EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another article in BlueSheepDog’s commitment to share videos of officers involved in critical incidents, and to debrief those situations for the benefit of our readers. These posts are intended to highlight the officer’s good performances and choices, while also taking time to consider “lessons learned” from these events. These posts are not intended to disparage officers in any manner, but we do want to pass on points of consideration that may make your job safer and more tactically sound. BlueSheepDog is staffed by current and former police officers, and we understand that every shift requires officers to make split-second decisions that rarely allow for perfection.
During my 18-year career I’ve watched hundreds of videos of line of duty officer actions. I’ve even got a few of mine that I’ve transferred to DVD from the old VHS tapes. Whether the officers prevailed or evil overcame, each of those videos have been beneficial in reminding us of the threats that can materialize at any moment. There are perhaps no greater training aids available.
This video of a melee between Cottonwood, Arizona police, and a family committed to resistance. This nearly 8-minute brawl will ultimately involve every level of force on the continuum, including an officer-involved shooting, and demonstrates trauma care. Despite the gut-wrenching results, this video is truly an amazing educational and training opportunity.
The Slippery Slope of Complacency
Let’s be honest. A law enforcement officer’s job is about 90% routine, and about 10% highly dangerous and potentially life-threatening situations. This is almost universally true across the spectrum of American law enforcement, whether you work for a major metropolitan agency, or the small, rural hometown. It’s just the nature of the job. And it is the root of complacency.
This article is a continuation of the 2015 BSD Challenge where we challenged officers to view at least one officer involved shooting (OIS) video per week. In an effort to spur that challenge we’ve decided to add our own videos from time to time. We will include instructional discussion points that we hope officers will ponder and perhaps implement to make themselves safer in the performance of their duties.
Our hope is that BSD readers will accept this challenge. By constantly refreshing ourselves on the dangers that are ever-present we will gain valuable insight and understanding into the dynamics of lethal force encounters. In so many shooting scenarios the events explode into action in mere fractions of seconds, and all too often the officer was just moments before involved in duties that appeared to be routine.
This is the first BlueSheepDog Challenge to our readers and I hope it inspires you to go the extra mile to be as prepared as you can be for the ultimate test. These challenges will come out periodically and focus on critical skills necessary for an officer to “win” the battle of the street and go home intact at the end of their shift.
Usually we don’t focus our posts on videos, and instead add videos to support our instructional narrative. However, recently there have been a few videos posted to YouTube that are so moving and inspirational that they need to be seen by a wide audience of law enforcement officers and their families.
Your job is important. Critically important! Your commitment to your duty is important, and your sacrifices are not in vain. Remember, it is only because of the thin blue line that the darkness and evil of society does not overcome the good of society. You are Sheepdogs, and that is the whole purpose of this site – provide you with the training, information, and tools to protect the sheep!
In car police cameras have radically altered our understanding of officer safety. In the past two decades, the videos coming from squad cars have made a huge impact on how instructors present training in the academy and have made lasting impressions on the psyche of many a rookie and seasoned cop.
Before the widespread use of video cameras in police cars, trainers had to rely on the involved officers to relay the events. Unfortunately, not all of the officers survived the confrontations to tell what happened. Those law enforcement officers who were successful still suffered from perceptual narrowing and other effects of the incident, which prevented them from always giving a clear picture of the incident.
As I have mentioned in other articles, the dash cam video of South Carolina State Trooper Mark Coates murder made a significant impact on how I looked at law enforcement, and how I handled myself on the road. Likewise, videos showing the murders of Nacogdoches County (TX) Constable Darrell Lunsford and Laurens County (GA) Deputy Sheriff Kyle Dinkheller also changed me forever. These videos, and many more, changed how many trainers taught traffic stops and the use of force.
In the last few months I was made aware of an incredibly important study conducted by the Firearms Section of the Kansas City, Missouri Police Department. The results of that study should have far-reaching implications for any officer who engages in enforcement action during an undercover assignment or while off-duty in plain clothes.
The Background for Testing
Unfortunately there are several tragic cases in the history of law enforcement where a responding on-duty officer mistakes an undercover or off-duty officer for an armed subject and shoots the other officer. The National Law Enforcement Memorial has recorded over 100 undercover officers killed in the line of duty, some of whom were unintentionally killed by other officers. This does not take into account probably hundreds of more officers that have been wounded by friendly fire, or “blue on blue”.
A recent example was when undercover Oakland, CA police officer William Wilkins had cornered a suspect in a stolen vehicle and had him at gun point. Two rookie patrol officers arrived on scene and mistakenly shot Officer Wilkins killing him.
In recent weeks, the officers in my department have avoided very dangerous situations through sheer luck.
In one case, a relatively minor hit and run became a bit more serious when the at-fault driver fled from officers in a vehicle. Policy prohibited a pursuit in these circumstances, and officers followed up later in the shift. Only after approaching the suspect’s residence did they discover the suspect was inside and armed with at least a rifle, shotgun and pistol.
It seems the suspect, a combat veteran with no known prior criminal history, had intended on ambushing officers as they came up to his home. Without getting into the specifics, luck or the protection of divine providence prevented this from turning into a bloodbath.
“Policing,” writes Dr. John Violanti, one of the leading researchers of law enforcement stress, “is psychologically stressful work filled with danger, high demands, ambiguity in encounters, human misery, and exposure to death.”
And that may be the least of its dark side.
“Law enforcement is one of a number of often stressful professions that has attracted the interest of researchers who are compelled to study the stressors involved in a particular line of work and their impact on those engaged in the profession,” says Dr. Bill Lewinski, Executive Director of the Force Science Institute. “For a significant number of cops, the worst part of the job will likely be its long-term negative impact on personal health and wellbeing, ranging from heart problems to cancer to suicide as identified in recent research.”