Editor’s Note: The crew of CopBlue is pleased to announce a new partnership with LEO NEAR MISS. Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Near Miss is a voluntary, non-disciplinary officer safety initiative that allows cops to read about and anonymously share stories of close calls or “near misses,” which provide lessons learned that can protect fellow officers in similar situations.
One article will be featured each month to share with the CopBlue family of Street Cops. We believe this is just another way that we can expand our effort to, ‘Save just ONE life.’ Please join us and welcome LEO NEAR MISS to the CopBlue family.
Officers responded to a report of a robbery shooting in a residential area next to a convenience store. A citizen caller advised that two suspects had fled into the store several minutes before officers arrived. The citizen caller reported that he was also inside the store and provided his own physical description to the call taker.
Two patrol officers arrived to check the store, but it was believed that the suspects had likely already fled the scene due to the time elapsed. The two officers entered through the store’s front door and immediately recognized the caller based on his clothing description.
The officers asked him if the suspects were still in the store. The citizen said no and then told the officers that he did not know what they were talking about because he did not call 911. As officers walked further into the store, they observed several patrons but did not order anyone to the ground or detain anyone.
Unbeknown to the two officers, the two suspects approached the officers from their flank and walked behind the officers while exiting through the front door. Once the two suspects had walked out of the store, the citizen caller felt safe enough to tell the officers that the two individuals who had just walked out of the store were, in fact, the suspects.
The officers ran out of the store and confronted the suspects. Both suspects complied with orders to lie down prone on the ground. A loaded semi-automatic handgun was recovered from the waistband of one of the suspects.
One of the two officers who entered the store told me that he had allowed the suspect who was armed to brush past his back as the suspect was leaving the store. The officer was shocked that he had allowed an armed person to get that close to him and eventually behind him. The officer stated his guard was down because of the statements from the citizen caller, who had indicated that there were no suspects in the store.
- Officers must take control on a scene where there are reports of armed suspects. In this near miss incident, officers chose not to engage all the customers in the store because they feared they would receive a citizen complaint. As a result, officers put themselves in a deadly situation and for only luck, they were not killed.
- Per Terry v. Ohio, officers are justified in temporarily detaining citizens when they have reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is occurring or has occurred, and officers can conduct a pat-down search of a suspect’s outer clothing when they have reasonable suspicion that the person is armed and dangerous. When officers meet these standards, they need to place officer safety over concern of a citizen complaint. Officers who take these actions but remain professional and take the time to explain the reasons for their actions to citizens after the situation has been resolved can avoid complaints, and most importantly, remain tactically sound and survive an encounter with an armed subject.
- Officers should also recognize that citizens may not be forthcoming with information even after they have called 911 to report a crime. Officers should investigate further and never make assumptions, which can endanger their safety.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
If you would like to read more stories like this one, please visit LEOnearmiss.org. We also ask that you consider sharing any near misses you have experienced. The five minutes you take to share your story can save the life of a brother or sister in blue.
LEO Near Miss Overview
Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Near Miss is a voluntary, non-disciplinary officer safety initiative that allows cops to read about and anonymously share stories of close calls or “near misses,” which provide lessons learned that can protect fellow officers in similar situations.
A near miss is defined as any incident that could have resulted in a law enforcement officer being seriously injured or killed if not for a fortunate break in the chain of events. Near misses oftentimes include contributing factors like hazardous conditions, subjects with concealed weapons, failed equipment, or lapses in situational awareness.
Regardless of the situation, they provide lessons learned, and reporting a near miss allows fellow officers to learn from these incidents so they can go home to their loved ones after every shift. Officers often share their near misses with their close friends, but rarely are these stories, and the lessons learned from them, shared with officers across the country. LEO Near Miss provides a secure way for cops to share this vital information.
LEO Near Miss is strictly for promoting peer learning and enhancing officer safety and wellness. Officers can visit LEOnearmiss.org or download the free smartphone app (LEO Near Miss), read the lessons learned from near misses experienced by other officers, and anonymously share their own near-miss experiences.
Near-miss stories submitted to LEO Near Miss go directly to the Police Foundation (www.PoliceFoundation.org), an independent, non-profit research and training organization that manages the system in partnership with other national organizations like Below 100, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the Officer Down Memorial Page, and the National Tactical Officers Association. Each story received undergoes a two-stage review process by current and former law enforcement to remove all personally identifying information (ensuring anonymity when published) and to highlight important takeaways for improving officer safety.
Once a story has finished the review process (about 7-10 days), any personally identifying information is permanently deleted from our records, and the story is made available for vetted law enforcement personnel to access on the LEO Near Miss website and smartphone app. Furthermore, no IP addresses are ever tracked or linked to any stories submitted to the system, and officers do not need to log in to submit a story.
Please support this critical officer safety initiative by reading and sharing the near-miss stories and lessons learned that your fellow officers have shared, and please consider sharing your own near-miss experiences at LEOnearmiss.org or through our free smartphone app. The five minutes you take to share your story can save the life of a brother or sister in blue.