Sunday, April 7, 2019
One of the bloodiest ambushes since July 2016 left seven officers bleeding and helpless in a giant field of fire, until an ugly old MRAP rumbled onto the scene, providing cover to evacuate them.
For one veteran Florence officer, it was too late.
Another fought mightily, and succumbed to her wounds two weeks later. The rest recovered as best they could.
Less than six months later, in an even smaller South Carolina town (Huger, population 3000-ish), a traffic stop in a rural neighborhood turned into a gunfight.
A solo officer was pinned behind his vehicle for half an hour, until yet another MRAP made its slow and homely way to his rescue.
Bad guys have always used the best technology available to them at the time.
It stands to reason that police must, as well.
In the early 20th Century, as gangsters and organized crime made use of the best tech money could buy, manufacturers made sure law enforcement could access it, too.
Armor has been in use since prehistory. Armored vehicles have been in use since the invention of wheels.
Specialized armored police vehicles have been built for nearly a hundred years.
Characterizing the use of technological advances as a sinister, modern development is both misleading and misinformed.
News and commentary critical of the 1033 Program emphasizes "grenade launchers", "machine guns" or "tanks".
Ignoring, for now, that an armored vehicle is not a tank, never mentioned are the other "militarized" items available under the program :
sleeping bags, cots, water filters, camel backs, rain jackets, or night vision goggles--- all items designed for and supplied to the military, and once again available to law enforcement, with minimal cost to their communities.
All of this gear, by the way, is used for health and safety applications; it's protective, and defensive, not offensive.
As much of it gets used to safeguard local citizens as their police: MRAPs are used all over the country for evacuations during floods and after hurricanes,and to safely remove innocents from active shooter scenes.
For that matter, even armed standoffs have a chance to resolve peacefully if officers have enough cover to wait them out in relative safety. If a bad guy's life can also be saved because police have better equipment, where exactly is that downside?
*Coral Springs PD transporting a newborn and her mother during Hurricane Irma*
Better equipment means better response, to any situation.
A pair of NVGs saved two Washington state deputies from ambush. In a place with no streetlights or backup, a domestic violence call in progress means responding officers need every possible advantage.
What reasonable person denies officers the ability to see on a dark night, because they don't like the way the goggles look, or who paid for them?
I can think of three officers saved by their helmets in 2016 and 2017, alone.
(Los Angeles, Orlando and Tulare County, if you don't want to look them up yourself.)
Any worker doing a job needs the correct tools to do the job proficiently.
If it's a hazardous job, it is ethical and moral to ensure they have the equipment to do that job as safely as possible, as well.
Assuming that a North Hollywood -style robbery won't happen again is silly.
Assuming that the U.S. is immune from a Beslan or Mumbai-style terrorist attack is, at best, ill-informed (although on hard days I may envy your optimism).
France, Belgium and other European countries respond to terrorist attacks with actual military, and their police have the safety equipment they need. (You DID see the picture, up there, of that body bunker from the Bataclan entry? )
Unlike Europe, in the U.S., the Posse Commitatus Act precludes military response to any attack on our soil that may involve our own citizens.
National Guard takes days to mobilize.
Therefore, local law enforcement will be the first responders to any violent threat.
Since this is the case, they need the equipment to respond effectively, and with a chance of surviving that response.
Dead and wounded officers cannot stop an attack already in motion, and they cannot defend their communities, either.
Rather than protecting anyone else, they're now a strain on resources, and a distraction.
If you want effective response, your officers have to be able to stay in the fight.
If U.S. citizens insist on pretending that Mumbai and Beslan (and Paris, and Brussels, and...)can't happen here, then they don't get to say "You should have done something" when they don't like the outcome.
And they get to take the blame when those who do respond reap the whirlwind , unprepared and ill-equipped.
Protective equipment is scary, you say?
You know what's actually scary?
Someone's son, husband, father was holding that shield, wearing those helmets.
I'm glad they had them. Their families are glad they had them.
I don't see "militarized" . I see "PPEs".
I see loved ones home again, safely.
I see officers who can wait out a barricaded subject.
I see safe evacuations during floods, blizzards and active shooters.
And then I see a lot of critics who never take a risk that doesn't involve their paycheck.
I see people who complain that the stuff is scary looking.
They don't like camouflage.
Their officers 'shouldn't look like soldiers'.
The scary Feds shouldn't provide surplus equipment to their local cops.
Well, then, ladies and gentlemen, pony up the funds to equip your officers with the appropriate gear your own selves, and you can paint that $350,000 Lenco Bearcat pink, if that makes you feel safer.
Buy the rifle plates and carriers yourself, and have your officers put unicorn morale patches on them. I don't care.
But these ARE your tax dollars at work, already bought and paid for.
Might as well use it wisely.
Sunday, January 20, 2019
When I started writing this blog, and running a public Facebook page, I didn't expect the kind of behind-the-scenes feedback I get--good and bad-- about law enforcement agencies and leadership.
Living in a state with relatively stringent workplace safety codes, it never occured to me that, in the year 2019, there are still law enforcement agencies that fail to provide bedrock, dealbreaker basics for their officers.
I read a little article on Forbes.com titled "Ten Things Your Employer Should Pay For, Not You" ; it was written for an IT specialist at a financial services firm, but the principle is sound:
If you work for a business, there are expenses that are the responsibility of the business owner, not the employee.
If you work for a law enforcement agency, that principle still applies.
There are normal expenses that are the responsibility of the department- not you- as well.
The problem is that people become accustomed to their own environment, sometimes to the exclusion of reasonable perspective on a bigger issue.
This post is about what's actually reasonable, whether you see it locally or not.
It's not normal for an officer to be poorly equipped, or poorly trained.
It's not reasonable, it's not safe, and it's not acceptable.
Let's begin at the very beginning:
1. Your agency should pay for or issue your sidearm, a shotgun, and either pay for a patrol rifle or permit you to qualify with and carry your own.
2.Your agency should pay for your vest.
Rifle plates are a strongly recommended bonus, in today's new normal of high velocity, high risk.
It can be concealable, or external, but it needs to fit, and it needs to be replaced as it wears.
3. Your agency should pay for a vehicle appropriate to patrol in your beat.
It doesn't have to be new, it doesn't have to be pretty, and the fleet doesn't have to match.
It does have to be equipped with a cage, if you ever transport prisoners. Ever. Like, even once.
4. Your agency should pay for vehicle maintenance. Maybe they can only afford ugly vehicles. That's fine.
Vehicles with bald tires or bad brakes? That's not fine.
Keep it safe, or get it off the road. No excuses.
5. If you are expected to use a cell phone, on or off duty, your agency should pay for that.
Do not use your own cell phone for work-related calls, searches or messaging, even if your agency pays you a stipend to offset costs.
Established case law will permit your personal phone to be searched if there is information pertinent to an investigation, and one side or the other can make a case that the information is needed for court.
Your phone is your phone; don't blur that line.
It's not worth it.
6. Your agency should pay for continuing ed, to meet or exceed your state's POST.
All officers must have regular legal update training, training in perishable skills like EVOC and use of force, and advanced classes to develop them as professionals.
Yes, of course officers need to invest in their own professional development: read, collaborate, take classes.
But the agency's development is on agency leadership, and so are the costs.
Get creative to minimize expenses, but do it.
Share costs with other agencies, send one officer to certify as a trainer and come back to train the rest, piggyback on a bigger department's training, use webinars and online classes. It can be done.
7.Your agency should pay for firearms training. Not qualifications: training. There's a difference.
Getting bodies out on a range to punch a few holes in paper once, or four, times a year, is not adequate.
Low light, crowded environment, weak hand, awkward position--- none of it is intuitive, and you're going to play like you practice. It's far more effective to send one or two senior officers to certify as trainers than send the whole department out. What you spend will make up for itself in reduced liability.
The very first question by an attorney after an OIS is "When did you last qualify?" followed by "Show me your training records."
8. Your agency should pay for practice ammunition.
Confidence and accuracy come only with repetition, and ammo is cheaper than failure.
Officers are far more likely to spend their own time on the range when they don't have to balance the cost of practice against purchasing diapers or groceries.
9. Your agency should pay for individual first aid kits (IFAKs), including tourniquets-- at least two TKs per officer.
Of course, this includes the training to go with them.
I don't ever, EVER want to hear again that an officer bled out from an extremity because someone above his paygrade wanted to save $40.
10. Your agency should pay for communications equipment that works.
That means dispatch consoles, portable and in-vehicle radios, and the repair or replacement of repeaters.
If you can't get help, or information, because you're THAT far from coverage, that's life.
If you can't get help or information because your comms fail that's... just failure
There's more--there's always more. But these are the basics.
Meeting a basic standard is within reach, and it's a reasonable expectation, for both an officer deciding whether to stay with your current agency, or a boss calculating whether your department is meeting the mark.
This isn't the Old West, even if you live in cowboy country, and we don't just wing this stuff anymore.
21st century law enforcement is a profession.
To be professional means standards and high expectations, from the agency, from the officer, from the public.
To hire, train and retain professional officers will mean time, money,and effort.
It will pay off in better morale and confidence among your officers,better applicants, improved officer safety, reduced liability, and better relationships with the public.
If your agency isn't there yet, find one that is and ask them how they got there.
Then, do the thing. All the things.