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Ambush mitigation

One best practice to consider is the use of an overwatch officer

The following is excerpted from 22 on 2022: A police leadership playbook. Click here to download.

By Chief Terry Nichols

During 2021, we had the most officers killed by gunfire since 2016. Many of the deaths were a direct result of ambush attacks on officers. This does not include officers who were ambushed and survived the assault.

In 2022, officers must continue to be vigilant at all times during the course of their duties. One best practice to consider is the use of an overwatch officer. This is a dedicated officer not involved in the immediate investigation or incident to provide security for other officers performing their duties. This officer’s sole responsibility is to watch for external threats to other officers.

This same concept is recommended for officers during meal or coffee breaks in public areas. It is easy for everyone in a group to be engaged in conversation with each other, working on paperwork, looking at their phone and otherwise distracted to the environment around them. When in a group, take turns serving as an overwatch officer for the safety of everyone.

Finally, the role of technology continues to provide significant challenges to our tactics and overall officer safety. Assume you are on camera at all times, especially on approach and while at residences. The use of technology will only increase during 2022 requiring our profession to adapt our tactics, techniques and practices to this new reality.

VIEW: Police ambush prevention and response webinar

About the author

Chief Terry Nichols serves as the chief of police for the City of Seguin, Texas Police Department. Prior to becoming chief, he served as director of curriculum development for the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center (ALERRT) at Texas State University.

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