Over-the-top, paranoid, excessive, obsessive, “it ain’t gonna happen to me,” or “that kind of stuff doesn’t happen here.” Pick your adjective or catch phrase used to describe prepared officers. “You don’t need all that stuff on-duty,”: a full-size handgun, spare magazines, concealed or external body armor, back-up gun, spare flashlight, tourniquet or battlefield dressing, patrol knife, all on your person with a 5.56 carbine spare magazines carried in a shoulder bag in the patrol vehicle as well as rifle rated Level IV armored plates and carrier, and even more equipment in a bag in the trunk. “Man that dude is just a Tackleberry. You just don’t need that much stuff. You think your Jack Bauer on the TV show 24.”
The edge, I want it and I work hard to maintain it. I didn’t survive nightshift patrol in the busiest car, uniformed narcotics working street gangs and drugs, and 12 ½ years on SWAT by being ill-practiced or ill-prepared. Schaeff and I are big guys. Working Car 15 was a pedal to the metal experience with shootings, stabbings, robberies, and dopers galore encountered on a regular, if not nightly, basis. We both carried S&W 15 shot semi-autos in security holsters with spare mags on our belts and the same company’s single stack 9mm pistols as BUG’s – back-up guns, under our shirts in “Horan Hide-Out” holsters attached to our body armor straps. Backed up by an 870 loaded with 00 buck in the cruiser rack, with spare shot shells in our briefcases (this was the time before patrol rifles were commonplace). Each of us carried spare handcuffs, batons, a stun gun and an SL-20 Streamlight flashlight on our belts as well as the usual gear. We both had briefcases and gear bags in either the backseat or trunk. When the sun went down we had lights, when it rained we had our raincoats and stayed dry, when it got cold out we had long underwear, hats and gloves to keep us warm. And when bad fecal material came our way, we handled it, or them. We didn’t depend on the agency as the sole provider of equipment or training. We both spent our own money and time to increase our likelihood of winning on the street. And it worked. We were safe and relatively uninjured except for little dinks and doinks.
The antithesis to this way of life are those officers who wander about their careers believing somehow that “it” is not going to happen to “them.” As if by ignoring the realities of violence against law enforcement and the common sense equipment and tactics that can save your bacon, they’ll be okay. I prefer to be skilled, well equipped and aware versus lucky.
I’ve dealt with moronic recommendations such as the statistics say or the “average” gunfight is… and other such drivel. They say I don’t need a magazine with more than 15 rounds as well as spare mags because the average gunfight is only two to three rounds. I don’t need to use my sights, shove and shoot works great. “You don’t need. You have enough. It’ll be okay. You’re just paranoid,” please save me from this unrealistic happy thoughts such as “It ain’t that bad,” and related kind of thinking. Law enforcement today has forgotten about the “Little Bohemia” John Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson shootout, Baby Face Nelson’s subsequent shootout which killed two more agents, the Onion Field incident, the Newhall Massacre, the Texas Tower, the Norco bank robbery, the FBI – Miami shootout, the North Hollywood bank shootout and thousands if not tens of thousands of lesser known but just as deadly armed confrontations before and since. What these non-average incidents showed us was that hyper-violent well-armed suspects require everything we have and sometimes every bullet we can get our hands on and fire to effectively stop. Agent Ed Mireles the hero FBI Agent who stopped Platt and Matix in the infamous FBI/Miami shootout said afterwards, “My recommendation to people, who are serious about street survival…is to carry as much (ammunition) as you can possibly carry.” If you’re not familiar with this violent history in LE, just go to YouTube and do a search on these incidents.
Just scan the headlines here at Officer.com and you’ll see recent officers who’ve gone through hell, and been saved by solid training or equipment. Everything from the patrol carbine to self-administered first-aid has allowed officers to not only survive but win the day just in the last few months!
Off-duty I carry at least one gun with a rifle usually close at hand. Of course, I’ve also apprehended escaped felons while shopping and had a crack head try to rob me, so life has had a way of interjecting reality into my career.
A few years ago I was running off-duty in a local park. Up ahead a deer burst out of the woods to my right. Two large feral dogs were close at the deer’s heels. Feral dogs, hyper-violent criminal suspects – you get the analogy. All the deer could do was run like hell. I want more of a fighting chance.
I don’t want to get involved off-duty if at all possible. I’ll be the best witness I can be. However, I’ve just had too times when I’ve stumbled into events or situations present themselves. Couple the LE perspective with my responsibilities as a husband and father and it comes down to this, I’m going to have my head in the game and have a planned, practiced response if a deadly or non-deadly situation comes at me.
It may be inconvenient to carry off-duty or sometimes uncomfortable for you to carry a full-size handgun but trying to win a gunfight with a five or six shot .38 or .380 with crappy sights is neither efficient nor comforting.
Paranoia = Unreasonable Fear
It is reasonable and prudent as a cop to accept that there are hyper-violent suspects on the streets (and in jails or prisons if you’re a corrections officer or deputy assigned to a jail) and that you must practice, plan, and prepare yourself to win the day in a violent confrontation with them.
That means having the gear, equipment and training you need. That means investing some of your own coin when the agency will not provide it. I know they should but I’ve been playing this game too long to believe in tooth fairies, unicorns, and my employer giving me all the training and everything I think I need to save my bacon. It’s as simple as that.
Paranoid, no I’m not paranoid, but I am experienced, realistic and making it home.