As we near the end of 2007, this year has seen a dramatic rise in violence and unfortunately, deadly violence towards law enforcement officers all across the nation. It seems like not a few days goes by that we're not hearing or reading about another officer being killed by a suspect versus a traffic-related accident, which in the past has been the major cause of death for police officers.
Riding shotgun makes a comeback?
As most folks know, the term "riding shotgun" came from the old cowboy days when stagecoaches crossed the wide open territories, loaded with valuable cargo, cash, and other attractive items for thieves. To help protect the load, a second person would ride up top with the driver openly carrying, as the name implies, a shotgun. The reason was quite simple and obvious: to help deter thieves from attempting to rob the stagecoach, and if they did, to provide additional back up for the driver.
With the recent surge in violence against officers, with no reason to believe there is an end in sight anytime soon, law enforcement executives may want to consider a new class of police officer whose primary mission is in effect to "ride shotgun." If this sounds even somewhat attractive, but the thought of setting up an entire new human resources structure to include pay, benefits, retirement, etc., is too overwhelming, perhaps it might make sense to start off with a well-trained and -qualified unit of volunteers to fulfill this mission.
Several months ago in south Texas, a deputy from a large, yet very understaffed agency was on patrol with a civilian "ride along." It just so happens that the female "rider" was previously employed with the agency in a civilian capacity yet had some basic firearms training. That evening, the deputy conducted a "routine" traffic stop at which time the driver of the vehicle exited and opened fire on the deputy, shooting him in his gun hand. The suspect went back to his own vehicle and jumped into the driver's seat. Not knowing if the suspect was going to back up over the deputy, grab another gun or what his intentions were, the female rider took the patrol cruiser's shotgun and opened fire on the suspect who she just witnessed shooting the deputy. The suspect was found dead behind the wheel of his vehicle, not too far away from the scene of the shooting. Publicly speaking, most rank and file members of law enforcement will say, "we appreciate her efforts, however it's not the job of the public to shoot at suspects." But, privately speaking, many of the same officers will say, "great job, she can ride with me anytime."
Drastic times require innovative thinking.
While the idea of putting "second class" officers in patrol vehicles to act as back ups may sound drastic, the fact of the matter is statistics clearly show that two-man patrol units are far more less likely to be fired upon from a suspect than are solo units. Even the hardened criminals who vow to go out in a blaze of glory and swear they'll never be taken alive, when all is said and done, see the merits of being "tried by twelve, versus carried by six". Knowing there are two officers behind them during a t-stop does give pause to even the most determined bad guy. And for those who do choose to end it all in a blaze of glory, no one can argue that two trained and qualified shooters are better than one on one; it's just simple math.