Best of POLICE: Our 12 Most Popular Articles

We're doing a new kind of index in this Buyer's Guide issue in the form of a gallery of our 12 most popular articles based on website visits.

David Griffith 2017 Headshot

Each year in our annual Buyer's Guide edition of POLICE, we used to run an index of the magazine's content for the previous 12 months. We don't do that anymore because indexes of print content are no longer necessary, as we post each issue's content on Which gave us the idea of doing a new kind of index in this Buyer's Guide issue in the form of a gallery of our 12 most popular articles based on website visits.

A few notes before we get into the list. We decided to set the timeframe at five years (give or take a few months). Also, you may notice that many of the most popular articles tend to be from 2013 and 2014. This is because pageviews on accumulate with time. So here's our list of your favorite articles in police since January 2013.

1) 9mm vs. .40 Caliber

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In October 2015 the FBI announced that it was switching from .40 S&W handguns to 9mm handguns. Dr. Sydney Vail—trauma surgeon, SWAT medic, and wound ballistics expert—wrote this discussion of why the FBI made this decision and why he believes it is the right one. The article includes a look at the FBI's recent history with handgun ammo, the performance of various sizes of pistol rounds, and Dr. Vail's experiences treating gunshot wounds. His conclusions can be summed up in this statement: "From a trauma surgeon's perspective, both the 9mm and the .40 caliber can wound, injure, incapacitate, or kill. However, shot placement is the best predictor of accomplishing the intended goals." No article published in POLICE before or after has garnered as much attention and debate.—January 2016

2) Does the LEOSA Carry Law Apply to You?

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NRA Associate Litigation Council James M. Baranowski explains the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act of 2004 (LEOSA). This article discusses who qualifies for LEOSA rights and the steps qualified officers, former officers with 10 years of service, and sworn retirees have to take in order to exercise their LEOSA rights. In addition, Baranowski looks at the arguments some agencies use to deny LEOSA rights to officers who are qualified and explains the pertinent case law. The article also explains how LEOSA rights do not supercede all federal, state, and local statutes that ban carry into certain areas. LEOSA-qualified person must also adhere to the wishes of private individuals and companies who prohibit weapons on their properties.—January 2014

3) Stopping Power: Myths, Legends, and Realities

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Dr. Sydney Vail is one of the most popular POLICE authors and this is his second most read article. In "Stopping Power," Dr. Vail, who is both a trauma surgeon and a tactical medicine provider, discusses the wound ballistics performance of common calibers of handgun ammunition used by law enforcement. He explains the limitations of gelatin testing and argues the best way to determine performance is to examine how the bullets performed in actual human bodies. Vail also details the factors that go into estimating the stopping power of firearms ammunition. He concludes: "No single ammunition that is typically used by law enforcement officers today can reliably claim to have superior stopping power. I have seen a .22 caliber bullet completely incapacitate someone and a .45 ACP fail to achieve that result."—January 2013

4) Understanding Graham v. Connor

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There is perhaps no more important Supreme Court ruling for American law enforcement than Graham v. Connor. The ruling establishes the "reasonable officer" standard for constitutional use of force, up to and including deadly force. In this article, veteran police sergeant (now retired) Mark Clark discusses how the case came to be, including the original arrest that led to the Supreme Court decision. The article also examines the actual language of the decision. Clark ends the discussion with advice on how Graham can be used in police reports from retired LAPD Capt. Greg Meyer, a POLICE Advisory Board member and noted use-of-force expert. "When you focus on the Graham factors, your police report will be better," Meyer says. "Your report should be specific about what the suspect was doing that caused you to use force." —October 2014

5) Revisiting the "21-Foot Rule"

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Retired police detective, use-of-force expert, and forensic investigator Ron Martinelli is a frequent contributor to POLICE who addressed the so-called "21-Foot Rule" in a 2014 "Winning Edge" piece. He details how the concept of an attacker being able to execute a knife assault from 21 feet away before an officer could draw and fire came from a 1983 experiment by Lt. John Tueller. Martinelli writes that officers tend to misunderstand the intent of the Tueller drill: "I have heard it misstated, misrepresented, and bastardized by use-of-force, firearms, and police practices experts from all sides." Martinelli also reminds officers that the Tueller drill involved drawing a holstered firearm. In addition to looking at what the "21-Foot Rule" really means, Martinelli discusses the science behind officer reactions to deadly threats.—September 2014

6) 20 Things You Need to Know About Night Vision

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For this article on night vision POLICE Editor David Griffith interviewed numerous experts about night vision and thermal devices and how they are used in law enforcement operations. This article looks at how night vision and thermal devices work, explains the generational differences between night vision tubes, what these systems can be used for, what the systems cost, how to evaluate night vision device quality, grants available to law enforcement agencies that want to acquire night vision, alternative technologies that can be used by law enforcement agencies, and the next generation of night vision and thermal devices. Some of the information—such as pricing—from this 2013 article is a bit dated. But it remains one of the popular articles at—March 2013

7) Understanding Armor Plates

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In this article POLICE Managing Editor Melanie Basich consulted a number of experts on the benefits of hard armor for law enforcement and what officers need to know about this protective gear. The first thing most officers think about when discussing hard armor is protection from rifle-wielding active shooters in urban areas, but Georg Olsen, general manager of body armor and plate manufacturer U.S. Armor, says hard armor is also a critical need for rural officers. "I've talked to officers working in rural jurisdictions who say, 'You guys who work in the city, you're wondering if there's going to be a rifle there [on a call]. Out here, we wonder how many,'" Olsen said. This article discusses the different types of hard armor, their performance capabilities, and the benefits and drawbacks of each.—January 2013

8) How To Write Better Police Reports

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This "Winning Edge" article by Mark Tarte discusses how to write more effective and comprehensive reports. We included it in our "Winning Edge" department, which generally involves tactics because quality reports can be critical in an officer's legal defense. "It is incumbent upon you to paint a word picture for the jury and others that will read your reports. You can be the best shot, the fastest runner, an expert at interviewing, and look like a Marine recruiting poster in uniform, but without the ability to write a proper and factual report, it will all be for naught," Tarte wrote. The article also addresses the need to preserve physical evidence of attacks on officers such as torn uniforms and damaged or broken equipment. And of course, it discusses the role of video in evidence capture both for and against the officer.—July 2013

9) Constitutional Home Entry

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This extremely educational "Point of Law" article from Devallis Rutledge focuses on when law enforcement officers can legally enter someone's home. He wrote: "Private residences enjoy the highest levels of Fourth Amendment protection against governmental intrusion. 'The Fourth Amendment protects an individual's privacy in a variety of settings. In none is the zone of privacy more clearly defined than when bounded by the unambiguous physical dimensions of an individual's home.' (Payton v. New York)" The article details 10 reasons that officers can enter private homes: search warrant, arrest warrant, consent, rescue, threat to officer or public safety, prevent imminent destruction of evidence, fresh pursuit of a dangerous suspect, prevent escape of detainee/arrestee, prevent substantial property damage, and probation or parole search. Rutledge cautions: "When exigencies require immediate action, search warrants are unnecessary; however, if the situation is not immediately threatening, it's best for you, your department, and your local prosecutor that you get a warrant. Warrants increase your protection against civil liability (Messerschmidt v. Millender) and reduce the risks of suppression of evidence. (U.S. v. Ventresca) This is why your rule-of-thumb should be: seek a search warrant whenever practicable."—February 2014

10) Military Vets Joining Law Enforcement

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Former contributing Editor Mark Clark wrote this article about military veterans returning from the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan to pursue law enforcement careers. The article discusses why vets are well suited to police work, why the transition from military life to the civilian world can be difficult for some vets, and how some organizations help vets find civilian job opportunities in law enforcement and other professions. One expert told Clark, "Some 20% of returning veterans are seeking civilian law enforcement jobs. Some actually go into the military with the long-term goal of being a civilian police officer." In addition to looking at why some agencies want or don't want military vets in their recruit ranks, the article discusses how law enforcement officers with National Guard and military reserve commitments have been affected by the wars.—January 2014

11) Rethinking Active Shooter Response

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Ever since the 1999 Columbine school massacre and even before, active shooters have been a serious concern for American law enforcement officers. This article by J.D. Lightfoot discusses the different tactics that officers can use to engage an active killer. Lightfoot focuses on the effectiveness of double- and single-officer response and he explains that officers have some advantages in these encounters. Lightfoot wrote: "You have been trained to deal with active shooter incidents. In most cases, the active shooter is not a trained combat operative. You have been trained and you can use your training to take the fight to him and foil his plans for mass murder." He explains that proper training is an important aspect of effective active shooter response. "One great way to practice these techniques and tactics is in force-on-force training. Many agencies, especially those that are progressive, make force-on-force training with airsoft guns, Simunition (marking rounds), or paintball guns an integral part of their regular training schedules. The benefits of this type of training are well known, and if your department doesn't provide it, then find some of this training on your own. It's the kind of experience that can really make a difference when the bullets are real."—February 2013

12) Second Careers

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Former POLICE Senior Editor Dean Scoville wrote this feature article on a question facing many officers: "What will I do when I retire from law enforcement?" This article looks at both officers who retired with 25 or 30 years on the job and those who retired earlier for medical reasons, including PTSD. Scoville also discusses the tendency of officers to go back into law enforcement after a long career. The article includes the stories of officers who retired to take the position of chief at other agencies and some who became part-time patrol officers. "The Age Discrimination in Employment Act allows agencies to establish mandatory retirement ages, but it does not require them to do so. To the contrary, many agencies believe that having access to experienced officers outweighs the dangers that older officers may face," Scoville wrote. The article also discusses a wide variety of non-law enforcement jobs officers gravitate to in retirement, including security, private investigations, insurance investigator, and police trainer.—August 2013

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