Nov 062010


Regardless of where you are in your law enforcement career, there’s something that motivates you — or de-motivates you — to do the job the way you are doing it. Some possible motivators are:

• striving for promotion
• having a good boss or good working conditions
• hitting specific job performance expectations (i.e., stats)
• enjoying the contentment that comes from doing a good job
• needing to do well enough to keep your present assignment

Or if it’s a matter of de-motivation, maybe:

• you’re tired of your good work being unappreciated
• you’ve had enough of banging your head against the wall that stands between you and that promotion you know you deserve
• you’ve got some justified cynicism
• you feel a lack of support from the community
• your chain of command, or someone in it, doesn’t have your respect

Each of those examples are righteously justifiable motivators (or de-motivators). You can probably think of guys and gals who fit each. Maybe a few fit you?


Insufficient Ethical Frameworks

Many motivators/de-motivators in police work are insufficient ethical frameworks to support and maintain a healthy long-term work (and life) disposition. This can be a compounding problem, because if a fluctuating attitude about your job is the primary determinant of how you perform your job, it will be the circumstances you are under at the time — and not core principles that you live by — that control what you do and how you do it. Furthermore, since we are really not capable of compartmentalizing this type of thinking, other aspects of your life outside of work can be similarly affected. Personal wellness and happiness, a secure and balanced home life, and vital relationships with others (both at work and beyond work) can be compromised too. With the wrong thing motivating or de-motivating you, those things can be at risk.


If what motivates/de-motivates you as a cop is based on something transactional (in other words, based upon giving or getting something in return), you may be setting yourself up for disappointment, and ultimately, some level of dysfunction. Transactional motivators are those in which there is an expectation for certain results to come to you because of something that you do or don’t do.

For example: “If I do a good job on this case, I can use it to help make detectives” or “if I go the extra mile for my demanding sergeant, he’ll lay off” or “as long as I get my forty movers (rolling traffic cites) for the month, I’ll keep my motors assignment” or… you get the idea. These are all transactional motivators. Similarly, transactional de-motivators can be things like not wanting to produce because of lousy work conditions, or even, “Why bother busting my hump? My paycheck will be the same regardless.”

Either as motivators or de-motivators, these kinds of perspectives can ultimately lead to an emotional dead end. Like a stiff drink, they may provide some short term relief or satisfaction, but they can also lead to ruin. This is primarily true because by entering into this kind of thinking, the principles and core values you live by can take a back seat to situations and events that are often beyond your control. And since our profession is the ultimate in workplace paradoxes, this is especially true for law enforcement.

The noble ideals that our corps rightfully claims — things like truth, justice, fidelity and courage, often collide with the realities of injustice, corruption, systematic dysfunction, and treachery. And that’s just inside our walls. What we internally believe about truth, about justice, fidelity, and the like is not always played out on the stage in front of us. After seeing this over and over again, our commitment to our principles can really take a hit. Transactional thinking can start eating away at our core values. After a while, instead of being the predictable white knights of life’s chessboard, we can allow ourselves to become mere pawns of circumstance.


The Cancer of Compromise

When you allow your core values to be up for barter, that is to say, when you are willing to compromise how you respond to what you believe in based upon what happens, you are exposing your flank. If your principles can be compromised for the sake of temporal results at work, you’d be surprised what can get inside your armor. The things you call principles may cease to be, as they’re slowly replaced by situationally-based dependencies.

Principles are so-called because they are applied universally. Too many people (and particularly, law enforcement “leaders” it frequently seems) want to selectively apply what they call principles to a situation, but it’s dependent upon the situation they’re dealing with at the time. In doing so, their ethical framework changes from being principle or virtue based, to being situationally based. These are really two opposing philosophical paradigms (duty or virtue ethicism, i.e., principle-based thinking, versus consequentialism, i.e., “the ends justify the means” thinking). It’s easy to claim to live by a set of principles, virtues, or core values, but unless they are universally applied — regardless of the situation — the cancer of compromise will be creeping into your armor and before you know it you and your values will be changing for the worse.

Because of this, all of us in law enforcement need to make up our minds about what motivates us. In fulfilling our role as guardians of the law, we need to decide for ourselves if there are indeed things that are fundamentally right, and things that are fundamentally wrong. In other words, is there a moral “true north”, or is truth itself relative and dependent? Aspiring to principled living, virtues, and core values, especially as a cop, means trusting in a true north — right and wrong — to guide you. Trying to apply principles situationally is like trying to find true north with a weathervane.


Why Avoid Situationally-based Ethics?

Law enforcement is a profession full of high purpose. Universal principles and immutable core values are our best motivators, and the best means for fulfilling our vital role. When you decide to perform your work duties out of a motivation that cannot be swayed by this-for-that reciprocities (be them positive or negative) your work life just gets simpler. Also, you’ll be less prone to be emotionally buffeted by whatever happens around you, good or bad. The stuff that gets under your skin now, won’t.

In fact, our job may be the best one out there to stay wedded to our core values. That’s because, unlike other work, most all the real power and authority, where values are most important, is exerted at our lowest hierarchical levels. The ‘Brass’ mostly stay in their offices and then go home at night. Yet even the most junior cop, once he hits the street, is the one out there independently implementing our government’s greatest power and authority. Will you do so based upon what you believe in and the honor of your role, or will you let the circumstances and transactional thinking decide these things for you?

Doing the right thing for the right reason regardless of the situation avoids hypocrisy and makes you authentic. It covers your flank, guards your heart, and regardless of what others who live transactionally might be thinking, saying, or doing — ultimately, it puts you in line for true success.

Also, it’s a great model for your kids, and maybe even your boss.

So, decide what you believe about your job and your role in society, and then live it. You’ll soon see that the things that used to affect you when you worked transactionally, won’t. Principle-based motivations will keep you above the fray. And more than likely, you’ll find that over the long haul, things will start working out for you for the better. Transactionally speaking, living a principled life just seems to do that.

Now that’s a great motivator.

About the Author
Dave Edmonds, a patrol captain at Sonoma County (Calif.) Sheriff’s Office, is a 27-year law enforcement veteran. Captain Edmonds writes about the cop culture and winning at work and in life. He welcomes your feedback at

About the author

P1 First Person essays are the place where P1 Members candidly share their own unique view of the world. This is a platform from which our members can share their own personal insights on issues confronting cops today, as well as opinions, observations, and advice on living life behind the thin blue line. Want to share your own perspective with other P1 Members? Send us an e-mail with your story.

Nov 042010

Reprinted from PoliceOne

Many cops aren’t even allowed to attempt a purist of a perpetrator riding a high-speed motorcycle — the problem is that these criminals know it!

Editor’s Note: In early August, Washington State Trooper Brian Salyer encountered a group of motorcyclists — increasingly brazen in their driving because they know a single patrol car is no match for their high-speed bikes — and ended up overturned in a ditch beside the interstate. Happily, he was treated for traumatic head injuries and a laceration to an artery in his neck before being released from the hospital, but bag guys on bikes pose myriad dangers. Below, PoliceOne Columnist Andrew Hawkes asks our members for help with the question, “What can we do?”

Having been on the street in some form or capacity for the majority of my career, I’ve learned to take things in stride and not get too upset about policy changes or changes in the statutes. As law enforcement officers, it’s our job to enforce the law impartially — without prejudice — whether or not we agree with all the laws we are required to enforce. However, there is one change we’ve seen on the streets in the past several years that just plain chaps my hide. It is the fact that most agencies now do not allow their officers to pursue café style motorcycles — more commonly known as “crotch rockets” — and the perpetrators riding these bikes know it. It just plain pisses me off is that these criminals know we’re all but helpless in enforcing the law when they speed past us, popping a “wheelie” at 100+ miles per hour.

Even when an officer does hit his red and blues to conduct a traffic stop, the motorcyclist looks back, shrugs his shoulders, and takes off. He has just committed a felony and there are absolutely no repercussions for it! It’s to the point in my state that it’s practically and epidemic, and no one (other than us cops) is even discussing it, let alone doing anything to stop it.

The very notion that these individuals will run from the police should be an indicator as to what type of culture these “motorcyclist” are involved in. They are not merely riding these motorcycles for transportation or for leisure. If they commit a felony and disregard a police officer it should be an indication that they probably are involved in other types of illegal activity as well. But we are just supposed to turn our heads as if it never happened.

I understand that trying to catch these guys is nearly impossible unless they wreck out or you have a helicopter that can assist, but there has got to be a better solution than just giving up and turning off your lights.

The fact is not only do they criminals instantly win, but now the officer can face internal trouble and even criminal charges for pursuing these bikes.

So what is the solution? What can we do? I guess that’s what I’m asking our readers here on PoliceOne. Let’s brainstorm and do something. Can we get the legislatures involved somehow? Could the manufacturers of these motorcycles help in some way? Could the state department of motor vehicles impose certain restrictions? With today’s technology, surely there is some type of system that we could track or identify someone who fails to yield to a police officer. Let’s make this column into something of a discussion forum. Someone out there has a solution to this problem. I want them to make themselves known in the comments below.

I’m certainly open for suggestions. Of course, when these guys run from us, 99 percent of us would just like to…well, I think we all know what we would like to do when these guys try to run, but maybe I’ll leave that to the reader comments as well.

For now, however, next time I see one speeding down the interstate at 100 mph doing a wheelie, I’ll just wave and smile at the felon as he flips me off, then I’ll punch my steering wheel and cuss a blue streak till I calm down.

About the author

Lt. Hawkes is a 19-year police veteran. In addition to his years of highway drug interdiction, Lt. Hawkes has worked in patrol, K9, investigations, narcotics and administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Dallas Baptist University and is a graduate of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He has been the recipient of both State and Local awards. His book, Secrets of Successful Highway Interdiction, which can be purchased here,, contains eleven chapters on Highway Drug Interdiction.

Nov 032010

Reprinted from PoliceOne
By John Bennett

Violent offenders are predators, and predators tend to prey upon the weak

Twice in my career I have heard stories of officers being feloniously killed in the line of duty, the impact of which has been of particular significance to me. In one case, an officer stopped a suspect who, unbeknownst to the officer, had committed a violent crime. The suspect was unaware if law enforcement had yet learned of his exploits and was prepared to kill the officer in order to avoid apprehension. This officer, too, was unaware — unaware of the circumstances surrounding the violator he had just stopped. Thus, the officer completed the traffic stop and allowed the suspect to get back underway. The next officer the suspect encountered, however, wasn’t as lucky.

The second incident involves a man who claimed God had told him to kill a police officer. The man armed himself with a firearm and staked out a busy intersection awaiting the arrival of his prey. After a period of time, he watched as a local policeman conducted a traffic stop. The suspect approached the officer from behind and killed him. During the investigation that followed, it was discovered that earlier in the day the suspect had observed another officer at that same intersection handling an accident. The suspect, however, chose to wait for another target.

Why? It was later determined in both incidents that the officers who were not assaulted possessed something the two victim officers did not: command presence.

In both cases, the suspects stated they chose not to assault the officers that first presented themselves because they did not feel they would be easy targets and could fail in their attempts. Both officers carried themselves and performed in a manner that led the ‘predator’ suspects to look for easier ‘prey’.

Beginning in 1992, the FBI published reports of three studies conducted involving felonious assaults on police officers: Killed in the Line of Duty: A Study of Selected Felonious Killings of Law Enforcement Officers (1992), as well as In the Line of Fire: Violence Against Law Enforcement (1997), and Violent Encounters: A Study of Felonious Assaults on Our Nation’s Law Enforcement Officers (2006). In these studies, researchers studied more than one hundred thirty (130) incidents in which officers were feloniously assaulted (both injured and killed) and interviewed several dozen officers and offenders.

One point in the Violent Encounters study particularly stood out: the bad guys size us up and scope us out.

While this is certainly nothing new, it confirms what many of us have (or should have) known all along. Following are a couple of salient points I gleaned from the study:

• Much like anyone else who interacts with another person, offenders assess people, including LEOs

… The most dangerous offenders in such situations are those who are often described as predatory, as psychopaths or as anti-social personalities.

… Because (offenders) do not experience the same levels of stress as most people, they are less distracted by either internal or external factors.

… In circumstances where (offenders) feel that an officer has the edge, they respond as one such predator advised, “I just sit back and wait — somebody gonna make a mistake. That’s when I win.”

• Suspects’ experiences with the criminal justice system resulted in familiarization with LE practices, as well as the opportunity to observe LE-related behaviors of different officers. Scrutinizing these behaviors helped the offenders learn how to evaluate all officers in general, regardless of the nature of the particular LE activity or agency.

… The offenders evaluated such actions as officers’ response times, types of approaches, as well as handcuffing, searching, and transporting procedures. Interaction with specific officers and agencies allowed the offenders to observe and evaluate a variety of officers performing their duties under specific circumstances. One offender stated, “I knew who was working which shift, when vice was working, who the lazy officers were, and who the hot dogs were.”

Human beings conduct this type of activity when encountering other human beings, whether we realize we’re doing it or not. EVERYONE we come into contact with is sizing us up and does so quickly.

In his book ‘Blink’, author Malcolm Gladwell describes a phenomenon called ‘thin-slicing’ — the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience. In layman’s terms, ‘thin-slicing’ is our brain’s ability to filter out all but the essential information required to make quick judgments. And these judgments, although formed quickly, are surprisingly accurate. This occurs very quickly; so quickly, in fact, that most of us do not even realize we’ve done it. But it does occur and it is done to us.

Although we can do nothing to stop individuals from sizing us up, we can control how they perceive us through the aura we project. What we must consider is how we as police officers are going to be perceived by those who would do us harm, and what we can do to mold that in our favor.

For example, when you don your uniform and look in the mirror, what do you see? Is the individual in the mirror one who commands respect or gives off the signals of struggling prey? Do you project a professional aura or air of authority; or do you appear apathetic- as if you couldn’t care less? Are you confident or nervous, timid and unsure of yourself? As shallow as the human species can seem at times, only 35 percent of our communication between each other is of the verbal variety. That means that two-thirds of what we ‘say’ is transmitted through non-verbal means: body language and appearance. The body doesn’t lie.

But how can we cultivate that command presence — body language that conveys authority, confidence and respect? Start with introspection. Begin by conducting an honest self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, but BE HONEST. Lie and you’re not only hurting yourself, but you could cost someone — including YOU! — his or her life. List your strengths and weaknesses. If you’re honest, you’ll have a few actual strengths and several weaknesses. The secret then is to make the most of your strengths and work to improve on your weaknesses so eventually maybe you can move a few of them into the strength column.

Then ask yourself: Do I have confidence in myself?

Do you have confidence that you can perform your job effectively while protecting the rights of those you have sworn to protect… that you can handle threats as they present themselves to you… that you can successfully go home at the end of your shift without having jeopardized the safety of your fellow officers and the public… that you can take a life… that you can do this job RIGHT.

If that answer is “No”, you have some work and some soul searching to do.

To improve, build confidence in yourself by developing a thorough knowledge of the academic requirements of our job- statutory law, case law, law of arrest, search and seizure and policy. Know what you can and can’t do, especially when confronted by the street lawyer who challenges, “You can’t do that!”

Develop your physical skills. Study defensive tactics and sharpen your shooting skills. Develop that warrior mindset that allows you to become the predator and not the prey. Become confident in your abilities. Develop your body because as Major Dick Winters — the biggest brother of the ‘Band of Brothers’ — says, “Physical stamina is the root of mental toughness.”

Learn to make eye contact with those with whom you come into contact. The eyes are windows to the soul and can betray you by exposing fear or your lack of confidence to another.

Build credibility and become a leader. Then lead through example and show not only what to do, but how to do it. Good leadership requires confidence and outward displays of confidence (not cockiness) can evoke a command presence.

And in doing this, never allow your confidence to outrun your competence — you will fall and fall hard. Competence is measurable; confidence is subjective. Remain humble and compassionate; be professional and courteous- and have a plan to kill everyone you meet. Go home at the end of every shift; stay out of jail; keep your job.

And remember — everything in life is a graded event. Remember, they’re sizing us up.

About the author

John Bennett is a lieutenant with the Charleston (IL) Police Department and is in his nineteenth year with that agency. John’s career has been spent at the patrol-level and includes an eight year stint as the department’s first canine handler; during which time he handled a dual-trained Malinois, Rex. John is a black belt martial artist and in addition to his patrol and supervisory duties at the police department, is the chief firearms and defensive tactics instructor for his agency. John currently supervises a training staff of five instructors. An instructor himself, John holds numerous instructor certifications and specializes in use of force, defensive tactics and tactical firearms instruction. John has trained officers both in and outside his agency for more than 16 years; nationally and abroad. John can be reached by emailing

Nov 022010

By Dan Marcou, PoliceOne Columnist

The Four Horsemen of career apocalypse — anger, lust, greed, and peer pressure — can end a cop’s livelihood as surely as a bullet can end their life.

Many officers affix a favorite photo to the visor of the patrol car at the beginning of each shift to remind themselves that they will do everything in their power to insure that they will survive the shift and return home to that family. There are many potential dangers officers have to be mentally and physically be prepared to resist. These dangers include criminals, ambushers, domestic abusers and the Four Horsemen. “What do you mean, the Four Horsemen?” you ask.

The Four Horsemen
According to Dr. Neal Trautman, there are four compelling forces that bring police careers to an abrupt end as surely as high velocity ammunition. They are anger, lust, greed and peer pressure. Officers need to be prepared to protect themselves against these looming dangers and the havoc they can create on a career and a family. Although not as devastating as the biblical horsemen, Pestilence, War, famine and death, officers succumbing to anger, lust, greed and peer pressure have discovered that they may lead them to a career apocalypse.

A career in law enforcement affords every officer countless opportunities to become legitimately angry over the things that are done and said to them. Most civilians could never tolerate the onslaught of verbal and physical abuse police officers are subjected to on a daily basis, but they expect a stoic professional response from their police officers.

You can look at this two ways. You can say it is unfair, or you can appreciate the confidence the public has in you. Regardless, there is truth in the words of the late Eldon Mueller, “The man who angers you conquers you.”

The police professional can expect to be verbally and physically assaulted in every manner imaginable. Officers need to prepare themselves to act out of necessity rather than anger. This can be done through physical skill training and mental conditioning. To overreact would not only jeopardize a police professional’s career, but there is a fine line between criminal battery and justifiable use of force. Officers can’t allow suspects to goad them into crossing that line.

In March 2010, Sgt. Scott Krause was convicted of punching a handcuffed prisoner repeatedly for kicking the window of the squad car and demanding to be taken to the bathroom. Krause lost his job and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. This man angered Sergeant Krause and sadly, conquered him.

Police officers are not tempted as often as rock stars, but when and if poor decisions are made, officers can ruin their marriages, careers, and lives for a few moments of pleasure. To paraphrase a wise officer has poster, referring in so many words to lust, “The badge will get ‘it,’ but then ‘it’ will get your badge.”

There are some extreme examples where officers in the past have entered law enforcement already possessing dark criminal desires. Former Officer Marcus Huffman in August of 2010 was sentenced to 40 years in prison after he was convicted of sexually assaulting a female in a police department substation. He had picked her up after he stopped to assist her because she was extremely intoxicated and on foot.

Throughout a career an officer will be entrusted with countless millions worth of merchandise, cash and every material temptation imaginable, during investigations, vehicle contacts and open doors. To their credit most officers never violate the trust placed on them by their communities. There are those that have violated that trust.

For example, in April 2010 Officer Ronald Jackson was sentenced to 18 months in prison for Theft. He stopped a female carrying a large quantity of brand new high tech equipment stolen from Best Buy. The female was arrested on an outstanding warrant. Jackson and his back-up, Officer Christian Brezil split the stolen merchandize and there was no mention of it in their report.

Jackson’s career is over and the former police officer is facing a prison term.

Peer Pressure
The good news is most officers are honorable and courageous police officers, who share their sense of righteousness. However, what if you had witnessed the actions of Krause, Jackson, Brezil, and Huffman? What if these officers were your friends? What if they reminded you of the bond you share and asked you to remain silent?

Would you be prepared to take action which would lead to their firing and criminal prosecution, or succumb to peer pressure? No matter how heinous the crime, it is not an easy arrest to make when the suspect wears the same uniform as you do.

The Path of Honor
Retired Detective Frank Serpico of the New York Police Department once said, “Police work is an honorable career, if you do it honor.”

The path of honor is not always the easy path to follow — there will be many opportunities in a career to take a detour from this path. If you ever find yourself tempted to leave this path, remember the smiling faces of your family in the worn picture on the visor of your squad. Act as if they are watching you and strive to make them proud.

A police officer seeking to hold true to their principals and high values must remember, when tempted to succumb to anger, lust, greed, or peer pressure that they can sell their honor for a penny. Once it is lost, however, it can’t be bought back for a billion dollars.

Looking back after the completion of an honorable career in law enforcement is a source of unspeakable satisfaction. Guard your honor with your life and your life with your honor.

About the author

Dan Marcou retired as a highly decorated police lieutenant and SWAT Commander with 33 years of full time law enforcement experience. He is a nationally recognized police trainer in many police disciplines and is a Master Trainer in the State of Wisconsin. He has authored three novels The Calling: The Making of a Veteran Cop , S.W.A.T. Blue Knights in Black Armor, and Nobody’s Heroes are all available at Barnes and Noble and Visit his website and contact Dan Marcou

Oct 312010


The quality of a Police Department’s written policies, procedures, rules, and regulations can define the success of a cop’s career — both for the good and the bad.

Officer’s lives are on the line every day. Officer’s careers are on the line every day too. In the city where I live there are currently at least two legal cases going on involving police. At least one of these will eventually lead to an interpretation of the rules and regulations of that department come into play. It’s because of these incidents that I decided to write this article about rules and regulations.

First, let me say that I believe most departments out there to have rules and regulations that are first rate, so it should not be implied that I think that there is a crisis within police departments when it comes to rules and regulations. However, it doesn’t hurt to get a friendly reminder about some of the finer do’s and don’ts of writing rules and regulations that can keep your cops’ careers (nd of course, their lives, but for the purposes of this article I’m focusing in on the legal aspect of things) safe from the adverse effects that almost always stem from poorly written policies and procedures.

The first consideration for any rule or regulation is that it must be current. It does no good to have the best regulation on the face of the Earth if it does not address policing in its current state. To that effect, it would be best to have a review of all rules and regulations at least once a year to make sure that they are all current. This tends to be particularly important with those regulations that carry the highest ability to get the officer and the department sued. The most common in this area are use of force policy, arrest policy, and use of firearm policy.

If you look at one attachment, you’ll see part of the regulations for Jamestown PD. It states at the bottom that the Chief of Police shall review all policies annually. This is good but I’m not particularly wild about the Chief doing this. I’m a believer in the notion that 3 heads are better than one. So I prefer a committee composed of a senior ranking officer, a first line supervisor and a patrol officer. The biggest reason I like this is simply there are three different mindsets looking at a regulation and interpreting it from their viewpoint. I think you’d get a better, more comprehensive regulation this way.

The second point about any regulation is that it has to be as inclusive as possible. By that I mean that the regulation has to have all the component parts in it. I’ve also attached a copy of the use-of-force policy for Denver PD. You’ll see that it includes all forms of weapons used by the department. It also lists medical treatment that should be given, qualifications officers need before they can use the weapon, and most importantly, when officers cannot use the weapon. The when you can’t use the weapon is sometimes seen as the most important by courts because it implies that you have given due consideration to the consequences of the officer’s actions. This is always a good point for the police in any civil proceeding.

Finally, any regulation has to be reasonable. A regulation that either requires an officer to perform some extraordinary action, or a regulation that blatantly ignores a dangerous consequence that may arise from its implementation will always be viewed by courts as a sign that the department either doesn’t care about it’s officers and citizens or, worse, was just plain lazy in writing up its regulations. Either view could spell trouble for a department in a civil proceeding.

In connection with the actual writing of the rules and regulations is the administrative actions that should be taken to make sure your manual will withstand scrutiny. First and foremost, officers should be required to show that they understand the policy manual. This can be done simply by giving a ten question test after having the officer take a period of time, say two weeks, to learn the manual. The questions don’t have to be difficult. They should merely be representative of the manual as a whole. This sounds rather strange, but one of the primary tactics of any good civil lawyer is to try to show that an officer did not have an understanding of his or her policy manual and this led to his client’s injury, whatever it might be. An officer could be shown to have a good understanding of the manual by producing the test they took and showing a respectable grade, let’s say in the 90th percentile. This usually defeats such an attack tactic attempted by the civil lawyer.

The other important administrative detail is that the policy manual should be approved by the elected officials that run the government that the department is attached to. This sounds sort of ridiculous, especially if you’ve known some of the elected officials I’ve known, but unfortunately you do need the approval of the governmental entity that you serve to truly make the entire policy manual as legitimate as possible.

Departments should be conscientious enough to send at least one officer to a policy writing class, if you can find one.

Lastly, designate at least one officer to keep track of all legal changes from the United States Supreme Court and your state Supreme Court. Keep any changes in a folder. This will make it easier to amend that which has to be changed when the time comes.

So there you have it. Not exactly a thesis on the subject but I tried to hit the most important highlights. Rules and regulations can be a blessing if you get them right. Get them wrong and you pay. The trick is finding the right balance.

Stay safe.

About the author

After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, Jim Guffey began his Law Enforcement career in 1977 with the Pennsylvania Capitol Police. In 1980 was hired by the Ross Township Police Department. He remained there until January 1, 2002. During that time he worked as a plain-clothes detective, on the traffic division, and was promoted on 1996 to Lieutenant. He remained the Administrative Lieutenant until his retirement. Not satisfied with retirement, he became the Chief of Police in Blairsville Borough in August 2003 and remained there until July 2004.

Oct 052010

P1 Special Report: Blood Lessons: Lessons learned from an off-duty officer involved in fatal shootout at a McDonald’s

by PoliceOne Contributor Scott Buhrmaster

Article submitted by PoliceOne member who would like to remain anonymous

In response to a recent Force Science News article ( Have Gun, Will Travel? ) discussing the issue of off-duty/concealed carry, a sergeant in California shared the following account of a horrific off-duty engagement he and his family unexpectedly fell into. The hard-earned lessons he shares may save your life in an off-duty encounter, so we hope you will take them to heart.

[Editor’s note: Because of the impact this incident has had on his family, this sergeant has asked for anonymity.]

He writes:

I had taken my family to a McDonald’s Restaurant on our way to a pool party. I was off-duty, in civilian clothes, and armed.

I was standing in line and oblivious (like all the other patrons) to the fact that an armed suspect had taken the manager hostage and was forcing her to open the safe in the restaurant’s office. One of the cashiers had seen this and I overheard her telling another employee that the business was being robbed.

At that time, I had approximately 15 years of experience and was a SWAT team member and use-of-force/firearms instructor. I had talked to my wife about such an occurrence and we had a preplanned response. When I told her to take the children and leave the building, she did not hesitate. I began quietly telling employees and patrons to leave. My thinking was to remove as many innocent bystanders as possible and then leave myself.

I thought that because I did not see the suspect enter he must have come in from a side door or employee entrance and I assumed (wrongly) that he would go out the same way. As I was standing near the front counter trying to get some of the kitchen help to get out, the suspect came from the office area and began running in my direction.

I immediately noted the large semi-automatic pistol in his hand. The distance was about 15 to 20 yards. I drew my weapon, announced myself and took a kneeling position behind the counter. Unfortunately, the suspect raised his weapon at me and the gunfight erupted. The suspect fired a total of 2 rounds in my direction. I fired 11, striking him 10 times.

My weapon was now empty and I ran from the line of fire to reload my spare magazine. I then approached the downed suspect and could tell that he was seriously wounded. It was right then that I considered that there might be more than one “bad guy” (the thought had not crossed my mind before this) and I began to scan the 360 to check.

I immediately noticed a small child lying behind me. I saw blood pooling under her head and knew at a glance she was dead. One of the bullets fired at me had struck this child. Unbeknownst to me, my family had tried to exit out the fire door, which was locked. My wife was still trying to get out when the shooting started and she pushed my kids under a table where they all witnessed the gunfight.

The end result was that the suspect died, I survived, but a 9-year-old girl did not.

I tell you this story because I think that this topic is of utmost importance. It is largely ignored in mainstream police training. I want to tell you some of the lessons I learned from this incident:

1.     If you are going to carry a firearm off-duty, you should carry extra ammo. Security camera video of this incident revealed that I fired all 11 rounds from my Glock 26 in about 2 seconds. My extra mag held 17 rounds. Words cannot describe the emotion I felt when I slammed that mag into my weapon and was able to still be in the fight.

Mostly because of circumstances (distance) and my training, my rounds were on target. It could have happened differently and the reality is that most of us miss more than we hit when involved in a gun battle.

2.     You cannot have the typical police mind-set in an off-duty situation. I ended up in this incident without a radio, without backup, without body armor, handcuffs, other force options and without taking the time to think it through. I was truly most frightened when the gunfight was over and I was standing there covering the suspect with my weapon in my T-shirt and shorts.

I was really worried that one of my own guys might not recognize me. I was worried too that there might be some other off-duty copper around who would think I was the bad guy.

The smartest, most responsible thing I could have done would have been to take care of my family first. I should have seen personally to their safety. If I had grabbed them and gone outside, I would have spared them this entire experience and that little girl would probably still be alive today.

Again, words cannot describe the emotions that we all went through after this incident. I recognized afterward that it could have been one of my children lying dead because of my actions. When you are off-duty your first responsibility is to your family. You should never forget this.

3.     I survived this incident. Partly due to my training and tactics. Partly due to God’s grace and blind luck. But the other side of the coin is that I got into this incident because of my training. I switched immediately into “cop” mode without stopping to consider that I was at a great tactical disadvantage. Most of us are driven and dedicated to the point of self destruction and I think good cops die because we are taught to place our personal safety second when others are in danger.

Because I had never trained realistically for a situation like this, I was unprepared. Most of the guys I worked with then and now carry off-duty weapons. But few of them, if any, have really taken the time to engage in realistic training and preparation for how to handle an off-duty incident.

Training can be as simple as discussing these types of situations with your coworkers. Since this shooting, I have devoted at least one quarterly range session with my students to off-duty encounters and the associated considerations.

4.     The responsibility of carrying a firearm is huge. I had devoted countless hours to training for the fight, but was not fully prepared for the aftermath. None of the training scenarios, books, films, etc. that I learned from touched upon the fact that when you take that gun out and decide to take action, 9-year-old kids can get killed. Even if you do everything by the book, use good tactics, and are within policy and the law, the outcome can still be negative.

You have to remember that the suspect does not go to the range and he does not practice rules of weapons safety. He does not care about what’s in his line of fire. If it’s you or him, you gotta do what you gotta do, but whether you’re on-duty or off-duty we need to train to look at the totality of the incident.

Letting the bad guy go because doing otherwise would place innocent people in grave danger needs to be more “socially acceptable” amongst our ranks. I think we’re starting to see more of this in the pursuit policies of most agencies and I have tried to carry this message over into my training and teaching.

I guess the bottom line here is that it’s good to be on “auto pilot” when it comes to tactics in these situations, but we can’t go on auto pilot in our assessment and examination of the environment and circumstances leading up to and during the event. On-duty mind-set and off-duty mind-set need to be strongly separated and the boundaries clear.

– A California Sergeant

Oct 042010

By Sgt. Steve “Pappy” Papenfuhs, PoliceOne Contributor

A county deputy was shot in the face and killed by an auto theft suspect. A city police officer was shot in the face and killed by a subject trying to cash bad checks. A state trooper was shot in the upper body during a car stop. The trooper survived despite numerous bullet wounds. In all three events the officers were standing behind the suspects attempting to handcuff them when the offender pulled a hidden weapon and shot over their shoulders striking the officers.

Let’s list the “mistakes” some say these officers made. First, the officers did not correctly apply a control-hold while performing the handcuffing. Next, the officers did not put the suspect in a position of disadvantage. Third, the officers should have waited for a backup officer before attempting the arrest, and operating alone was the ultimate error. Fourth, the officers were all attempting to place the handcuff on the controlled wrist when they should have cuffed the uncontrolled hand first. Finally, the officers were shot because they were handcuffing before searching; and, had they searched first they would have discovered the weapon before the subject had an opportunity to access it.

To all these arguments I respond, “Maybe…maybe not.”

It’s human nature to go into denial when hearing of these tragedies. Cops are very susceptible to this trait due to our drive and controlling nature. When an officer is killed in the line of duty, we have an inherent emotional need to explain it by delineating the mistakes made, confident that we would not have made those errors. But, if we are intellectually honest, we will acknowledge that we all make errors every day; and we would admit that we have often operated in a similar fashion. There but for the grace of God go anyone of us.

How can we improve our odds in similar circumstances? First, after acknowledging that we are only human, prone to errors, and not invincible, we admit that:

  1. There is no “control-hold” that can absolutely control everyone.
  2. There is no such thing as a “position of advantage” or a “position of disadvantage.” The suspect almost always has the advantage. He has no rules of engagement. He has no need to follow any constitutional provisions or force policies. He usually gets the first move, forcing us to respond to his actions. We can only operate in a way that provides “less-disadvantage” to us and “less-advantage” for the suspect.
  3. Backup officers are not always available, or the immediacy of the action makes it imprudent to wait for backup.
  4. Grasping one of the suspect’s hands and cuffing the other hand does not necessarily control either.
  5. The belief that searching before handcuffing is the magic bullet is erroneous. In the case of the deputy, he did search first but missed a firearm concealed in the suspect’s rear pants pocket. Additionally, if you are conducting a full body search in close quarters with an unsecured subject, then you are exposed in both place and time. In other words, you have a divided-attention issue wherein you are trying to both control and search a subject simultaneously — and you’re doing this for a relatively extended time period. If the suspect is dedicating all his mental effort on developing a plan of attack while you are busy controlling, searching, scanning for other threats, listening to your radio, considering what you are physically detecting, determining whether you have the legal authority to continue your actions, etcetera, then you are seriously behind the reactionary curve — especially since you have virtually no reaction time due to the intimacy of the distance.

Once we recognize the disadvantages we face, we can then begin to formulate survival strategies. But, first we need to recognize one last idiosyncrasy shared by the three described events. In each case the officers had contact with only one of the subject’s hands during the cuffing process. All subjects had one hand free, and in each case it was the right hand. The vast majority of the population is right handed. Should we cuff that hand or control that hand? If you’re following the human factors under discussion, you know there is no good answer to this question.

Most officers when conducting a pat-frisk have the subject’s hands interlaced either behind his head or at the small of his back. Where you frisk will depend upon where you reasonably believe a weapon might be secreted. The law allows you to search the outer clothing from head to toe, including reaching under shirts and jackets when reasonably necessary.

Offenders generally carry their firearms in the waistband and pockets. They do so for ease of access. Therefore, most defense-tactics search patterns start with these areas before moving to less probable and less accessible areas. If you really believe that a subject is armed wouldn’t you be safer if he was handcuffed before you frisked him? Of course you would. But, in the process of handcuffing him you have the divided-attention issue discussed earlier. You are trying to control his hands while you are accessing your handcuffs, getting the proper grip on the cuffs, and then applying them to the subject’s wrists. Meanwhile, the subject might have a weapon of which you are unaware but is immediately accessible to him.

Tactics are a tradeoff — a balancing act. Every time you create a tactic to solve a problem, you create a new problem. Both the “search first” and the “handcuff first” theories have inherent dangers. I submit that we must find the reasonable “somewhere in between” strategy. That strategy is the Grip-Protective Sweep (GPS). Simply put, grip the subject’s hands either behind his head or behind his back. Know that there are pros and cons to each of these positions (in fact, that is a topic of discussion we will have at another time in the future).

Conduct a limited frisk of the areas that subjects are known to carry weapons and that are easily accessible to them. We call this a “protective sweep” to discriminate between this action and a full search. Once you have determined to the best of your ability that the subject is not armed with an immediately accessible weapon (and if he does have one, use your trained tactics to deal with that) handcuff him. After he is handcuffed, conduct your Terry frisk or your search incident to arrest.

We have used this strategy at the San Jose Police academy with good success. Is this the silver bullet? Probably not. After 29 years of law enforcement experience, the only thing I know is that the more I know, the more I know I don’t know. But, at this point the strategy seems to fulfill the needs of the “balancing act” between the search first / handcuff first extremes. You satisfy the “search first” proponents by establishing whether or not there is a weapon present in the “high-risk” areas before handcuffing. You satisfy the “handcuff first” proponents by handcuffing a subject prior to conducting a full-body search. You limit your “time in the hole” (that area in close proximity to a subject) with an unsecured suspect. And, you satisfy the human factors experts who correctly insist that it is extremely difficult to pay attention to more than one thing at a time.

I am open to suggestions from others, and always willing to learn something new. If you have a tactic that works for you I certainly would like to know about it. Please contact me and tell me about your experiences. Like most trainers, I steal from others without remorse.

Sep 252010

Submitted by:
PoliceOne Staff

When you ask someone for their license, registration, and insurance documents during a traffic stop, do you take them out of the driver’s hand immediately after they’re presented to you? If so, you might be robbing yourself of a valuable behavioral observation opportunity.

Instead, consider waiting a few extra seconds, particularly if you think you might be dealing with someone hinky. As you know, a higher than usual level of nervousness can be a reliable indicator of possible problems. By waiting a little longer to grab the license or other paperwork you’re giving yourself an opportunity to watch for extreme shaking. One interdiction officer reported dealing with a driver who began shaking so badly after the officer hesitated before taking his license that he could barely keep it from falling out of his hand.

Sure enough, the guy turned out to be a mule.