A New Year’s Letter from the Chief

Jeff Chudwin reflects on, and addresses, the times we’re in

By Jeff Chudwin  |   Jan 13, 2015

Editor’s note: Following is an email the Jeff Chudwin sent out during the holidays to his closest friends in law enforcement and the military. In it he addresses the current state of community-police relations and international threats. Chief Chudwin is a man whose words, through earned experience, carry weight. Enjoy, but take care!

To all law enforcement and military service men and women serving at home and worldwide: Best to you this New Year.

For all of you away from home who protect us so that we can live free of attack in our homes and nation, there is no measure of gratitude to adequately thank you.

Following are some thoughts on where we stand.

These are difficult times for all serving in our military and law enforcement. The foreign enemies of freedom are on the move on the battlefields of land, space and cyber world. We are at a level of threat that has not existed for many years.

Here at home the level of violence and the pure hatred of the police has not been seen in nearly four decades.

I began police work in 1974, the most costly year, in terms of lives lost, in law enforcement history. As I was being trained, my partner said to me as we sat down in a restaurant, “Take your revolver out of your holster and put it in your lap under a napkin.”

I looked around and saw nothing. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“Some a****** is going to come through that door and try to shoot you. You are not going to let that happen.”

All those years ago, when officers were under attack, he knew what was coming and would occur. His message was simple: Keep your head on a swivel and stay switched on.

While you don’t have to literally put your pistol in your lap, the message could not be clearer: When working the street, eating lunch, moving through the station parking lot or building, there is no “safe place.” You have to be alert, aware and ready for what comes.

The ambush attacks on police officers in the early 70s are now repeated. History does come full circle and while the events may be different, the motivation of those who would have chaos and anarchy remain the same. They are a small number but today get big attention and draw others to their twisted thinking. Whether ISIS or the police haters, they look to draw the unstable to their cause and action.

Officers on the street and troops in the field must know that if they act according to policy, law and with the training they receive, that their command will stand with them; even when there is a bad ending.

Because, the one thing we cannot guarantee is the ending. The criminal offender or enemy combatant has a large say in all that happens. It is not TV where the good guys win every time and no one but the bad guys get hurt.

Our work rarely requires the use of deadly force to defeat such threats. But when it does, you have to have Lt. Wayne Thompson’s survival equation in place. As I was taught by one of the best police officers I have known: “You have to know what you can do, when you can do it, and be prepared to do it immediately.”

Those officers who are confident in their knowledge of law and policy and who train to a high standard have a greater level of confidence. That translates into greater competence on the street.

We cannot give up or give in to the current climate or the violent attacks. It is the tide of history once again and you cannot fight the tide. You must swim with it, adapt and find solid footing. We can be better prepared and more focused in our efforts and while that seems so obvious, unless you are in the middle of the fight, right now, we do not see it happening “here.”

When we are not challenged by difficult times, it is easy to allow complacency to take over. Training is set aside. Lessons learned are forgotten or disregarded. Nothing bad has happened. (To which we will add the word “yet.”)

As professionals—and all who serve are indeed professionals—there is a requirement to be up to speed and remain vigilant. Complacency is the greatest danger as it is the path by which all manner of threats can reach you.

What we can do is constantly assess if we are doing the right thing, in the right place, at the right time, in the right way. It is what long time trainer and friend Brian Willis so aptly points out in his WIN training: What’s Important Now? This moment, what should I be focused on?

Is action needed right now? Can I slow down to be sure that I am not driving or running into the kill zone? Where is my back up and is there time to wait and observe until he or she or they arrive?

Can you stay ahead of the offender, as our new friends Patrick Van Horne and Jason Riley write in their book ‘Left of Bang”? Do you see the danger before it is on you?

Is part of your tactical training and thinking, tactical movement off the line of threat? Will you move and, if needed, disengage to gain assistance or move to another location, when you cannot win the fight where you are? It is not running away but fighting from a position of advantage.

When the fight is in close, master trainer and ITOA presenter Lt. Jeff Hall (Alaska State Troopers, ret.) teaches that every officer must be prepared to stand and aggressively finish the fight.

Is your response a pure adrenaline event or a reasoned action?

Can you spare ten seconds on every call to have a conversation with yourself?

Are you willing to have this brief talk with yourself, seconds only that can save your life, your job, your future?

Ask yourself if you have your seatbelt on; are you wearing your body armor; did you bring your patrol rifle and gear with you; is your speed appropriate for the conditions and location; do you have adequate information on the event/crime/offender/location/threat level/timing (hint: mostly we do not); and can you request more, ask if you have a plan or are you charging in blindly; do you know where you are going or are you following others? …

These are easy questions to ask, but there’s no guarantee the answer will be available when you need it. Key factors you can control are: body armor, seatbelts, rifle, gear, speed you drive and approach—these are TOTALLY up to you. Set your gear up at the very start of your work. Let safety issues be so well trained and practiced that they are part of your unconscious actions.

This is what the Below 100 initiative is all about and if you have not been involved, I highly recommend you do so now.

The great author Steven Pressfield wrote “The Warrior Ethos.” He says this about the evolution of the Warrior Ethos: “Every warrior virtue proceeds from this—courage, selflessness, love of and loyalty to one’s comrades, patience, self-command, the will to endure adversity …”

If we hold true to these virtues as the protectors of our nation and our communities, we cannot and will not fail.

We will endure the current and future adversity, because this is why we exist. We are about the hard times and making them safe for those who depend on us. As it’s been said before: If not us, who? If not now, when?

This is our time and all who guard the gates of our nation and our communities as United States Military and of The Thin Blue Line of law enforcement are up to this and any challenge.

Stand tall and resolute. You are the best we have.

God bless. Stay safe and ready.




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Jeff Chudwin
Chief Jeff Chudwin served 38 years and retired in 2012 as the Chief of Police for the Village of Olympia Fields IL. He is a founding member and president of the Illinois Tactical Officers Association (ITOA). Since 1978 he has provided training to police officers and agencies on a number of law enforcement related subjects including legal issues of police use of force, court testimony / report writing, tactical firearms use, and officer survival at conferences throughout the country. As a former assistant states attorney, he represented officers involved in high-level use of force incidents and speaks on matters of personal safety, school violence, and counter terrorism to both law enforcement and civic groups. He writes for law enforcement publications on the issues of police use of force, firearms training, and SWAT and patrol functions. Chief Chudwin deployed as a member of the ILEAS Task Force Illinois in response to the Hurricane Katrina EMAC request by the State of Louisiana in September 2005.
Jeff Chudwin

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