Originally, I came from Michigan. It gets cold there. Every cop I knew retired to the inside of their car when it came time to write the ticket. While motormen didn't have a car, they still returned to the vicinity of the motor when it came time to write.
As I encountered this outside the car practice, I asked: why? The answers generally centered on the cop's ability to better get to cover in the event the stop went sideways. I even had a chief tell me that he ordered his guys to be outside the car because they would be less comfortable and therefore finish the stop more quickly. That would allow them to write more tickets. His priorities were obvious.
My gut told me that being outside the car increased the risk of officer injury or death. So again, I turned to the researchers in Washington D.C. for hard numbers.
They examined data from the last 13 years. The identified cops who had been killed while actually writing a ticket/citation. Here are the cold facts:
A cop who is writing a ticket outside his car is 400% more likely to die than a cop who is inside his car.
That isn't a projection or a theory. Those are names on the Wall. They are graves with markers. They are families who struggle without their officers.
If you're a motor officer, I realize that you don't have the choice of being inside a car, but the risk remains just as great.
So, What's The Worst?
Stand outside your car, writing a ticket.
Do it in Texas, California or Florida.
You might want to make sure your life insurance is paid-up before you do.
Think about this: could you imagine your sergeant talking to your wife at the hospital? Think about how he might explain that you had knowingly put yourself at undue risk. Think about your kids. Think about your current work environment and how well you have adapted your safety practices to it.
What Do We Do?
To be blunt, some of this stuff just will not happen. I am going to say it because I want to get you thinking.
For every 1 hour spent on the range, you should spend 2 hours on the driving track.
For every 1 hour spent on defensive tactics, you should spend 2 hours on studying tactics when you are in/around your car.
In-service training should be developed to show you how to safely handle all of the new technology that is being thrust into the patrol car.
EVOC training should be altered. Cops should qualify as drivers on a regular basis - just as they must to shoot their guns. EVOC training must be updated to include the active intrusions in the cockpit by all of the technical gadgetry.
As it relates to the use of technology in the car, departments must take their heads out of the sand. Telling a cop: DO NOT USE IT won't work. It just can't work any longer. It is incumbent upon us to teach cops HOW TO USE IT in the safest manner possible.
Vehicles should be hardened to better withstand impacts and a roll over.
Sensor technology should be installed on vehicles that would tell an officer when someone or something is approaching while their car is stationary. Cars should be built with self-correcting lane tracking systems.
We must examine the fact that there is so much equipment inside today's patrol car that a cop cannot escape. It has become a death trap. The car interior must change in response to the increase in officer deaths.
I do not intend to diminish the value of training cops to handle assaults. That knowledge is vital to survival. Yet, as cops we must acknowledge the possibilities while we adjust to the probabilities.
It is time to take a fresh look at our city, our section and our community. Is your assessment based on current conditions? If not, it is time to reexamine your surroundings.
Has the demographic mix changed? Is your town now being infiltrated by bad guys from neighboring communities that encroach on your borders? Are you consistently applying WHEN/THEN thinking to driving and to traffic stops? That's when you are most at risk. Believe it! Statistics prove it.
Are you using every resource for cover and concealment when dealing with each situation?