In the Line of Duty – Part Three – The Officer

This topic always receives increased attention when there is a flood of law enforcement deaths.  2011 started badly for our blue family south of the 49th – their line of duty deaths have reached numbers never seen here in Canada.

When I posted the first in this series on February 1, 2011, there were 17 law enforcement deaths in the US and one in Canada.  Today, little more than a month later, the numbers for the States have climbed to 35.  Canada remains at one.

We could debate on why there is such a staggering difference, and I’m sure laws regulating the ownership and use of firearms would factor as a main point.  A debate on firearms is not without merit as the number of deaths attributed to gunfire in the States sits at 15, but I would suggest the majority of the guns used to kill law enforcement were not obtained legally.  The remainder of the deaths in the Unites States and Canada were attributed to everything from motor vehicle collisions, assault and explosions to duty related illness and heart attack.

When all factors surrounding the deaths of our law enforcement are considered, it is clear some acts of violence are difficult to predict.  An officer cannot know the car he pulled over during a’routine’ traffic stop is going to be driven by a man who will shoot him when he approaches the driver’s side window.  An officer processing a ‘routine’ break and enter cannot know the neighbour is lining her up in his rifle sights.  An officer cannot know that while stopped at the side of the road to assist a disabled vehicle he will be struck and killed by a passing motorist impaired by drugs/alcohol.

All of the above scenarios are real life examples.  In each instance, the officer died.

As officers, we can learn from their deaths and make ourselves more aware of the risks of this job.  As Canadian law enforcement, I know there is a certain sense of safety prevalent within our policing community – Canada has stricter gun laws, we have a smaller population and we are ‘The True North Strong and Free!’

But our job is not without risk and the biggest hazard (in my opinion) is the sense of complacency of some officers.  Just because Canada feels like a safer country to police does not mean officers can let their guard down.

Again, I’m not trying to be overly dramatic, but when faced with recent events it’s a wonder not more Canadian officers have been killed.  While it’s impossible to forecast the outcome of every 911 call, and while we have to accept some facts are out of our control, there are certain actions officers can take to ensure they go home at the end of shift:

  • Never treat any call as ‘routine’.
  • Never assume the suspect is ‘gone on arrival’.
  • Never ‘trust’ a suspect, even if you have had been dealing with him for years.
  • Always get out of your patrol car when dealing with someone.
  • Always watch hands, eyes and body language.
  • Always use safe tactics.
  • Trust your instincts.
  • Learn from the experience of others and learn from your own mistakes (we all make them).

This list could go on, but what I’m really trying to get at is never become complacent.

Despite the best training, preparation, tactics and knowledge, sometimes an officer loses his/her life in the line of duty.  It happens.

But it is up to each of us to mitigate the risks.

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3 Responses to "In the Line of Duty – Part Three – The Officer"

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