Well that didn’t take long. The day after Thanksgiving – known lovingly as Black Friday by diehard shoppers nationwide – ushered in the holiday season in style. According to assorted news reports there were among other incidents nationwide: a gang fight at mall, shots fired outside a Walmart, customers run over in a parking lot, man punched in face pulls gun on line cutter, woman stabs brother in neck with fork, as well as assorted robberies, assaults and general mayhem. Way to welcome in the Holidays!
I would love to tell you that that time of year from Thanksgiving till Christmas is a time of peace on Earth and goodwill to men and in most quadrants and with most people this tends to be true. However, in others fueled by alcohol, drugs, rage or the stress of the day long standing dysfunctional family issues can manifest themselves in violence or other out of control behavior. Tis the season…
Seasonal Affective Disorders
Yes there truly is a SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder which afflicts some people when fall turns to winter and I’m not making light of depression. As a resident of the Midwest I can attest to the “winter blues” (makes me cringe just thinking about January and February weather). That said, the “disorders” I’m referring to are those LE respond to routinely this time of year. They include:
- Domestic arguments
- Domestic violence
- Drunks/subjects under the influence
- Thefts from autos
- Bank robbery
There you go – a virtual cornucopia of mayhem. Just fills your heart with gladness doesn’t it?
Officer Safety Concerns
We learned in our basic academies, regardless of what year we went through, that domestic calls are dangerous. Couple that with an increase in ambushes against LEO’s and you have legitimate concerns while responding to and handling domestic calls from start to finish. Remember, just because you’ve been there before and nothing much happened doesn’t mean you won’t be in a fight for your life this time.
- There is no such thing as a routine domestic
- Park away from the residence
- Formulate strategies throughout the call:
- Drive out of an ambush upon arrival
- Move behind available cover if confronted on the walk up
- Be ready to respond with force if necessary
- Don’t stand in front of the door when knocking
- Take control of the situation
- Watch the suspect’s hands
- Scan the area for weapons – actual and makeshift
- Monitor pre-attack body shifts and postures such as – the boxer stance, escape or attack glances, manifestations of fight or flight such as: red face, protruding veins in the face or forehead, hand movements such as balling the fists, weight shifts, hiking the trousers up
- Arrest and handcuff if/when sufficient probable cause exists
- Pat-down/search like your life depends on it
- Be wary of attacks from the victim and/or third parties
- Pat-down again prior to transport
Arrest is the preferred method of handling a domestic. If you have sufficient probable cause to make an arrest, do so. This reduces the likelihood of violence against a spouse or other family member and increases officer safety. Don’t anticipate that you’ll be seen as the savior of the family once you place the breadwinner in custody.
Man with Gun Calls
Armed suspect, shots fired and man with gun calls must be taken seriously. Don’t anticipate a suspect armed only with a pistol, rifles assaults against officers is on the uptick nationwide. A rifle is a line of sight weapon meaning, if they can see you they could shoot you. Further, what constitutes cover against a 9mm or .45 or other pistol round may be easily penetrated by a 7.62 X 39mm round fired from an AK47 or a suspect firing his deer rifle in .30-06.
- Monitor activity and scan the area upon approach, use all your senses
- Be ready to drive out of the kill zone
- Park away from the location
- Be conscious of light issues. Park in the dark or shadows and be leery of “black holes” or shadows where a suspect may be concealed
- When using your flashlight avoid leaving it on. “Paint” an area with light then turn your light off and change position
- Be ready to respond with deadly force
- Consider “up-arming” to the patrol carbine or shotgun
- Move from the patrol car to available solid cover such as trees or wooden utility poles
- Remember suspects can move and may have left the reported location to take up a position of ambush or attempt to flank you
- Don’t equate closeness with being in control. When dealing with armed suspects, distance is your friend
- Coordinate response with other officers
- If a suspect, reported or thought to be armed is encountered, have a firearm out and ready to respond from behind cover
- If possible have the suspect prone out or go to a kneeling position to reduce their mobility
- Coordinate approach with other officers
- Handcuff, then search
- If they run, foot chases of armed suspects are extremely hazardous. If you lose sight of asuspect they may formulate a hasty ambush. Consider:
- Locking down a perimeter with other units
- Calling in a K9
- Conducting a systematic search with other officers
- Be cover, sound and light conscious
I’m wishing you and your family the healthiest and happiest of Holiday seasons but in order for that to happen, you must accept, plan and prepare to deal with the worst that this brings out in your fellow man. While on and off the job pay particular attention to the very real threats that exist. Remind your family of the perils of the holiday as well. The good things in life and during the holidays can only be experienced if you are safe and uninjured.
*I would highly recommend the new video documentary “Heroes Behind the Badge”. Available through the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund at www.nleomf.com An extremely powerful and well produced documentary about the heroes that wear blue and the risks they face every day on the mean streets of America.