The year 2010 resulted in 103 law enforcement officer fatalities. That’s a staggering number, but 2011 has yet to end and we’ve experienced a 19% increase in fatalities already. According to statistics reported by the National Law Enforcement Memorial website, we’ve had 123 officers killed during this same time frame compared to last year. If you “Do the wall,” meaning, if you travel to D.C. to visit the Memorial, the low slung bulwark will quickly put things in perspective. An incomprehensible 19,298 names are engraved on those sacrosanct walls, each representing an act of heroism and sacrifice. The memorial is a fitting tribute to our fallen Warriors, but the families represented by some of those names may not have had to suffer through the pain and sorrow.
“Street Survival, A Winning Mindset, The Will to Survive,” whatever way you wish to identify it, the common denominator is Winning. I taught street survival for several years, domestically and internationally. My colleagues and I used to teach officers how to survive the street by teaching tactics such as car stops, room, stairway and hallway clearing, the importance of having a plan, and tactical shooting and reloading. All good stuff, in fact, a couple former students later reported to us they had been involved in shootings and survived as a result of the training we provided.
Over the years I’ve thought about those schools and the instruction we imparted to cops, agents and even some military in other countries. If we saved one cop’s life, we did our job. But I’ve had a change of heart in terms of how we characterize street survival schools. I think the proper terminology for such instruction should be: Winning the Battle.
Why the name change? Quite simply because surviving, albeit a favorable outcome, is somewhat ambiguous. Surviving could mean many things: you’re alive, but you stopped your attacker and he escaped to assault another cop or citizen, or perhaps your attacker assumed you were dead or out of the fight and left the scene. Again, while those outcomes are good because they mean you’re alive, it’s not the ultimate or preferred outcome. What we strive for is to win—completely.
Make no mistake, confrontations on the street are becoming battles. Respect is something about to become extinct. Bad guys know there are cops who are reluctant to use force. Why? Cops have been taken to the woodshed by their department for being perceived as over aggressive. The old saying, “If you don’t get any complaints, you’re not really workin’ the streets,” is true. Those cops that are stopping cars and putting thugs on the wall are the ones who eventually get the beefs. It’s part of the job. A good supervisor will ameliorate those phony charges and encourage his crew to continue to put pressure on the knuckle draggers. It’s called being proactive, and it’s a dying art.
If we look at the increasing number of assaults, we find on average there are more than 58,000 each year, resulting in approximately 16,000 injuries. Being reactive is not working. Those 58K cops may not have been attacked if we had more of a “Winning the Battle” mindset. If the cretins on the street know we’re not going to put up with any nonsense, the entire police-offender dynamic could change. After all, the present situation is that we’ve educated criminals to expect we’re going to treat them with kid gloves and give them the benefit of the doubt.
There’s only one problem—we’re outnumbered. Look around at your own department, or when you’re travelling, whatever jurisdiction you happen to find yourself in. Tough financial times have resulted in reduced manpower. Most units are one man; special tactical units have been decimated. Training budgets have been slashed. Many departments are lucky if they get a yearly firearms qual.