Editor’s Note: The crew of CopBlue is pleased have LEO NEAR MISS as our partner. 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.
Another patrol officer got a call for a suspicious vehicle in a construction site at the beginning of our midnight shift. Staff at a restaurant connected to the site thought it was odd that a vehicle was there so late, since there was no construction going on.
As my co-worker started heading to this call in his zone, I decided it sounded suspicious enough that I would respond with him. We are a small department in a 50 square-mile town, so we often handle calls alone.
As we arrived, our attention was immediately drawn to the vehicle in question. We approached the vehicle and cleared it, not noticing anything out of the ordinary.
That is when I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye.
By the time I got my head around and looked in that direction, I didn’t see anything. Although I only caught a glimpse with my peripheral vision, I thought I saw a person looking at us before walking behind a dumpster, which I was now looking over. I told my partner what I had seen and we started walking that way.
As we came around the dumpster we could see a male. He continued to walk away from us. He walked by some large construction materials and then took a turn. We cut him off and began talking with him.
He seemed normal and calm enough, so while my partner spoke with him, I retraced his steps. I turned the corner where he had come from, and I immediately noticed a small stash of weapons underneath a pile of construction materials.
The stash included a handgun, at least one long gun and one or two knives. I was still close to my partner, so I motioned for him to handcuff the suspect. We did so without any incident.
The suspect never offered an explanation for why he stashed the weapons and why he appeared to be hiding out in the construction site overnight. His actions, though, led me to believe he had homicidal intentions.
The suspect was absolutely going towards the guns he had stashed. I believe that if I not gotten lucky and caught a glimpse of him, he could have easily ambushed and killed both my partner and me.
Who knows, had he only seen one officer, he might have felt more comfortable grabbing a gun and doing whatever he was going to do.
CONTRIBUTING RISK FACTORS
- Lack of situational awareness
- The construction site was fairly large. We failed to maintain situational awareness outside of our immediate area due to complacency and the assumption that a worker had simply left their vehicle there overnight.
- Remember the acronym ‘W.I.N.’ – What’s Important Now? Don’t focus solely on a vehicle’s interior. Even if someone is in the vehicle, they are in a confined space with limited mobility. Maintain focus on the surrounding area where people can easily hide, especially at night.
- In a situation like this, consider detaining the subject in handcuffs with both officers present before splitting up to retrace the subject’s steps.
- At the end of the day, no matter how routine a call may seem, always try to have back-up and avoid complacency at all costs! This can be hard in smaller departments, but it’s important to remain diligent. You just have to hope that your wake-up call is a close call and not an actual incident leading to your injury or death.
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
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.
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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.