These Can Kill CopsBy Calibre Press | Oct 30, 2019
1. Lack of focus. If you fail to stay alert and keep your mind on the job while on patrol or you carry distracting “home” issues with you into the field you’re more susceptible to making errors. Potentially fatal ones. Keep your head in the game.
2. Tombstone courage. Danger is part of the job, but unnecessarily going it alone and putting yourself in increased jeopardy is foolish if that can be avoided. If you’re in a high-risk situation like needing to apprehend a dangerous subject or making a high-risk entry, wait for backup if at all reasonably possible. That won’t always be an option but when it is, use it.
3. Not getting enough rest. Obviously, this can be easier said than done, but it’s critical. Lack of sleep can have a load of negative ramifications that can be extremely serious, both in the short term and the long. It can cloud decision-making, reduce reaction times, impair your level of situational awareness and even cause serious illness over time. Do not overlook the need for sleep and make sure you take proactive steps to get it. Given the time demands you face and the shift changes you may be experiencing that can be tough, but it’s rarely impossible. Create a sleep plan and follow it.
4. Relinquishing a position of advantage. Always maintain a tactically dominant position, both on foot and in your unit, and never fall prey to having someone subtly take that away from you. If you’re on foot, stay alert for subjects who resist your positioning commands or start to slide into a position that decreases your tactical leverage. If you’re executing a traffic stop, watch for drivers who try to control the location of the stop. Don’t be lured into a location that puts you at a disadvantage.
5. Missing danger signs. Be sure you’re well trained in spotting danger cues–both in people and situations–and tactically prepared to respond to a threat quickly and effectively (check out our popular Read, Recognize, Respond course for more). Alert officers can successfully preempt an attack by picking up on threatening body language or using skilled situational awareness abilities to pick up on changes in the dynamic of the setting. Overlooking or ignoring these signs can be a big mistake.
6. Failure to watch the hands. Watching the hands is a foundational officer safety principle but an area where seasoned officers may slack over time. A subject’s hands can tell you a lot and can tip you off to imminent trouble. Are you alert to the hands enough to notice if they slide into a pocket? Is the person you’re dealing with balling their fists? Are they heading for a waistband? Always be watching.
7. Relaxing too soon. When a high-stress situation hits a pinnacle point and something happens – say rounds are fired and a suspect is down or a threatening person is taken to the ground and subdued – that theoretical calm immediately following the storm can be deceiving. Remember that just because a subject is down may not necessarily mean they are out of the fight. Similarly, just because a volatile setting or situation seems to have calmed down doesn’t mean it can’t pick up speed again very quickly. You certainly need to relax to a healthy degree but be cautious about the timing of your decompression and don’t let calming down transition into tuning out tactically.
8. Improper handcuffing…or no cuffing at all. Proper cuffing techniques are “basic” but critical. Don’t cuff in front. Remember that a half-cuffed subject who gains control of the open cuff is now armed with a serious weapon if they know how to use that cuff as a slashing or stabbing weapon. If cuffing is warranted, don’t forego it to be nice. If a suspect is complaining that his/her cuffs are too tight, be leery of loosening them and if you do, be sure the final result is sufficient enough to avoid slipping out. Stay alert while you’re cuffing. Don’t let that common but critical task become mindless rote behavior.
9. No search or poor search. Poor or skipped searches have cost officers’ their lives. On the other hand, methodical, thorough searches have surfaced even the most well-hidden weapons and potentially saved officer lives. It can’t be said enough: Search. Thoroughly. Every time. Remember the Plus One Rule. And when taking custody of a suspect from another officer, it’s a good idea to search again for your own safety.
10. Avoidable gear malfunctions. Make sure the critical tools of your trade are well cared for and functioning at full capacity. Be regimented about cleaning your gun. Be cognizant of the state of your ammo. Make sure your duty gear isn’t going to fail or become an obstruction under pressure. Take care of your gear. Your tactical training is sometimes only as good as the tools that will allow you to implement it.