Cover and concealment for the street cop

Editor’s Note: PoliceOne welcomes to our roster of writers Pat McCarthy, who served 25 years with the Chicago PD. During his career, Pat worked Patrol, SWAT, spent five years undercover in the gang unit, and spent 11 years on three separate federal task forces with the FBI. In 1994, Pat created the three day Street Crimes training seminar, which is now held at more than 150 locations every year. Like our instructors from the Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar, Pat will contribute regular articles to PoliceOne.

Cover and concealment is a very important officer safety issue that everyone in law enforcement needs to be aware of (and constantly evaluating) throughout their careers. There are distinctions between cover and concealment that you should be aware of as you patrol the streets in your city, county, or town.

Cover is anything that will deflect, slow down, or even stop a round. Concealment is anything that will hide your presence or movements from the bad guy — it doesn’t always offer you protection. We’ll look more closely at what concealment does do for you in a moment, but first let’s examine the two forms of cover normally used by law enforcement.

Stationary vs. Portable Cover
Stationary cover consists of objects out on the streets such as trees, light poles, mail boxes, etc. The most common stationary cover used by law enforcement is their patrol car. “But a car moves!” you say, “How can it be stationary?” I put it with stationary objects not because nearly all the time that a car is used for cover, it’s stationary (although that is true too). I do so because it’s decidedly not portable.

It should be noted that your squad car door — admittedly a common cover position — is not going to offer you much cover protection. Most rounds will penetrate your squad car door very easily. Similarly, the trunk area of your patrol car is also a poor choice that is often used by officers. Many rounds will penetrate your trunk area and can hit you.

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