Safe at Home; A Cop’s Dilemma

How do we keep ourselves, and our families safe at home?

Years ago, I received an email from a female crimefighter who was startled by a criminal with a knife who had approached her front door because her take home marked squad car was parked in her driveway.  He was not actually there to attack her, he had mental health issues and was looking for help, but she certainly did not know that at the time.  She was able to deal effectively with him, but as she reviewed her actions she wondered what she could have done better, especially because her kids had been playing nearby during the incident.

I admired not only her ability to contain a potential bad guy in her doorway, but how she had kept her family safe and secure…all in a day’s work for a crimefighting mom!  But her incident raised a larger issue; how do we keep ourselves, and our families safe at home?

First of all, we must accept and understand that this threat has always been a part of police work.  On November 8, 1858, Officer Robert Rigdon of the Baltimore, MD Police Department was assassinated in his home as retaliation for his testimony in the trial of the man who murdered fellow BPD officer Benjamin Benton.  Since then, over 200 American police officers have been killed taking action off duty.

Next, begin by realistically assessing the possibilities.  Do you have a take-home squad car?  Are you living in the same community where you are a cop?  Do you work in an assignment, such as narcotics, gangs, probation, parole, or another where you could be targeted by a motivated offender?  Sergeant Carl Dewayne Graham, Jr. of the Missouri State Highway Patrol was shot and killed in front of his home on March 29th, 2005 by a suspect who was under investigation by the sergeant for leaving the scene of a fatal accident.  Fortunately, Sergeant Graham’s four year old son was not with him at the time.

We all know that we are relatively easy to find when we’re off duty.  Thanks to the Internet, it’s harder than ever to hide our identity, our home address, even what personal car we drive.  Police officers can also be found inadvertently through other family members (especially our kids), our off duty interests such as church or school, or even the old fashioned method of being followed home from work.  This brings us to prevention and response.

Realistically, you’re probably not going to walk around the house with your gun and handcuffs on all the time.  However, you can easily train your family members to assist you in this type of situation. As police officers, we often shy away from teaching our kids about our tactics, our weapons, and the general nasty nature of our job.  In our “Beyond Off Duty Survival” class, we encourage officers to train their families to be able to assist them.  One of the best books available to help with teaching your kids to be strong and resourceful is Raising Kids Who Can Protect Themselves by Mike and Debbie Gardner.  The Gardner’s (both were law enforcement officers who are now nationally recognized trainers and safety experts) use “courage coaching” to help create a family defense systems and help parents teach kids some of the tactics cops use such as tactical breathing, positive self talk and special awareness.  

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