The year 2010 resulted in 103 law enforcement officer fatalities. That’s a staggering number, but 2011 has yet to end and we’ve experienced a 19% increase in fatalities already. According to statistics reported by the National Law Enforcement Memorial website, we’ve had 123 officers killed during this same time frame compared to last year. If you “Do the wall,” meaning, if you travel to D.C. to visit the Memorial, the low slung bulwark will quickly put things in perspective. An incomprehensible 19,298 names are engraved on those sacrosanct walls, each representing an act of heroism and sacrifice. The memorial is a fitting tribute to our fallen Warriors, but the families represented by some of those names may not have had to suffer through the pain and sorrow.
“Street Survival, A Winning Mindset, The Will to Survive,” whatever way you wish to identify it, the common denominator is Winning. I taught street survival for several years, domestically and internationally. My colleagues and I used to teach officers how to survive the street by teaching tactics such as car stops, room, stairway and hallway clearing, the importance of having a plan, and tactical shooting and reloading. All good stuff, in fact, a couple former students later reported to us they had been involved in shootings and survived as a result of the training we provided.
Over the years I’ve thought about those schools and the instruction we imparted to cops, agents and even some military in other countries. If we saved one cop’s life, we did our job. But I’ve had a change of heart in terms of how we characterize street survival schools. I think the proper terminology for such instruction should be: Winning the Battle.
Why the name change? Quite simply because surviving, albeit a favorable outcome, is somewhat ambiguous. Surviving could mean many things: you’re alive, but you stopped your attacker and he escaped to assault another cop or citizen, or perhaps your attacker assumed you were dead or out of the fight and left the scene. Again, while those outcomes are good because they mean you’re alive, it’s not the ultimate or preferred outcome. What we strive for is to win—completely.
Make no mistake, confrontations on the street are becoming battles. Respect is something about to become extinct. Bad guys know there are cops who are reluctant to use force. Why? Cops have been taken to the woodshed by their department for being perceived as over aggressive. The old saying, “If you don’t get any complaints, you’re not really workin’ the streets,” is true. Those cops that are stopping cars and putting thugs on the wall are the ones who eventually get the beefs. It’s part of the job. A good supervisor will ameliorate those phony charges and encourage his crew to continue to put pressure on the knuckle draggers. It’s called being proactive, and it’s a dying art.
If we look at the increasing number of assaults, we find on average there are more than 58,000 each year, resulting in approximately 16,000 injuries. Being reactive is not working. Those 58K cops may not have been attacked if we had more of a “Winning the Battle” mindset. If the cretins on the street know we’re not going to put up with any nonsense, the entire police-offender dynamic could change. After all, the present situation is that we’ve educated criminals to expect we’re going to treat them with kid gloves and give them the benefit of the doubt.
There’s only one problem—we’re outnumbered. Look around at your own department, or when you’re travelling, whatever jurisdiction you happen to find yourself in. Tough financial times have resulted in reduced manpower. Most units are one man; special tactical units have been decimated. Training budgets have been slashed. Many departments are lucky if they get a yearly firearms qual.
Make matters worse by answering every feeble complaint that comes in by Joe Public who’s ticked off because he got stopped by the cops and got a ticket, and you’re slowly turning into a public relations department, rather than a police department. While you’re at it, listen to every lib that has a cell phone camera and filmed a cop who had to twist an arm to make a non-compliant citizen compliant, and you’ve got a force whose priorities are upside down.
Police work is not a game, and it’s not a job for anyone who doesn’t think their life is on the line 24/7. That’s right; the job doesn’t end when you walk out of the station anymore. You find yourself in line at the burger joint and Frankie Felon walks in and wants to stick up the joint—you’re it—you’re expected to do something. You’re a cop. You need to win, not just survive.
How do you win? It begins with your own perception of who you are and what your skills and abilities are. Honestly assess them. Have you trained sufficiently, do you practice proper tactics? Are you fit? What about defensive tactics, are you familiar with and skilled at ground fighting?
It means trusting your gut and acting quickly. It means picking up danger signs and reacting properly to them. Have you and your colleagues discussed contingency plans for the “what ifs?” You should be familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. All of you should be instinctively familiar with your equipment, meaning knowing how to get to and use your gear without having to look at it.
Being prepared to win includes a desire to continue learning. Constantly seeking new techniques and learning from those who have been there and done that. Winning means excluding the word, “routine” from your vocabulary. Nothing is routine in police work, if it becomes that way you’re placing yourself and your partner at risk.
Lastly, think about the way you project yourself to the public. Are you a hard target? Does your appearance command respect? Are you confident in your conditioning, skills, abilities and mentality? Are you a Warrior? Have you learned from your mistakes?
If you do become a statistic, make sure it’s on the winning side of the equation. Winning the Battle means more than surviving on the street. It becomes a way of life and strengthens your resolve to continue to come out on top. Stay safe, Brothers and Sisters!
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About The Author:
John M. Wills spent 33 years in law enforcement as a Chicago Police Officer and FBI Special Agent (Ret). He is a Freelance Writer and Speaker whose third book, TARGETED, is now available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Contact John through his website: www.johnmwills.com.