5 keys to preparing for an officer-involved shooting

Eliminate any chance of wasting crucial milliseconds on things that could have already been taken care of in advance

Every day you go to work the possibility of being involved in a deadly-force incident crosses your mind. If it doesn’t, it should. 

No matter how long you have been on the job, or how “routine” your beat assignment seems, never underestimate the chances that potentially someone, somewhere out there is going to decide to take someone else’s life, their own, or yours, and you may be thrown in the middle of the incident before you even realize it’s starring you in the face. 

Here’s a list of five things that you must already have taken care of before a shooting occurs, because you may only have milliseconds to react to save your life or the life of someone else.

1. A Clean and ‘Ready-to-Go’ Weapon. We all know how easily and quickly our service weapon may collect dirt and grime simply from sitting in our holster day to day. Even if you have cleaned it internally, you must check it and clean it on a regular basis, and that usually means cleaning it more than the department requires. When the shooting starts, you won’t have time to even think about if you cleaned it or not, much less stop to do it. 

I always get a kick out of movies I watch where guys always seem to have time to chamber a round into their weapon. We all know there is no time for this and that we do not carry our weapons unloaded, so always check that your haven’t forgotten to chamber a round after you have reloaded your weapon from a cleaning session and ready to go just the way you were trained to do.

2. Cover and Concealment. You cannot predict if and when you may be involved in a deadly force incident, but you can make mental notes of possible cover and concealment locations when you respond to every call. Be looking as soon as you arrive on scene of any call and make mental notes of the surrounding area in case you need to retreat behind something.

3. Your Body Armor. Believe it or not there are still agencies out there that give their officers an option to wear their vest or leave it in the trunk. If you leave it in the trunk you might as well leave it in the closet at home. The mentality of “If the shooting starts I’ll go get it and put it on” is ridiculous. 

Trust me, you will not have time for decisions like this.

4. Preparation. If you encounter a suspect holding a weapon and he makes eye contact with you, you being a uniformed police officer with a drawn weapon and he/she doesn’t immediately drop the weapon then that is a pretty good indication you may have trouble. Every deadly force incident is different, but this isn’t Hollywood, and you are not required — nor will you likely have time— to warn the suspect repeatedly to “drop the weapon.” 

We’ve seen video after video of officers who gave an armed suspect too many commands. 

5. Your Police Attorney. You will not be in the right frame of mind to try to think of your attorney’s name or his phone number or who you even should call to represent you in a deadly force incident. Have your attorney on speed dial in your phone, have his/her name/number in your wallet and make sure your partner and supervisor know who it is beforehand. 

You will need to have legal counsel ASAP, and preparing ahead of time is crucial.

Surviving a deadly-force incident could come down to how you react to it in mere milliseconds. That is why eliminating any chance of wasting those crucial milliseconds on things that could have already been taken care of in advance may just save your life.

I know. It saved mine. 

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