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Departments : Best Practices For...

The Threat of Technology

Gadgets are great, but you still need essential skills to stay safe.

July 11, 2011  |  by Amaury Murgado - Also by this author

Electronic Control Device

Electronic Control Device (ECD) is normally a dirty word for me as a combatives instructor. Please don't get me wrong, I feel that an ECD (TASER being the most famous) is a valuable and perfectly legitimate tool in the hands of a well rounded officer. The problem is when it's turned into a crutch for those who refuse, or worse, are afraid, to go hands-on. Officers lose their combative skills when they rely on gadgets rather than their own abilities.

My main concern with ECDs is not that they are used, but what happens when they fail. Every ECD will periodically fail because it's like every other mechanical device. It will also have no effect on some of its targets. When officers have let their combatives skills lapse, the original purpose of the ECD has been lost. Officers routinely grab for their ECD instead of their firearms. You would think that we would know better than to bring an ECD to a gunfight...ECDs were designed as an option, not the only option.

In-Car Ticket Printers

Another device that can distract you from the task at hand is an in-car ticket printer. It's already bad enough that officers pay more attention to their MDC instead of to the passengers in the car they stopped. There have been instances where suspects have escaped unnoticed. Be careful when using a ticket printer, and don't look at it for longer than needed. You can, of course, also write tickets the old fashioned way. Keep your ticket book chest high and use your peripheral vision to keep an eye on the person you're dealing with, while using your car door as cover. You have no peripheral vision when you are focusing all of your attention on a computer or printer monitor.

Social Networks

Who hasn't read about, heard of, or known someone who has been bitten in the ass by the social network bug? Agencies focus policy around what officers say, what pictures they post, and in general, how their Internet use reflects on the agency as a whole. But no one ever talks about personal security issues. There is no regulation on cyberspace, so when you post something on the Web you may as well assume it's forever. Anyone with enough time and patience can find out all sorts of things about you...and your family.

Take a moment and think about what you place on Facebook, Twitter, etc., in terms of officer safety and survival. Think about the volumes of information about yourself, your family, and where you work. Those pictures of you and your loved ones are now out in cyberspace for anyone to see. Oh I know, you're comforted by the fact that your site has security settings and only your friends can see you. If that's what you truly believe, then I guess you can safely add that belief to the list that contains Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.

Place only the information on the Web that you are willing to show the world. Recently, someone responded to one of my articles from overseas who didn't contact me through my agency's or magazine's e-mail. He found my résumé online that included my personal e-mail address and used that to contact me. He warned me that some of my personal information was accessible. I have posted my résumé with several training companies as a combatives instructor and already knew what information was out there, including the personal e-mail address I chose to make available. But not everyone is so conscientious.

A Paper Tiger Still Has Teeth

The dismissive types sometimes found in upper level command positions often deal with real-life issues as a paper tiger; through policy and procedure. These often overlooked and seldom enforced uses of technologically based policies are only enforced when an issue becomes a problem.

And by problem I mean, when someone complains or it appears in the media. Once it hits the media your agency will always find religion. Someone is going to pay dearly for violating policy and in doing so will amaze the world with just how concerned your agency is. You and I both know better. The fact of the matter is the only person you can rely on for officer safety and survival is you. Anything else is just a convenient facade.

Final Thoughts

You are ultimately responsible for your own safety and survival. No one can ever do that for you. If you use a cell phone in the car, don't text while driving. If you have an ECD, remember it's a tool and not an end-all. If you surf the Web, don't let the wave crash down on you. Officer safety is never just about the big high liability issues; it's about all the issues. Don't let something that's become so easy or commonplace end up being the last thing you remember before seeing the white light. By the way, the white light is not the doorway to heaven, it's the headlights of the car you didn't see coming at you because you were looking down...

Amaury Murgado is a special operations lieutenant with the Osceola County (Fla.) Sheriff's Office. He is a retired master sergeant from the Army Reserve, has 23 years of law enforcement experience, and has been involved with martial arts for 37 years.

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Tags: Social Media, Best Practices, TASER, In-Car Computers, Officer Safety


Comments (3)

Displaying 1 - 3 of 3

Tom @ 7/11/2011 5:53 PM

In addition to what is mentioned in this article, I would add that officers should be discouraged from typing reports on their car computer. Going home in one piece trumps any possible time benefit. Looking down and being distracted, especially with this unprecedented assault on law enforcement in this country, is not wise if you value your survival.

DEADMAN @ 7/11/2011 6:10 PM

There should be strict adherance to no cell phone use while moving and no cell phone use in response to calls.One of the biggest problems of cell phone use is the command structure calling the ptls,sgts,and lts on the road with cell phones,call radio,have radio notify that officer to landline the command structure,meaning,park it then call. we had no phone use and when i called out with a suspected agg burglary in progress,my back-up called radio by cell from a restaurant they never left,the sgt.,tried to write me up for arresting two suspects that wouldn't wait for my back-up and exited the building ten minutes later,no attempt to admonish sgt.for not having control or back-up for not responding.

MDT,don't use when you are alone with suspect(s),street survival tells you to keep your eyes focused on suspect,subject.

If ECD doesn't work the first or second time,time to resort to hands on,preferably with back-up,spread-eagle and handcuff with back-up either assisting or ready with ECD.If a person is inebriated or under the influence,it changes that persons metabolism,alcohol and other drugs can change a person into being a walking,talking 6 ft wet cell battery and your ECD can change that into being a battery with all dead cells,inspite of what the manufacturer says.Alcohol is used by auto companies as a coolant agent and drugs can alter your electrolytes.If you have four or five officers standing around a subject on camera,get dirty,put him down on the ground,handcuff him,put him in cruiser,game over,use your training.There are come alongs,put downs and all kinds of trainging out there for your benefit and the publics,use them.I never used a taser,and pepper spray only twice,i preferred to use my mind and my hands,everybody went home,it is not open season and leave your cell phones in your pocket or at home.You didn't need them 15 years ago,you don't need them now,you have dispatchers to help carry the load.

DaveSAM25G @ 8/8/2011 9:43 PM

Excellent!!! And now we know why they call this (Best Practices-because they are)! Technology cannot work without the human but the human can work without the technology, but technology distractions = bad safety practices as spelled out here. I know a post this way that had a sensor that sets off an alarm when the field is breeched but you got to remember to turn it on that's the human side...I see this everyday where lives are in peril because of cell phone, text messaging etc...All actions have a consequence - whether it's a good one or a bad one, you play a major part...In order to stay safe you must stay aware and senses need to be in the field of play and taking place!

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