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Policies, Standards and Stupidity

I have fielded several questions from readers regarding how standards, policies and orders are prohibiting proper tactics and may be placing officers in peril. For those who know me I do not associate too often with chiefs exclusively, they scare me. I do live and breathe to be with police trainers, these are the men and women who bring you home safely day in and day out. So, if you are a chief, sheriff or administrative commander please do not send me too much hate mail. I am going to review some of the more infamous stupid rules I have heard to date.

Everyone is uniform

This is an old one but when some departments were transitioning from wheel guns to pistols there was a uniformity issue. The policy and lesson plans were written for the wheel gunner. Now, the revolver shooter will have the dump pouches/speed loaders on the same side of the body that the revolver is carried on. You reload, the revolver goes to the non-shooting hand, cylinder popped out, spent cases extracted and the shooting hand places fresh ammo in the cylinder. Recall this?

Seems there were administrators who wanted all uniform, so the officers that have transitioned to the pistol were made to wear their magazines in the same location as the revolver shooters. Stop! If the pistol is empty, the slide locks back, the shooting hand thumb may push the magazine release. As the empty magazine is falling, the non-shooting hand is removing and preparing to insert the loaded one in. Now the auto pistol magazine pouch should be on the opposite side of the body than the weapon. We all agree on this. So why did the tactical operators and range officers not bring this up to the higher ups. Someone wanted all officers to be the same, which even sounds like the word ‘uniform’, right? Not all officers are the same size, race, gender, height and weight. We are not clones and the public does not note that you are not official since your magazine pouch is on the other side. This was clearly a tactical inhibitor, should have been addressed sooner than it was but a great example of SOP’s verses tactics.

Looking Too Aggressive

I spoke to one officer who had an order passed down that no officer shall carry more than one set of handcuffs on their uniform or person. Where the heck did this order come from? It appears that the command staff had been meeting with some community groups and community organizations. They felt that if an officer was wearing extra handcuffs, they would be more inclined to arrest more citizens since they had them on them. I am not going to even give this stupid idea any credence. I asked if they have ever arrested a barrel-chested hulk who could not get their arms behind their back? The answer was yes and the solution is usually two sets of handcuffs hooked together. Has this been brought up, not yet and I am waiting to hear from this one.

Another commander put out the order that officers would not wear gloves while interacting with the public. First of all, most departments (mine included) issue the patrol gloves in question. The gloves are the stick or prick proof gloves to protect you from getting stuck by a needle or even prevent cross-contamination from bio-hazards. The origin of this was some community leader proclaiming that officers were wearing these so they would not leave fingerprints. Who died and left this guy in charge? Officers are tracked in CAD system, they wear name tags and give out business cards. You leaving fingerprints, good grief! This nutcase was allowed to portray officers as perpetrators and this commander folded to this allegation. These gloves in question will save on health care cost, prevent transmission of diseases which prevents officer comp claims and officer deaths. This order to me was nearly criminal for it put every officer in harms’ way. Once again this is an example of a commander who toadied down to public rhetoric rather than educating them and assuring of their staffs professionalism. It is administrators like this who get officers exposed and create more dissent than the public ever could have.

Review with Experts

When policy, SOP’s or whatever collides with officer safety or tactics, there should be a full review with all of the subject matter experts. Call the defensive tactics, firearms and/or academy instructors in to the meeting. Explain the situation fully and allow all views on the topic to be brought to light. Once it can be determined what is the proper response, be sure to educate all there so the truth will come forth. The administrator who was slightly confused could now explain to the community leader why we carry equipment or justify it. It is hard to refute logic.

Some policy and ideals need a logical review as well. I was speaking with a state officer one day and he told me the cold weather story. This agency prides itself in its image, especially their trooper hat. It is what they wear even in frigid cold weather. I asked what about a watch knit cap (skully), my department issues these too. Nope, if the headquarters staff got frostbite on their noggins in the past, we are destined to do it as well. A professional image is one thing we all desire to achieve. But safety and comfort under extreme conditions should be the focus here, not just looking good.

I know that there are some worse horror stories of SOP’s gone wild. Additionally, if you want to write me hate mail, be nice and fully think about what you supporting here. To all administrators, sheriffs, and chiefs; stop and think what is on the books. If you are jeopardizing your officers safety with some silly regulation, recall you are the one that has to go to hospital or give the folded American flag to a weeping family member. Now, explain your rule to a sobbing widow or child who lost a parent. If the rule is that important, I am sure they will understand through their tears of grief.


About The Author:

William L. "Bill" Harvey is a native Virginian. He served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps. He has a BA in criminology from St. Leo University and is a graduate of the Southern Police Institute of the University of Louisville (103rd AOC). Harvey served for over 23 years with the Savannah (GA) Police Department. He served in field operations, investigations and support services, and completed his career there as the director of training. He has published several articles in professional periodicals and has lectured nationwide. He is serving as a chief of police in central Pennsylvania area; a duty he’s performed for the past nine years. He is on the advisory board of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association and other professional associations.