Celebrating the Reduction in LODD’s by Stepping Up Your Own Game
Line of duty police deaths are down significantly this year. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, automobile deaths are down 26%, gunfire deaths are down 55%, and overall line of duty fatalities are down by nearly half. This is great news for American law enforcement. However, like anything else in life, when things are going well, human nature takes over and we often become complacent. The best way to celebrate these statistics is to re-examine your own physical, tactical, and mental preparation each and every time you hit the street.
Physical readiness isn’t just about being “in shape,” but that’s a great place to start. Take a good look at yourself and your fitness routine. Do you run a few miles a day but never pick up any free weights? Can you bench press 300 pounds but can’t run more than a block or two? Or worse, does your ‘fitness routine’ involved hours of “Call to Duty” on X-Box or is your strongest muscle the one that pushes the button on the remote control? Overall physical fitness is a key component to officer safety, and there are so many great programs available that there really are no excuses to be out of shape. In fact, this could be a good time to try something new. Add some free weights to your aerobic routine, join a boxing gym, or do what I did and embarrass your teenager by jumping into a “Zumba” class. If time is an issue, take a look at the many high-intensity routines that take a short amount of time to complete. Anything that helps improve your strength, your cardiovascular capacity, your speed and your flexibility will help make you a safer (and healthier!) crimefighter.
Next, write down what you ate (and drank) in the last 48 hours; and be honest about it. You may be surprised how much garbage you’re putting into your body. There are terrific websites and some great apps for your ‘smartphone’ to help you keep track of what and how much you’re consuming. Proper nutrition isn’t just about maintaining a healthy weight. What you put in your body directly affects how you perform. Too much sugar, fat, and caffeine are going to set your body and brain up for a crash. Poor hydration is also dangerous; in fact, it can impact your critical thinking skills. Make sure you’re taking in enough fluid. Get into the habit of filling up a small cooler with water and some fruit, protein bars or other truly healthy snacks to take with you to work. See yourself as an athlete whose ultimate ‘performance’ may be a fight for your life!
If you follow the number of officer-involved shootings that occur each day in theUnited States, you know that criminals are still hard at work, trying to kill cops. Not only are we being shot at with bigger and better firearms, but the bad guys are using ‘MMA’ style tactics, edged weapons, and even motor vehicles to try and stop us from doing our job. Anecdotally, we seem to be winning these confrontations more often, although edged weapons deaths are on the rise. We’ve already had three officers killed by knife attacks. How well are you searching suspects? Do you wear your body armor every day, on every shift? Do you carry a second firearm, an offensive knife, a patrol rifle or a shotgun or both? Do you study criminal behavior and body language? In other words, are you ready? You don’t have to walk around like a paramilitary ninja warrior, but you must have the equipment you need and the mindset and training to use it properly. This is also a good time to examine your driving habits. We are still dying senselessly in high speed, one vehicle crashes. Slow down, wear your seatbelt, and remember that like firearms, high speed driving is a perishable skill. Practice!
Whenever an officer is killed or hurt, especially in our own geographical area, we tend to immediately become more aware, more alert, more tactically sound. For a few days or a week or so we are the model for officer safety, and then we often start to relax, we allow complacency to seep in. You can prevent this in so many simple ways. Use the Internet to read about officer-involved shootings around the country and then imagine yourself in a similar situation. Visualize how you would respond, how you would win! Watch online training segments and dashcam videos to supplement in-service training. Read an article or a tip each day and share them with your co-workers or your team. Discussing an incident or a particular skill helps your mind reinforce learning points. Don’t think about “if this happens,” instead prepare yourself for “when this happens, I’m going to do this.” Always have a plan. And as trite as it may sound, recognize that someone may try and kill you on the next traffic stop, during the next domestic dispute, or while you transport the next prisoner. Your mindset truly is you most powerful weapon.
Sixty-five officers in eight months is still far too many law enforcement lives lost. Honoring our fallen is so much more than lamenting a loss and wearing a black band on your badge. The more you work on your own safety and survival, the more you honor their sacrifice. Never, ever let them die in vain. Stay safe!
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 www.femaleforces.com.