Last night, Jeff called.
Jeff is my Brother in Blue. I came to know him back in Michigan. A few years ago, he landed a job with a medium sized agency in a state in the Pacific Northwest.
Jeff’s a one-percenter. He trains hard. He keeps his skills sharp and is on the top of his game.
Jeff is a cop’s cop. He is respected by his fellow officers and is a ‘go-to’ guy on their crew. He is a class act whom others seek out for his opinion on a variety of issues.
I have been fortunate to have been blessed to work with a guy like Jeff every place I’ve been. I suspect you have your own version of Jeff in your department, too. As they say, ‘Cream rises to the top.’
One of the traits that most impress me about Jeff is that he recognizes when he has a burr under his saddle. He knows when something is bugging him and he needs to talk it out. He doesn’t bury it inside, carry it around, let it fester and tear him up. Jeff isn’t afraid to put himself out there in order to resolve a problem.
I am very complimented because Jeff often turns to me at those times when he needs to unload. It is an honor, indeed.
IT WAS A CLOSE CALL
I could hear it in Jeff’s voice when he called. We had exchanged pleasantries but something wasn’t quite right. So, I asked, “Are you doing OK, buddy”
His response came “I had the afternoon off; I was involved in an OIS today. The bad guy shot at me. The round came so close to my head when it went by that I heard the whizzing sound and even heard it crackle as it went by.”
The pace of our exchange escalated.
“Are you OK?”
“Yes, but I’ve never heard a round crackle because it was so close to me before.”
“What’s the status of the dirtbag who shot at you?”
“How are you feeling – in your gut?”
There was a pause while Jeff collected his thoughts. Words didn’t come easily at that point, so we just spent a couple of minutes listening to each other breathe.
I wished we were together, so that I could hold him close and remind him of how much he means to those with whom he shares his life.
“How is your wife taking it?” I asked.
“She’s being strong – for me. But, I know it must really be bothering her,” came the response.
AFTER IT’S OVER
Think back for a moment to the last time you had a near-miss of a wreck in your car, narrowly escaping an accident.
If it was REALLY bad, you may have pulled over to the side of the road to collect yourself. Your palms were sweating. You were breathing hard. Your heart was pounding.
While you sat there, you replayed the events of the near-miss over and over in your head thinking about what might have been.
EVENTS OF THE DAY
Jeff was part of a crew whose goal was serving a warrant. The call quickly became confrontational. The subject was armed and proceeded to hole up inside a residence.
It was reported that he took some shots at the officers on the scene. The SWAT team was called out. As events unfolded, SWAT deployed some flash-bangs which forced him to evacuate the structure. The suspect sought refuge in a nearby building.
The suspect then fired shots at Jeff and two other officers who were on scene.
That is when Jeff heard the round whiz past his head
Ultimately, another officer (or two) were able to get a bead on the animal who was later pronounced DRT. He will no longer burden society with his animalistic behavior.
REFLECTION BECOMES ANGER
In our phone call, Jeff began recounting details of the incident. He told me, “I had a shot; in fact, more than one.”
“I couldn’t shoot because other officers were in my backstop,” Jeff confided with some frustration.
He went on, “I was yelling at them; telling them to get out of the way. They were about 150 feet away from me and they were unable to hear my voice.”
Then, Jeff shared the pivotal information, “Even though we were only 150 feet apart, the radios did not work. We were too far from the nearest repeater. My only option was my voice,” Jeff lamented.
I was incredulous. “Your radios didn’t work?” I pressed.
Jeff reacted, “No. We are STILL using analog radios and they are f***king old and in piss-poor condition.” I expressed my astonishment that ANY agency in the U.S. had not yet converted to digital radios. Given that fact, it was clear that Jeff’s agency could not communicate with other cop shops in the area.
It was obvious to me that the overall radio situation in Jeff’s agency had been the source of much frustration for the officers.
Jeff went on to provide further information. A few years ago, his City sought bids from multiple vendors that could upgrade their radio to the current technology, i.e. digital.
As is often the case with purchasing departments, they awarded the contract to the LOWEST BIDDER. In addition to being the lowest bidder, they have also established the fact that they were/are unqualified to handle the project as proven by the fact that they have now been working on it for multiple years.
They still have been unable to get the new radio up and running.
SAVING MONEY – AT WHAT COST?
To be certain, acquiring a new radio system for a law enforcement agency is an expensive proposition. The price tag is likely in the millions of dollars.
For a purchasing agent to save even a few percentage points on the purchase price represents a whole lot of dollars to the city. When it’s successful, the buyer looks like a genius.
In this situation, the dollar savings damn near came with the cost of burying three cops.
Was it worth it?
You and I both know the answer. It is a resounding NO.
Over my twenty year tenure of training cops, I have seen a wide array of technology provided to cops for their use.
I have heard the tech people brag about how they have avoided the high cost of rugged computers by simply using consumer-grade gear and keeping spares on hand to use when one of the mobile units break down.
It looks good on paper.
What it doesn’t show is this: the cop is sitting behind a vehicle which he stopped. He is waiting for the computer return to tell him if the subject is dangerous, has a warrant or poses some other kind of threat to the officer. While waiting, the computer craps out. It’s a couple of years old and it fails occasionally.
The officer is then faced with options – all of which are bad. He can take the time to reboot the computer and run the subject again. He can get on the radio and wait for dispatch to run the subject. Finally, he can assume that the subject is clean and cut him loose.
No matter his choice, once he clears the stop, the cop will probably take the time to get the computer back up and running. There will be no replacement and there will be no failure reported to the tech wizards.
On the surface, it seems everybody is a winner.
The city saved money by purchasing cheaper consumer-grade computers.
The computers work most of the time.
The downside: I may be attending the funeral of a fallen brother who was killed by poor decisions made in the Purchasing Department.
Should we be asking our cops to die for reasons like this? I think not.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
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