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Mark Rivera, Customer Retention Manager and CJIS Security Compliance Officer with Vigilant Solutions, served for sixteen years with the Maryland State Police, retiring at the rank of First Sergeant with thirteen of those years at the supervisory and command level. He holds a Master of Science Degree in Management from The Johns Hopkins University and Secret clearance through the FBI, Baltimore.

Columns : In My Sights

The Rest Stop

Just because people don't talk about how to safely "relieve yourself" on duty doesn't mean it isn't a constant concern.

January 13, 2012  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author

Illustration: Sequoia Blankenship
Illustration: Sequoia Blankenship

I'd like to take a minute to ponder one of the issues that remains an unspoken truth about our natures and at the same time can dominate our attention with great urgency. That is the need for the human body to process waste, to relieve itself, to void, to...do numbers one and two.

Television and movie cops never need to leave a surveillance or race to a nearby store or just pull off the highway and hide in the trees. That would be too human, and probably too real for most viewers. We watch these shows to escape, to see idealized heroes do romantically heroic acts and find a path to truth and justice, and so much of their humanity is ignored. Except the human sexuality side, but that's another article.

I'm not saying make a darn show about it, but how about a movie hero complaining about last night's sushi and racing out of the briefing room while the captain and other detectives look on? Now that's reality. How about a critical surveillance scene where the star asks for someone else to take the "eyeball" while he takes care of "business?" Now that's police work.

I bet every one of you has one or probably a hundred stories about directing traffic at an accident and doing a little extra dance while waiting to get cleared, or pondering how to get rid of that pot of coffee you drank earlier when the nearest rest stop is 25 miles out.

In fact, I can't wait to see the comments we get after this is published. Crimefighters have unique and discreet ways of relieving the "stress."

I bring all this up not just to give screenwriters new ideas but to remind you about safety considerations when using often public facilities and the importance of reattaching your equipment. You rookies never want to have to race back to the Circle K at 19th and Indian School Road to recover your duty belt...like that ever happened...

First, the safety considerations. Ideally cops could always use a private restroom or one that could be secured, but that just isn't reality. So for a public restroom, consider if your back is exposed while your hands are busy, or where you are going to put your equipment if you have to take it off. I remember a fellow in narcotics gasping as his SIG slid out of the holster and across the floor out of the bathroom stall as he sat down. A polite citizen just slid it back when he announced he was the police...Lucky, eh?

If you've taken your duty belt off you must reattach your keepers to ensure the same security you had when you first hit the streets that day. Making this a ritual reinforces you will even put the darn thing on instead of leaving it dangling, alone, left behind like your youngest son on a road trip. If you're reading this now and thinking that can never happen to you, I can't wait for you to write us about fishing your new Glock out of the latrine.

This is one of the unspoken parts of our profession and one that has caused a multitude of embarrassing moments for us all. Especially sticky are those moments of massive urges with no facilities. I have heard stories of deputies on lonely roads thinking they're alone looking over to see their local cub scout troop on a day hike, of narcs slipping into an alley only to surprise grandma walking little Scotty...Yikes!

My friends, I know this is a subject we prefer to leave unspoken but for your safety, your humility, and your regularity I ask you to think about these issues.

You won't find any examples on television, but ask some of your veterans if they have any tips. The fellow cop who waves you away like he doesn't have time for you is probably the one with the best example so after everyone confesses their experiences be sure to ask that person if there isn't something that he or she can add. Then listen and learn.

Dave Smith is the creator of "Buck Savage" and a retired law enforcement officer from Arizona. Currently, he is the lead instructor for Calibre Press' Street Survival seminar.


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