The lookout message said we were looking for a white male subject, early 20s, wearing a white tee shirt, blue jeans, and high top sneakers. We passed by the alley and caught a glimpse of a possible suspect running into a yard. My partner quickly aimed our squad in that direction and we both jumped out in pursuit. He had a jump on us, his white shirt appearing briefly on the first floor landing of a back porch staircase of a four story apartment building. We shouted, "Police, Stop!" The warnings had no effect, as is most always the case.
My partner and I raced up the first flight, a rush of adrenaline surging through our bodies. By the second flight of stairs, my partner's non-existent physical fitness program had left him gasping for air, hardly able to continue. However, I was in high gear reaching the third flight simultaneous to our bad guy making it to the top floor.
Stopping at the back door to listen, I heard some noise from inside and quickly surveyed what I now realized was another abandoned structure. Looking around what was once the kitchen, I saw syringes and other drug paraphernalia lying on the floor. I surmised that the guy I'm chasing may know the layout of this flophouse and have an even greater advantage on me.
I wanted to grab this guy as quickly as possible, and not give him time to hunker down while I made my way inside. I heard my partner still laboring as he walked up several steps trying to join me. I was on my own, armed with only my street smarts, training, and St. Michael as my backup.
I quick-peeked my way into the next room and found nothing but debris and feces on the floor. No danger areas here; I made my way to the next opening where I stopped and listened. I heard him - the breathing - he's in here I thought. I sliced the pie and saw a darkened room with just a few pieces of furniture. Good I thought; darkness is my friend. I pulled a light from the pouch on my belt and quickly lit the room by bouncing the beam off the ceiling. He's there - over in the corner - an alcove that must have once served as a shelving unit; I saw his shoulder. Just inside the room and off to my left, stood an old armoire. That would be my cover. I strobed my light in the direction of the alcove, shouting, "Police, Come Out!" At the same time, I dashed to my next point of cover.
As I made it to the bulky piece of furniture, two shots rang out from the corner in the direction of my last position. My bad guy's muzzle flash allowed me to get a perfect fix on his position. I returned fire, the blast illuminating my target perfectly. I heard him drop; he immediately began to moan and cry for help. I set my light on the floor to illuminate him and moved my position. Pulling out my second light, I was ready to blind him once again, but I could see his gun several feet from him. It was obvious that he had given up the fight.
Shaken from both the steep ascent and the sound of gunfire, my partner finally joined me as I made my way forward to cuff our suspect. We quickly got him under control, retrieved his weapon, and looked for additional weapons and anyone else that might be in the apartment. Score one for the good guys... training had allowed this one to end with a good outcome.
The above account is fictional, but nonetheless, it's taken from personal experience and accounts from colleagues over the course of 33 years of police work. This short story illustrates several points that emphasize the importance of training in our job.
Physical fitness training allowed our fictional officer to chase the suspect up four flights of stairs without any problem; it further allowed him to control himself physiologically during a time of extreme danger. His fitness gave him the ability to instantly formulate a plan, and then implement that plan. His heartbeat was under control, and he was focused on his target. By being in shape, his mind was clear and his actions were crisp and forceful. He presented an overwhelming presence to his adversary.
Our officer's tactical training and firearms skills allowed him to quickly dominate the situation and end it quickly. His knowledge of low light tactics, movement, and use of cover, made him a skilled warrior that quickly demoralized his opponent and gave him no options or openings to inflict harm on the officer.
So what was our officer's Achilles Heel? You guessed it... his partner. Even though his colleague may have had skills equal to those of his partner, they all become useless when he was not able to stand by his side and utilize them. The officer’s poor physical conditioning effectively reduced that two man unit to one man status. The poorly conditioned officer then became a liability rather than an asset.
So I ask you... are you lacking in any area? Could your firearms skills, tactics, or physical conditioning be improved? Is so, why aren't you aggressively working to bring whatever skill that you are deficient in up to speed? What are you waiting for? Be proactive. Take inventory of yourself, and as painful as it may be, admit that you need work in one of those areas and then get on it. You will be a better person and a better cop. It may just save your life or mine one day.
Stay safe brothers and sisters!