") Cop

Cowboy cops routinely and needlessly go on calls without backup, make arrests alone when safety sense dictates the presence of a cover officer, start unnecessary fights and provoke otherwise unresisting subjects.  Cowboys, in a few words, do stupid police work.

Do It Right

Staying alive is not all that complicated.  Most of the time- and experience- proven survival advice is simple, direct and to the point.  Be prepared to make a decision where a threat to your safety is concerned.  Your decision does not have to be perfect in order to save your bacon.  Keep a winning mindset always, but be willing and able to practice tactical withdrawal.  After all, you're in it for a whole career.  If that career is to have a good ending, you will have to practice excellent officer safety throughout.

By remembering the basics today, you might just avoid being memorialized yourself tomorrow.

Capt. Gerald W. Garner, a member of the Advisory Board for POLICE, is patrol division commander for the Lakewood (Colo.) Police Department.  The 30-year veteran holds a master's degree in administration of justice and has written several books on law enforcement.

«   Page 2 of 2   »

Be the first to comment on this story

POLICE Magazine does not tolerate comments that include profanity, personal attacks or antisocial behavior (such as "spamming" or "trolling"). This and other inappropriate content or material will be removed. We reserve the right to block any user who violates this, including removing all content posted by that user.

Other Recent Stories

Mise en Place
To be truly prepared for a situation on duty, you must have everything in its place,...
America's Biggest Crime Scene
The U.S.-Mexico border is one of the most dangerous patrol areas in the country, and the...
IACP 2017: Best of Show
Here's a look at the products that caught our eye at this year's International Association...
A Blue Christmas
Law enforcement officers work hard during the holidays to serve, to protect, and to bring...

Get Your FREE Trial Issue and Win a Gift! Subscribe Today!
Yes! Please rush me my FREE TRIAL ISSUE of POLICE magazine and FREE Officer Survival Guide with tips and tactics to help me safely get out of 10 different situations.

Just fill in the form to the right and click the button to receive your FREE Trial Issue.

If POLICE does not satisfy you, just write "cancel" on the invoice and send it back. You'll pay nothing, and the FREE issue is yours to keep. If you enjoy POLICE, pay only $25 for a full one-year subscription (12 issues in all). Enjoy a savings of nearly 60% off the cover price!

Offer valid in US only. Outside U.S., click here.
Police Magazine