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Run, Walk, Crawl

Written by Scott Oldham

What walks on all fours in the morning, on two in the afternoon and three at night? Most have probably heard this age old riddle in one form or another before. The answer, of course, is man. He walks on all fours (crawling) at the dawn of life, on two legs during his adolescence and adulthood, and three legs (with a cane) near the end of life.

Human beings are unique creations. Our young are born without the ability to walk, communicate or care for themselves in even the most remote way. For the apex predator on the planet to be born so completely helpless and vulnerable yet survive in such vast numbers is a miracle.

Somewhere along the way though, we begin to speed life up through confidence gained through the small milestones along the way. We rapidly begin to forget about crawling. We don’t need it for locomotion anymore. We rarely even walk any great distance because we now can get places faster with technology. And running in most cases, that is the order of the day, not so much in a literal sense but in how we live our lives. Rarely do we stop and look at our problems at a different speed, where they may have an entirely different look about them.

As law enforcement officers, we are guilty of failing to take the time to slow down and look at the problem before we are knee deep in it.

As law enforcement supervisors, we have all preach to the officers not to run into a call without backup, yet how many still do? We have all taught that parking directly in front of the address where you are making a run is to be strictly avoided, yet how many times do we see this? We have all lectured about noise and light discipline on approaches to calls, but how many times to we still see officers getting out of their cars, headlights still on, with portable radios blaring?

Look to the rookies. Assuming a quality field training staff and adequate initial supervision, most likely these officers are arriving at calls with the headlights off, parking down the block and observing good approach tactics. Some of the more tenured officers are the problem children, so what went wrong along the way?

The excuses are many, “That doesn’t happen here,” “Never had a problem with it before,” and on and on. The problem with this is that there is a growing national trend of officers being ambushed, in many cases fatally.

The tactic of the ambush is very effective for the offenders. They set the time and place of the confrontation, they control the onset, and they control exactly how it plays out. Unless, that is, they come across one of the well-disciplined, well-trained or simply wily old “knights” that prowl through madness day after day, year after year, living, learning, and waiting.

Tragically, even if it is one of the “turned on” officers who is the intended target, there are often no warning signs of what is about to come. Sometimes it is merely a one-round gunfight that ends a life. Sometimes it is a fusillade of bullets fired out of the dark that cuts down even the best among us.

With the United States having been involved in combat operations in various areas of the world over the past eight years, there is one thing that officers should be very aware of. As much as it pains us to say it, there will be a certain amount of the troops who return from these theatres of war who will, for whatever reason, eventually interact with law enforcement in a negative way.

We must remember that this generation of veterans has experienced urban combat on a level not seen since World War II. This generation has seen the horrors of roadside IEDs, room-to-room and door-to-door close-quarters battle and has survived it all. In other words, this generation has skills.

It isn’t just veterans who pose the threat. Most of us should have at least stopped to ponder the “what if” of a terrorist attack within our jurisdiction. It needn’t be Osama and the boys with a dirty bomb that could cause the problem. Think how your agency would handle something as such as a four-man group that is moderately equipped and trained simply roving the city causing lethal mayhem? A good four-man group could cause you infinite problems before being brought to heal. We have seen it before, and often that was with far fewer than four trained shooters.

While every officer wants to get through his shift and move on to other things in his life, many tend to cut corners, take unnecessary chances and run all the way to the call. They often miss the danger signs that might be present or fail to take note of those little hairs on the back of their necks that are screaming, “Something here isn’t right!” In doing so, they might condemn themselves and others to a death that could be avoided.

Run to the call, but stop short get out and walk closer to the call and then slow down to a crawl before you kick off the action; you can always speed up if you need to, but give yourself just a little more time to observe, orient and stave off tragedy. Run, walk, crawl. Make it an officer safety mantra for every call. It may just mean your life.

Scott Oldham is a supervisory sergeant with the Bloomington, IN Police Department where he is assigned to the Operations Division as patrol supervisor, as well as being one of the team leaders for the department’s Tactical Unit. He can be reached at oldhams@bloomington.in.gov.

Published in Law and Order, Apr 2009

Rating : 10.0


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