Whether we like it or not, we live in a universe of cycles. The climate, the economy, social issues and civilization itself is cyclical. Humans can influence those cycles, but they cannot be stopped. Sometimes we are the beneficiaries and sometimes we are the victims. It’s tough to notice when things are going well, and sometimes it’s devastating when things don’t go so well.
There was no faster cycle to witness in my lifetime than September 11th, 2001. Within 24 hours we witnessed the very worst and the very best mankind could offer. A heinous, unspeakable tragedy and shortly later a country was united. An American flag on virtually every porch and an incredible, palpable change in our country that I was proud to witness and will never forget. Unfortunately that cycle was short-lived, maybe a month or two. It didn’t last as long as we all would have liked, but it sure was great while it lasted. For those who had the privilege of working during those days, anybody wearing a uniform was treated like a hero and stood on a pedestal. Military, fire, police, EMS; it didn’t matter. The city, town or state didn't matter either. I’ll never forget it, but sadly it was just another cycle.
So the cycle has changed yet again. On August 9th, 2014 our profession and many attitudes throughout our country has changed. In many respects, it has changed forever. The media now hovers like cats at a mouse hole for the next shooting. The facts surrounding the shooting used to be the story, now the first question is about the race of the actors and the officers. They want video and they want all the facts and they demand it NOW. Journalists are now treated like used car salesmen. “Page views” are the new standard by which journalism is judged. Facts and two sides of a story was the old way. Now editors base the success or failure of a writer by page views and comments. Responsible reporting is now conveniently tucked somewhere behind profits.
In 2015 we have come to tally the deaths of our brothers and sisters like a tote board at a telethon. “15….16….17 deaths since August 1st”. The leader of our country is strangely silent throughout the carnage. Unfortunately it doesn’t fit neatly into an agenda that I’ve yet to comprehend and I'm not sure I ever will. A Texas deputy is assassinated filling up his patrol car and the President of the United States goes on reality TV. A cop is ambushed, tortured and murdered in his own home and the President renames a mountain. Our Governor couldn't run away from us fast enough shortly after he took his first oath of office. He’s happier terminating entire police departments, destroying our pension & benefits and vilifying us on the campaign trail than offering his support when we need it most. Needless to say it has been a terrible year on many fronts. I'm not sure the cycle has ever been darker or deeper for us.
We've all heard the cliché; “this too shall pass”. It will, but unfortunately it will come with a tragic price. We will be burying more of our brothers and sisters and we will be forced to watch (and probably protect) protests from those with baseless agendas and those who hate us before this cycle ends. We will endure the rush to judgment by the media and the baiters who continue to profit from it. We will be second and third guessed by the “experts” and even by our own. Our profession will survive. Unfortunately the minority has a hold of the microphone right now. Their shallow and baseless narrative will grow old when they realize that nearly a million of us go to work every day in this country and do the right thing and do it extraordinarily well. We will unfortunately make tragic mistakes because we are not machines and this isn't one big TV show filled with happy endings. Our actions are often violent and ugly to watch, but the decision to make it violent and ugly rarely rests with us. Eventually, the few that are not here for the right reasons will hopefully get weeded out before they can do more damage to the rest of us.
I'll admit that there are more dangerous professions out there, but fishermen, miners and loggers aren't getting attacked and assassinated by people who hate them and that is what makes us different. They don't have to get dressed in a uniform that identifies them and constantly watch their back for someone that hates what it stands for and doesn't care who is wearing it. Other professions have accidents, we are getting murdered.
We serve in a noble and proud profession. The cycle will change and it is happening already. Know that the overwhelming majority of those we protect and serve respect and know what we do every day. Unfortunately they don't have a financed and organized agenda nor do they have the free time to keep the agenda alive. What is good and right will eventually prevail, it always does.
Until that day comes, we must play with the cards we have been dealt to us. Make a plan for situations and scenarios with your families. Keep your head on a swivel and please wear your vest. Wait for backup when you can because we don't like to bury heroes. Read the 10 deadly errors again, because sometimes we forget them. We always have to be safe out there, but these are special times for us.
BE SAFE and please remember; this too shall pass.
The 10 Deadly Errors
1. LACK OF CONCENTRATION: If you fail to keep your mind on the job while on patrol or carry home problems into the field, you start to make errors. It can cost you and your fellow officers their lives.
2. TOMBSTONE COURAGE: Just what it says, if time allows wait for backup. There are very few instances where you should try and make a dangerous apprehension unaided.
3. NOT ENOUGH REST: to do your job you must be alert. Lack of sleep or being sleepy can endanger yourself, the community and fellow officers.
4. TAKING A BAD POSITION: Never let anyone you are questioning or about to stop get in a better position than you are. THERE IS NO SUCH ANIMAL AS A ROUTINE STOP!!!
5. NOT HEEDING DANGER SIGNS: As a cop you will get to recognize "danger signs". Movements, strange cars, warnings that should alert you to watch your step and approach with caution. Know your beat and watch for what is out of place.
6. FAILURE TO WATCH THE HANDS OF A SUSPECT: Is he or she reaching for a weapon or getting to smack you? WHERE ELSE CAN A KILLER STRIKE FROM, BUT FROM THEIR HANDS!!!!
7. RELAXING TOO SOON: YES, the rut of false alarms are accidental or whatever. Still, observe the activity. NEVER take any call as routine or just another false alarm. It could be your ass on the line.
8. IMPROPER HANDCUFFING: Once you have made the arrest, handcuff the prisoner CORRECTLY! See that the hands that can kill you are safely secured.
9. NO SEARCH OR POOR SEARCH: There are too many places to hide a weapon that if you fail to search you are guilty of committing a crime against other officers that will have contact with your prisoner. Many people carry weapons and are able and ready to use them on you. Never assume that the next guy or the jailer will do a "GOOD" search.
10. DIRTY OF INOPERATIVE WEAPON: Is your sidearm clean? How about the bullets? Did you clean your weapon since the last range? Or have you even shot or practiced drawing your weapon recently? Can you hit your target in a combat situation? You must practice faithfully and religiously.