Code White

‘Code White’ was a term my squad mates and I used to describe someone who was completely unaware of their surroundings. 

While civilians can be forgiven for going through their day in this mode, officers are held to task by their peers if found operating in ‘Code White’.  Not only is being unaware of what is going on around you dangerous, as an officer you can miss some pretty good stuff. 

 None of these officers were operating in ‘Code White’:

  • The officer who was driving through a very busy intersection and witnessed a bank robbery in progress.  Not only did this officer see the robbery, he saw it through a small window at the side of the bank.  Talk about excellent observation skills!
  • The officer who was patrolling a quiet side street in the middle of the night and saw the stealthy shadow of a person in ‘crime mode’.  The officer hid his police car, got out on foot and tailed the shadow, apprehending the suspect when he broke into a vehicle.
  • The officer who remembered the make and model of a vehicle used in a crime, and upon seeing a similar vehicle conducted a traffic stop.  The stop resulted in two suspects being taken into custody after weapons were clearly visible in the car.
  • The officer who remembered the physical description of a suspect in a bank robbery, and saw the suspect the following day.  The suspect was arrested and ended up confessing to a series of robberies.

Not only do officers have to be aware of their surroundings on a grand scale, they have to be aware of their surroundings on an up-close-and-personal level as well.  These officers might have suffered injury (or worse) if they had been operating in ‘Code White’:

  • On a cold winter night, two officers conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle seen leaving the area of a break-in.  The officer standing at the passenger side of the stopped car noticed the butt of a gun sticking out of a near-by snowbank and immediately unholstered his own weapon.  The occupants of the vehicle were called out at gunpoint.  Once the occupants were in custody, several more guns were found in the car.  That was too close for comfort.
  • The plainclothes officer who saw the funny way a man was holding his arm when the man walked into a store behind him.  The officer trusted his instincts and took hold of the man’s arm.  Upon being checked, the man had a three foot long machete up his sleeve and a previous record for robbery.
  • The officer who responded to a noisy house party and saw the clenched fists and hunched shoulders of one of the guests.  The officer sensed the assault attempt right before it happened, and was able to move out of the way just as the man threw a punch at his head.

These are just a few examples of why officers are hard on one another when it comes to paying attention and being ready for the unexpected.  Even though sometimes bad things happen in the face of good preparation and hyper alertness, operating in ‘Code White’ increases tenfold the chance of officers getting injured and killed. 

We need to be ready.  We need to have a plan.  We need to go through ‘what if’ scenarios.  Our job is about being prepared and being on alert. 


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