By Steve Tracy I Editorial director
Anywhere at Anytime to Anyone of Us
Police officers have heard victims of crime say, “I never thought it would happen to me” so many times that we can become numb to the words. Because police officers see crime on a daily basis, it unfortunately doesn’t surprise us when another victim becomes a statistic.
We’ve also heard the line, “I can’t believe it happened here.” Our cynical response, based on years of policing, is the retort, “It happens everywhere.” It may not happen as often in certain locations, but crimes like criminal damage to property all the way up to murder, can occur anywhere at anytime to anyone. The public may not realize this truth, but any cop with a bit of street time knows it is a reality.
Police officers train for the real possibility that some day “it” might happen here, now, and to us. Athletes train for the big game. While football players train for Sunday, baseball players train in the morning for an afternoon game, and basketball players practice right before a game; cops train when their department budgets and manpower allow.
Statistically speaking, the average law enforcement officer will never fire his/her duty gun in a confrontation during a 30-year career. But, if we followed statistics, we wouldn’t have a fire extinguisher under our kitchen sink at home. Officers assigned to high-crime areas (tactical) or special duties (SWAT) raise their chances of becoming involved in a gunfight astronomically. Usually these specialized and skilled officers receive a much higher level of training compared to the average beat cop.
But the patrol officer must realize “it” can still happen anywhere at anytime to anyone of us. Shooting is a perishable skill. The cop who enjoys shooting as a hobby, pastime, or competition is a step up over those who dread qualification and are simply happy to pass with a minimal score. There is a difference between practice and training. You can practice on just about any range as long as you can draw and fire from your holster. The incorporation of movement and cover turns practice more into realistic training.
Competition also adds a certain level of adrenaline rush due to time and scoring constraints. It can simulate hyped-up, real-world deadly force scenarios, but only to a point. It will never match the reality of your life on the line. But any practice or training, performed with as much realism as possible, is better than none.
Tactics can be taught in a classroom setting and then practiced at various locations (firing ranges, abandoned buildings, even schools closed for summer as long as only tactics and not live fire are utilized).
But tactics can also be taught by just reading and studying and thinking about actual situations in which fellow officers have been involved. After-action discussions or debriefings can help all of us learn to be safer in our job.
This is one of the reasons why police officers read The Police Marksman. Brian McKenna’s Officer Down column details real incidents from which we can all learn. The interactive online questions can be utilized in roll call or training classrooms.
In a recent column, McKenna recounted an officer who chased a shoplifter on foot (The Jarod Reston Incident – Jan/Feb 2013 of The Police Marksman). There were many concepts to be taken from the entire story, including the officer’s ability to still fight back, return fire, and win the confrontation by staying alive.
Recently, I chased a shoplifter and encountered a corner during the pursuit. McKenna’s Officer Down column came immediately to mind. The tactics I learned from that article caused me to pause before blindly turning that corner. I didn’t expose myself to unnecessary danger and still caught the shoplifter moments later.
All types of training keep our fellow police officers safe and The Police Marksman is just one small slice of the training/practice/tactics pie. So turn the digital page, read on, and remember it can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone one of us. PM