Dateline: Metro Detroit; Friday, June 4, 2004, 2030 hours.
I was working with my partner in a crime-ridden Detroit suburb. The dispatcher sounded frantic: BOL for a red Firebird or Camaro, occupied by a white male. He is armed and dangerous. The vehicle has just left the scene of an officer shooting.
A few minutes later we learn the gory details. Mark Sawyers, a Sterling Heights officer, was in his cruiser which was parked in a Target lot away from other vehicles. It was daylight at 8:00PM. The windows were up. The A/C was on. The stereo was playing.
Mark was looking toward the passenger floorboard at the low-mounted computer screen. He was mid-sentence in the narrative of a simple assault report. The dirtbag rolled up on the passenger side, raised a shotgun and slaughtered that young cop, who never saw it coming.
I stood among about 5,000 of my brothers at his funeral. The pipers played Amazing Grace which was followed by the bugler with Taps.
In the weeks that followed, I learned that the computer was mounted much too low. It was put there by the mechanic because that’s where the old MDT had been. The report writing software might have been OK on a 19” flat screen in the records bureau. But, on a 12” car computer, it took all of the officer’s focus and concentration.
We didn’t need to lose Mark. Watching Mark’s young wife, child and his work-family endure the horrible pain of this funeral could have been prevented.
Imagine this: going forward, academy recruits will only be taught the mechanics of their sidearm. They will know how it works, how to clean it, and how to load it. They will practice target shooting. And that’s where the training will stop. No more Use of Force Continuum. Put an end to shoot/don’t-shoot scenario training. Simunitions? Forget it. Imagine how much money could be saved by paring weapons training back that way.
That’s what we did to Mark.
Computers and in-car report writing have brought on significant changes to the fundamentals of coppery. As recruits, we were taught to never sit stationary in a place with public exposure. Keep moving. Sitting in one spot makes us too good a target. It was drilled into our heads.
Now, the techies are telling us to forget that lesson. Use this new gear. But, they don’t want to be bothered teaching you the tactical changes that must come with this gear in order to stay safe. These companies are putting their profits ahead of our lives, and it must stop.
DOING IT RIGHT
Let’s talk about one of the best outfits around: TASER, Inc. Their product has most recently brought changes to fundamental coppery. We’ve been trained how to use them. We’ve changed our duty belts, we’ve been taught the legal implications of their use. In many states, the Use of Force Continuum has been changed to accommodate the new technology.
TASER remains at the forefront of tactical training. They engage in courtrooms across the country to defend TASERS and the officers who use them. They are training trainers who return home to share functional and tactical knowledge on a local level.
TASER has shown their commitment to our needs and our well-being. There have been others before them: Motorola, Mag Lite, Glock, Sig-sauer, to name a few.
YOU WANNA’ BUY AS USED CAR?
Today, we see an onslaught of vendors who want us to use their technology to write reports, record traffic crashes, and write citations on a computer. They are willing to show us how to use their software on a limited basis. But their teaching is horribly incomplete.
It would be like Taser showing us how to load a cartridge on the weapon and stopping the training there.
We must stop accepting technology for its own sake. Without tactical awareness, it is a horrible risk to officer survival.
If we continue to allow these changes without training, we must know that we will continue to hear the sound of pipers playing Amazing Grace at the funerals of those whom we love and promised to defend with our lives.
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
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