How to reduce the odds of being involved in an on-duty collision
As police officers, we have taken an oath to serve and protect. These simple steps can have a great impact on holding true to that oath
On June 9, 2016, CHP Officer Jim Gamble was involved in a fatal collision that took the life of a 15-year-old boy. The investigation (as of the time of this writing) is still underway.
What follows is not an indictment of any of the involved parties in any way, shape, or form. Rather, the incident itself serves as a reminder — tragic, though it may be — to the rest of us to conduct ourselves in a way that reduces the possibility of this happening again.
We are all tempted by distractions. Be it 21st century digital distractions or the urge to tune in to that Grand Funk Railroad marathon on the squad’s radio. Police officers run the risk of being more distracted than most. Along with the aforementioned temptations, we also have dispatch chattering away, our supervisor calling us, our beat partners sending us MDC messages or texts, and constant textual updates about the detail to which we are driving.
It goes against human nature to ignore all those things. We have become Pavlovian in our response to the siren song of that dinging digital temptress. In light of current circumstances, however, it would behoove us to remember a few things to consider when temptation rears its ugly head.
Texting Can Wait
Not only is it a violation of quite a few state statutes, it is likely a violation of your department’s policy as well. I hear the chant of “we’re exempt!” more often than I know what to do with. That may very well be true with regard to the vehicle code, but again, your department policy will trump that exemption.
Do you think the department will back your play if you are involved in a collision and it comes to light that you were involved in texting? Liability is the name of the law enforcement game. If you operate outside your policy, you are risking far more than just your job.
Tell Dispatch to Put Updates Over the Air
We all know to keep the air as free as possible, but when you’re rolling code with your hair on fire, the last thing you need to be doing is scrolling through some long-winded dispatcher’s idea of a text update.
Often times, there is an overemphasis in police work to get as much information as possible, as quickly as possible, while getting to the location with alacrity. Some information is more important, to be sure. Of course it’s handy to know if the domestic violence suspect has now armed himself with a firearm, but that information is easily relayed via the air.
If you, as the responding officer, miss what you think may have been pertinent the first time, ask dispatch to repeat. Keep those eyes on the road and off the computer as much as possible.
Many new police vehicles offer in-car Bluetooth integration standard much like our civilian counterparts. If the department doesn’t check off that box on the invoice, however, it would behoove every officer to invest in a hands-free earpiece.
Hell, you can probably even write it off on your taxes.
Remember to Breathe
That may sound simple, but it’s something we often forget. It’s also the antidote to tunnel vision and bad decision making. When responding to a hot call, the adrenaline hits. When the adrenaline hits, our blood pressure rises. The body is sending the blood to our extremities in anticipation of a fight. Consequently, the blood leaves our brain — the place we make our decisions and the neighbor to our eyeballs.
When the blood leaves the brain, our ability to make clear, concise, well-though out decisions is reduced and our vision begins to darken on the sides. Thus, tunnel vision.
A few deep breaths return oxygen to our blood and send that oxygen-rich blood back to our brains, clearing our sight and giving us the ability to think more clearly.
As police officers, we have taken an oath to serve and protect. These simple steps can have a great impact on holding true to that oath.