With the tax base shrinking in many of our jurisdictions and that depleting our budgets, all of us have been told to do more with less.
Consequently, many cops are overworked, sometimes being asked to take on the responsibilities once shared by two or three people. There is also a strong incentive to cut corners. We have all done it. The trick is to know what corners to cut and what corners might cut you back. With this in mind, here's a look at five things you absolutely positively don't want to do on the job.
1. Reacting Too Slowly
With lawsuits abounding, many officers spend more time worrying about how a use of force will be perceived by their agencies and communities rather than what they need to do to survive it. This can cause officers to hesitate.
The hesitation problem is exacerbated when the individual officers do not have a clear understanding of when they are legally allowed to use force.
There is a famous maxim that says, "He who hesitates is lost." The decision to use force should never be taken lightly, but once the decision is made, appropriate force should be used without fear of what could or might happen after.
The United States Supreme Court gave us clear direction in the landmark case Graham v Connor in 1989. The court expects the force used by police to be "objectively reasonable." If you use "objectively reasonable force," you will have the full weight of federal law behind you.
Using tactical communication is great. "Be nice," like Patrick Swayze said in the movie "Roadhouse." Don't let your mouth write a check other more delicate parts of your body might have to cash. Showing respect to arrestees, their families, and friends doesn’t cost anything, but it can pay off with increased officer safety and cooperation. Good cops turn arrestees into informants.
A key element in Dr. George Thompson's "Verbal Judo" is "When words fail, act." When it comes time to act, act! Use force. Too many cops are killed with their weapons still in their holsters because they were talking when they should have been shooting.
2. Driving Too Fast
Any good traffic cop knows the primary cause of traffic fatalities is usually speeding. We are going too fast and it is killing us.
For those of us in cars, many times we do not have our seat belt fastened and we crash. I never understood why so many cops don't fasten their seat belts. The excuse I hear most of the time is, "I don't want to have my seat belt on in case I get into a shooting or have to exit the vehicle in a hurry." OK, when was the last time you heard of a cop getting out of a vehicle traveling 40 to 100 miles per hour? How about shooting at another vehicle or a person while driving at those speeds? Most cops do not get 100% on their qualification when they are shooting at a stationary target just a few yards away.
I, like most cops, take off my seat belt as I am approaching a vehicle, house, or a person. But at that point, I am going at a very low speed, usually 10 miles per hour or less. If I get into a collision at that speed, I have an excellent chance of being OK. If I get into a collision at 100 miles per hour without a seat belt, I probably won't be going home at the end of shift. In 2011, we lost 45 officers to collision-related deaths.
3. Being Too Proud
Pride goes before a fall. Call for backup. It is not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of tactical awareness. Ask yourself how much sense would it make for the SWAT team to respond to a call and say, "Oh there is only one suspect in the house. Well we will just send in one officer. There is no way the suspect in the house is better trained or equipped than our guy." Ridiculous. Right?
I have heard this mantra from more than one SWAT team: "Surprise, speed, and overwhelming force overcome a myriad of tactical problems." When SWAT teams engage, the whole entry team goes in. So remember, you do not have to go it alone.