Every year, scores of police officers are killed around the United States. Sometimes the circumstances are unforeseeable. Many times, however, the outcome may have been different if the involved officers were better prepared for the incident.
Here are six things you can do before going on duty tonight that may save your life. The list is short, but critical to your survival.
Commit Yourself to Survival
This is the most important, so I lead with it. You must mentally commit yourself to survival right now. If you are not mentally prepared for a violent encounter, all the tools in the world will likely be useless to you.
A mental commitment includes finding your weakest skills and working on improving them. Working the skills you are good at doesn’t do you a lot of good. Only by improving where we are weak will we improve our ability to win in a violent confrontation.
Also, you have to have a will to win. Not just survive – BUT WIN.
A deadly force encounter may happen on your first assigned call of the night. Get your mind squared away so you are prepared to handle whatever is thrown at you.
Wear Body Armor
This should be a no brainer, yet we have police officers killed every year because they were not wearing a bullet resistant vest.
If you are in uniform, wear your vest. “Reasons” for not wearing a vest while you are in uniform are just excuses. They will be of little comfort to your family and fellow officers if you are killed.
In addition to your soft body armor, you should have hard armor in your vehicle. This is armor that will stop rifle rounds such as those fired from the AR- or AK-style rifles.
If your agency does not provide you with hard armor, take a look at our article Best Active Shooter Armor for Police.
Check Your Gear
Every day before hitting the street check all of your gear to make sure it is ready for immediate use. You don’t want neglect to be responsible for a trip to the hospital or morgue.
- Is your gun clean and loaded?
- Are your extra magazines clean or covered with crumbs from last night’s meal?
- Handcuffs working? Are they oiled or rusty making them hard to apply?
- Radio charged? Do you have a chared spare battery?
- What’s the can of OC looking like? Has the expiration passed?
I’ve seen a lot of people jam themselves up because they didn’t check their gear. Things I’ve seen include:
- An officer with a take-home car who donned his uniform and headed into work without a pistol in his holster.
- An officer who’s seatbelt rubbed his OC can one too many times causing a spontaneous leak of pepper spray into his car while he was driving down the highway.
- An officer whose handcuffs were so neglected, he could not get them off of a suspect because they were jammed from corrosion.
A good rule of thumb is for every mile you can run (not jog) you are good for one minute in a fight. You can run two miles? Well, you’re good for two minutes. I hope your backup is close.
Strength conditioning is important. Full stop.
But, too many cops neglect cardio. Cardio will help you with stamina in a fight or pursuit.
Hit the track, treadmill or pool. Get your body used to extended stress associated with vigorous cardiovascular work.
Wear Your Seatbelt
We lose more brother and sister cops to traffic accidents than many of the other things we train for.
Often these lives could have been saved by simply wearing tour seatbelt. So, put yours on and avoid being a statistic.
I know there are times and places to take off your seatbelt, but general driving, pursuits and call responses aren’t those times. Commit yourself to wear it before hitting the road.
If you haven’t wrecked your car, don’t worry, you will. I’ve been in two on-duty wrecks: one in a vehicle pursuit and another when a citizen looking at the felony stop to her left rather than in front of her car T-boned me.
The pursuit crash I was pretty lucky on and very little damage to the cruiser and none to me.
The T-bone was a little more intense. I bounced my head off the window (I think…) and was pretty rattled. The sergeant should have sent me to the hospital, because I was really out of it, though I don’t really recall all of it. But, I was kept from serious injury because I was wearing my seatbelt, which kept me from being a human pinball.
Even so, I still have neck pain years later from that accident. I hate to think how bad things could have been had I not been wearing a restraint.
Get Enough Sleep
I know this may be easier said than done for some people, but getting a full eight hours of sleep every day is absolutely needed for proper body function and alertness.
Working odd hours is bad enough, but if you throw in sleep deprivation your reaction time and cognitive ability fall off sharply.
Additionally, without proper sleep you will not be able to physically respond to danger at the same level if you had gotten enough sleep. As hard as it may be, make time to get sleep.
If you’re having problems sleeping – talk to your doctor. If you’ve been on midnights for an extended period of time, it might be a good idea to rotate to days for a bit.