NINE FUNERALS IN EIGHTEEN WEEKS
In the last eighteen weeks, our community has suffered the gut-wrenching experiences of burying nine of those whom we love the most: our brother cops.
01/17/17 – Sheriff Stephen Lawrence, Lea County [NM] SO
01/19/17 – Officer Raymond Murrell, Bloomingdale [IL] Police
02/28/17 – Deputy Kevin Haverly, Green County [NY] SO
04/10/17 – Deputy Levi Pettway, Lowndes County [AL] SO
04/11/17 – Trooper Anthony Borostowski, Wisconsin State Patrol
04/30/17 – Deputy Justin Beard, Quachita Parish [LA] SO
05/06/17 – Deputy Jimmy Tennyson, Maury County [TN] SO
05/10/17 – Officer Jonathan Ginka, Norton Shores [MI] Police
05/13/17 – Deputy Jason Garner, Stanislaus County [CA] SO
Think about that for a minute. Nine scenes which had to be worked by the cops these officers shared their work-lives with. Holding it together under such horrendous circumstances requires an internal strength which must be super-human.
There were nine families who heard the knock at their doors. The knock they had always feared and dreaded would come. It came for these families. Could you imagine having the job of telling these families that the cop they loved would not be coming home again?
There were the funeral arrangements. The news conferences. The endless questions and the make-shift memorials erected by the communities served by these cops.
Then, there were the funerals. Our surviving brothers and sisters stood at rigid attention, saluting their fallen comrade and praying to God they wouldn’t be the first to break down in tears. They heard Amazing Grace. They watched the families as the casket flag was folded in perfection and lovingly handed to the widow as a memento of what she had lost. Yet, nothing could replace the man with whom she shared her life.
Finally, there was the lone bugler playing TAPS.
When it was done, tears flowed. They hugged one another as if we were holding on for dear life.
The end of the service drove home the finality of the end of a life we had treasured. A life that could never be replaced.
Nine funerals that did not have to happen.
WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE & HOW
Following are very brief – too brief – stories of how each one of these funerals came to be.
Sheriff Steve Ackerman was killed in a single vehicle crash on Highway 285, near Encino, in Torrance County.
Police Officer Raymond Murrell was killed in a single vehicle crash while responding to a larceny in progress.
His patrol car left the roadway and struck a utility pole at the intersection of Army Trail Road and Cardinal Drive. Emergency crews extricated him from his vehicle and transported him to Adventist Glen Oaks Hospital where he passed away a short time later.
Deputy Sheriff Kevin Haverly was killed in a single vehicle crash on Route 23, in Ashland, at approximately 6:15 am.
He was returning to the agency’s satellite office in Ashland at the end of his midnight shift when his patrol SUV left the roadway and struck a utility pole.
Deputy Sheriff Levi Pettway was killed in a single vehicle crash on Alabama 21 in Hayneville.
Deputy Pettway’s patrol car left the roadway and struck several trees. Rescue crews extricated him from the vehicle but were unable to revive him.
Trooper Anthony Borostowski was killed in a single vehicle crash at mile marker 89 on eastbound I-90/94 in Sauk County.
He was on patrol at approximately 4:00 am when his patrol car left the roadway and struck a tree. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Deputy Sheriff Justin Beard was killed in a single vehicle crash while responding to a burglary alarm during a severe thunderstorm at approximately 6:00 am.
He was traveling on Louisiana Highway 34, south of West Monroe, when his patrol vehicle left the roadway, struck an embankment, and overturned. Deputy Beard, who was not wearing a seat belt, suffered fatal injuries.
Deputy Sheriff Jimmy Tennyson succumbed to injuries sustained in a single vehicle crash the previous morning at approximately 7:30 am.
He was en route to a local high school when his patrol car left the roadway on Iron Bridge Road, near Running Deer Drive, in Columbia. The vehicle went down an embankment and struck a group of trees. He was transported to a local hospital before being transferred to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He succumbed to his injuries on May 6th, 2017.
Police Officer Jon Ginka was killed in a single vehicle crash on Henry Street, south of Ross Road, shortly after 2:30 am.
His patrol SUV left the roadway and struck a tree, causing extensive damage. He was extricated from the vehicle and transported to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injuries a short time later.
Deputy Sheriff Jason Garner and civilian Community Service Officer Raschel Johnson were killed in a single vehicle crash while en route to a previous burglary call at approximately 8:20 am.
The patrol SUV left the roadway near the intersection of Crows Landing Road and Seventh Street before striking a parked vehicle and dumpster. The collision caused the vehicle to become engulfed in flames.
WHAT WOULD WE DO IF …
Suppose these kinds of losses had been caused by misfires with a new model Glock. Just imagine. What if a flaw in a weapon design caused misfires that resulted in officer injuries like blindness, facial burns and death? What if the misfires could be totally eradicated if the officers using the weapons had been trained in techniques which would end the problem?
What if it was discovered that there was a design change to the braking systems in the Ford Interceptor which resulted in vehicle crashes? All of the crashes could have been prevented if the officers had been trained in how to use them. Nine deaths would only be the tip of the iceberg. There might be a mountain of injuries to other officers in addition to the losses of life.
Suppose that using the wrong type of battery in a Streamlight could cause the case to explode? It might have caused the metal case to rupture with shards of the case becoming shrapnel which injured or killed these cops. The problem continued because no one made the effort to train the guys who use this gear on what kind of replacement battery to use.
How might you react if these NINE FUNERALS and dozens of other unlisted injuries could be largely wiped out if the officers had been fully trained on the use of their assigned equipment.
If that were true, I know that I would be pissed.
A similar story is true and I am pissed.
Did you notice the common element in all nine deaths? Every officer was involved in a “SINGLE VEHICLE CRASH.”
- Experienced cops
- Driving their assigned vehicles
- Working on familiar roads in their own communities
- Suddenly, they lose control of the vehicle and are killed
A question I’ve often asked in a classroom: “Do you know what these officers were doing?” Of course, the answer is “NO.”
Said differently, “Do you know what these officers WEREN’T DOING?” The answer – with 99% certainty is obvious: They weren’t paying attention to their driving. Something else had their attention.
What might that ‘something else’ be? I’m betting it was the technical gear accompanying them in their cars, e.g. computer, cameras, GPS, cell phone, text messaging on the phone and/or computer. The list goes on.
THE TRAINING GAP
New technical gear is being dropped into the laps of cops at an ever increasing rate. We teach them the minimum: their logon credentials and the basics of using the various applications. That’s where it stops.
Suppose we adopted a similar approach to weapons training for new recruits: parts of the weapon, how to disassemble / clean the weapon, proper stance, breathing, sight picture, shooting tight groups and other mechanics. That’s where it stops.
Not on your life.
That is EXACTLY what the providers of most hardware and software are doing to our cops with their array of products.
The wave of body cameras requires that the cops using them go through a process at each call of ensuring the camera is operating and at the conclusion of each call ‘synching’ the video to other records, i.e. the CAD systems. Do we teach cops how to perform these tasks while running code to the next call waiting? Nope.
Hand-held devices are all the rage. That’s all well and good. We now have applications which allow a cop to stand roadside, run people through NCIC, write tickets, get signatures and other such tasks. Wonderful. How much time is the app developer using to teach the cops about the risks of using their gear around the public, how to mitigate the risks and what the shortcuts (e.g. colored text, font size, indents, etc.) that allow the cop to glean gobs of information with just a glance? None of them.
These guys want to make the sale and they are out the door. See ‘ya!
Before the next piece of techno-gear is handed to a cop, questions should be answered:
- What is the administrative load of the gear, i.e. how much time and attention will it require to make the stuff work?
- Does the use of this gear (in sum) make the officer more – or less – safe? If the answer is ‘less safe,’ don’t allow it near the street.
- Will the vendor take responsibility for training all of the end-users how to get the most out of the product?
- Will the vendor do the proper job of training all of the troops, or will they try to skate by training a select few and then hope the few tell the rest? (BTW: this is ‘train-the-trainer’ and experience shows that it just doesn’t work with technology).
- Will the vendor work with the agency in writing the accompany General Orders. Agencies are being shortchanged if a vendor leaves them to ‘feel their way’ on this issue. The vendor has experience with other agencies and they should be expected to share it.
DEADLY DIRECTIVES & STUPID RULES
Agencies have made the mistake of assuming that today’s young cops have used computers all their lives. Hence, why would we need to train them on their proper use and safety?
True, young cops have used computers all of their lives. But, the youngsters don’t associate the computer with danger. A cop using a computer in a public setting is horribly dangerous – even life threatening. This bit of wisdom escapes the rookies.
Need proof? Lakewood, WA PD lost four cops in a deadly shooting in a local coffee shop. Seems the four were studying their laptop computers and no one had the door.
Then, of course, there are the moronic chiefs and city attorneys who put their two cents in: “Don’t use the computer while the car is moving.” Simple enough.
Wait a minute.
Patrol cops get their calls from dispatch on their computer. The sergeant uses the computer to send messages to/from the troops. Officers are told to ‘run the tag’ before making the stop. But, “don’t use the computer while your vehicle is moving.” That’s pure insanity. The rule will be broken within minutes after it is put in place.
And the chief knows it.
By failing to train our cops on the tactical risks which come along with every piece of technology, we are contributing to the injuries and deaths of our brothers and sisters.
In our Oath, we promise to take a bullet for one another but then send them out into the street unprepared.
NINE COP FUNERALS IN EIGHTEEN WEEKS
I believe this is a price too great to pay. What do you think?
What are you going to do about it?
Sense of urgency? Try this: God forbid, your zone partner falls victim to a fatal single vehicle crash and it’s your job to break the news to his wife. Actual cause of crash: he was using his computer while running code to back you up. Does it seem a little more urgent, now?
We can do better – and we must. It’s not up to ‘someone else,’ it’s up to each one of us to either act or demand action.
Sending a cop out into the world who is ill-prepared is a sin against the entire Brotherhood.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
Credit to the Officer Down Memorial Page for the statistics.
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