Reflections on Learning From Our Fallen

It’s no secret that American police deaths are on the rise. As of today’s date, we’ve lost 71 law enforcement officers in the line of duty in 2011, and seven of them were female.

“Driving is a Dangerous ActivityIn the last 16 months eight female police officers have been killed in vehicle-related incidents.  All of them were driving.  We are in and around motor vehicles constantly. We are comfortable driving at high speeds, investigating accidents on busy roadways, conducting vehicle stops, directing traffic and just routinely operating motor vehicles.  Watch your speed, even on emergency runs, wear your seatbelt and your body armor, minimize distractions, and make sure you’re not driving fatigued.  Operating a motor vehicle is a perishable skill, and it’s serious business, do everything you can to mitigate your risks.   

“Train Constantly.”   Many of the women I speak to complain that their department won’t send them to training.  This is often a legitimate complaint; training budgets have been slashed and personnel cuts make days off for training more difficult than ever.  How do we overcome this one?  First of all, learn to take what you can get and be creative.  The department may not be able to send you to a week long survival school, but will they give you a day or two off to attend some local training?  Or will they give you the training time if you pay for the class or conference yourself?  It doesn’t hurt to ask, and investing in your own safety and survival is a great way to spend your hard-earned cash.  Consider offering to host a training class at your department or through your union or association; very often the host agency receives free seats in the class.  Second, re-define your idea of what “training” is.  Spending five or ten minutes viewing an Internet dash-cam video, watching a short webinar,  or listening to a podcast or an audiobook can all be effective ways to improve your officer (and career) survival.  You can also practice physical skills on your own.  Dry-fire your pistol using one of the many great trigger or sight drills out there, get out your handcuffs and partner up with someone else on your shift to practice with, and most of all, visualize, visualize, visualize.  The mind/body connection is powerful, use it!

Honoring our fallen doesn’t just mean remembering them, it also means telling their stories; in class, in roll call, even over the lunch table, and learning from each and every one of them, male and female.  Always remember that law enforcement is a brotherhood, we are a family, and we need to work hard every single day to help keep each other, and ourselves, safe.

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About The Author:

Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith is a 29-year veteran of a large suburban Chicago police department. Recently retired as a patrol supervisor, she has held positions in patrol, investigations, narcotics, juvenile, crime prevention and field training. As a sergeant, she supervised her department's K-9 Unit, served as a field training sergeant, recruitment team sergeant, bike patrol coordinator, the Crowd Control Bike Team supervisor, and supervisor of the Community Education/Crime Prevention Unit.

As a patrol sergeant, Betsy served on the Elderly Services Team, the Crisis Intervention Team, and was a supervisory member of the Honor Guard Unit. From 1999 - 2003 Betsy hosted various programs for the Law Enforcement Television Network and served as a content expert.

A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command, Betsy writes for numerous law enforcement and government publications including and is a regular columnist for many police websites including Police Link. A content expert and instructor for the Calibre Press "Street Survival" seminar since 2003, Betsy also serves as an on-air commentator and advisor for Police One TV and was a featured character in the Biography Channel’s “Female Forces” reality show. Betsy has been a law enforcement trainer for over 20 years and is a popular keynote speaker at conferences throughout the United States and Canada and beyond.

Betsy is the lead instructor for the Calibre Press “Street Survival for Women” seminar and manages Dave Smith & Associates. Together, Betsy and Dave teach courses through “Winning Mind Seminars,” an Illinois based company. She can be reached through her website at

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