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Officer Survival and Attention to Detail

Little things add up and can seriously affect your survival.  Just this week several (at least three) officers showed up at carbine qualifications with personally owned carbines topped with red-dot sight which had dead batteries.  It can happen.  Batteries can die in portable radios, flashlights, Tasers, on and on.  It’s why we have BUIS – back-up iron sights on our carbines and why we carry spare batteries in our kit.  But do you check them prior to your tour of duty?  One of the officers asked to run to his car to get his spares.  I responded that the pistol grip on his carbine had a spare battery compartment.  “I know” was how he responded.  A little attention to detail by checking his carbine prior to that day’s training would have prevented this and the other incidents.  Attention and attentiveness to the seemingly little things can prevent

Do you pay attention to these important details?

  • For those important pieces of electronic gear with disposable batteries, do you have spares?
  • Does your patrol carbine have spare battery compartments in the grip or stock?  If so, are they filled?
  • Do you ensure that your primary flashlight is fully charged as well as your back-up?  You do carry a back-up light on your person don’t you?
  • Do you properly clean and lube your duty sidearm and any back-up gun?  A recent shooter had so much built up solvent in the striker channel of his Glock 17 it refused to fire…at all and he had been carrying it on duty!
  • Do you check your duty pistol magazines after range training to make sure they are clear of training ammunition?  A recent shooter at the range unloaded her duty mag to prep for training only to find she had been carrying training ammo in her pistol.  Her response, “It will still make a hole won’t it?”  Attention to detail folks.
  • Do you frisk suspects like your life depends on it?  Never, never, never place a prisoner in the back seat of your vehicle, regardless of whether there is a cage, unless you conduct a proper search.  Sadly several officers have been killed by handcuffed but armed prisoners.
  • After an arrest/handcuffing of a suspect, do you “shake down” any chair or sofa in their house prior to them taking a seat?  Several years ago after responding to shots fired/shooting call we arrested two male suspects.  When one of my partners lifted the sofa cushion prior to them having a seat we found two loaded pistols.  Looking in a nearby closet I found a hand grenade on a shelf.  Look for the obvious but look further and search the area where the prisoners have access.
  • Do you inspect your patrol car prior to a shift of duty?  Without an inspection prior to your shift and after every prisoner how can you testify that the: dope, weapon or other contraband came from them?  This hit home with me when I saw a shift-mate pull a butcher knife from under the rear seat prior to our tour.
  • At the range do you load, unload or otherwise “run-the-gun” using the same movements you would during standard reloads?  Just this week an officer pulled his pistol from the holster brought it to low-ready and ran the slide ejecting a live round.  Sad thing was that there was no magazine in the pistol so his first attempt at firing ended with a loud “click.”  Had he brought the pistol into his “work space,” drew a magazine from his mag carrier and eyeballed the mag insertion, he would have his loading process work for him instead of against him.
  • Do you insert and tug your carbine mags when loading your patrol rifle?  Proper attention to this detail results in proper feeding and the elimination of the embarrassing and potential life endangering incident of the mag falling to the deck when you run the bolt forward.
  • Is an equipment inspection part of your daily routine?  Do you examine your pistol, magazines, baton, flashlight, handcuffs and other equipment as you don it and make ready for your shift?

It’s Not Perfection 

It’s a daily struggle for excellence.  Admittedly over my 30 year police career I have made many of these errors and failed to attend to detail on more than one occasion.  I’ve driven down the street only to realize I left something back at the house and had to return.  And yes, I’ve learned the value of “redundancy in safety equipment” when my light died during a night shift or I was – cold or wet because I hadn’t brought my winter coat or raingear.  Therefore, I’m not preaching from the mount.  But I learned many of these lessons the hard way, long ago and they have carried me through my career and would submit that much of police work is attention to detail.

Maybe it’s time for a little inspection of you and your gear.  Is everything in top shape and good to go?  Failure at the range or in training is one thing.  Failure on the street is another thing entirely.  In just five minutes or less you can inspect and attend to your uniform and equipment and ensure that everything is squared away.  Time spent now paying attention to the details might prevent the rest of your life spent in regret.