For more than two decades, police trainers have preached the virtues of using “contact and cover.” Done correctly, contact and cover offers a very safe method of dealing with suspects. But, are we correctly implementing what we were taught?
Contact and cover is a tactic that is used by two patrol officers when encountering a subject of investigation. The contact officer interviews the subject, takes notes, runs them for warrants, etc. The contact officer handles the entire transaction.
The cover officer stands in a position of advantage, relative to the subject being interviewed. The cover officer does not get involved in the routine aspects of the interaction. the cover officer’s sole responsibility is scene safety for the contact officer. The cover officer only intervenes when a threat appears, such as the subject begins to reach for a concealed weapon, etc.
Police officers have had great success in the field when they have implemented this training.
However, are we using what we have been taught? I have noticed a steady trend at my department, in which officers are utilizing their cover officers to obtain statements, get gear out of a trunk, run suspects for warrants, etc. In fact, some officers have even commented to me that when they perform the cover officer duties correctly, the contact officer makes comments that he (the cover officer) isn’t helping enough.
It is not enough to be trained in contact and cover; we have to implement the concepts fully. That means each and every time we go out with a suspect, we use the technique, not just when it is convenient. Yes, this means that one officer will do all of the “leg work” sometimes. But, the goal is to go home the same way we came in! Officer safety must come first.
Be a good contact officer, and let your cover officer do his job correctly. Be a good cover officer: keep your partner safe!