2012 in Review: 12 lasting impressions

To say that this has been a difficult year is an understatement of impossible proportion

End-of-year retrospective columns are a dime a dozen right around now. How do you wrap up an entire year’s events in a single column? (Short answer: you don’t.)

There are literally dozens of topics I won’t cover here — everything from continued ambush attacks on our police officers (and, apparently, firefighters) to multi-jurisdictional and multi-disciplinary consolidation of public safety agencies.

Regardless of that reality, here are 12 of my lasting impressions from 2012. Add your own dozen in the comments area below. Now, where’s my [bleeping] dime?

Police block the road in front of an apartment where the suspect in a theatre shooting lived in Aurora, Colo.
Police block the road in front of an apartment where the suspect in a theatre shooting lived in Aurora, Colo. (AP Image)

Active Shooters
As we’ve seen in places like Aurora, Oak Creek, and Newtown, active-shooter attacks are not going away. If you’re not prepared, both on an individual level and an agency level, to deal with this unfortunate reality, you’re making a mistake.

I’ve written plenty in the past month on the topic of active shooters. I’ll leave it at this: Train, train, train...then be ready for anything, anywhere, anytime.

Blue-on-Blue Confrontations
Early in the year, we saw two blue-on-blue incidents within the span of a few weeks. In fact, they came so suddenly and in such rapid succession, we had to have some very difficult conversations about both accidental and intentional instances where a fellow officer comes into your sights. 

There is no one answer to this issue, because there is no one scenario. The important thing is to have these discussions in your squad rooms before something horrible happens.

Healthy in Mind, Body, and Spirit
Police work takes a toll on the people who do the job — the physical, mental, and emotional costs can be impossibly high. Take the appropriate steps to ensure that you’re getting enough rest, eating a good diet, and enjoying the loving company of your family and friends.

You want to retire. You want to retire happy. There is no shame whatsoever in getting help from a buddy, or from a doctor, when you need it. You have a toothache — you get it looked at by a dentist, right? You have a more painful issue rattling around in your head — get that some professional help too, okay? 

Bath Salts
You’ve seen the news stories and videos — very scary stuff — about bath salts. Make sure you’re up on the symptoms that suspects on salts present, and have a plan for dealing with them.

This stuff is PCP on steroids. Be prepared to act quickly and definitively if you run into it.

Natural Disasters
Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, mass fires, we saw them all. Are your first responding agencies — police, fire, emergency medical services — working together and prepared to respond harmoniously and effectively in the event of a weather emergency?

How about you on a personal level? Are you prepared to meet the responsibilities of your office while making sure you and your family are prepared with the right gear and the right safety plans?

Modern Day B&E
Not breaking and entering, but budgets and the economy. Still big problems and still involve demands for law enforcement to do more with less.

By this time, tightened belts are the norm so here’s hoping you’ve found a solid plan for dealing with that and still performing at a high level through both professional and personal creativity, conservation and resolve.

Officers Behaving Badly
We saw quite a number of examples of poor decision-making on the part of law enforcement and law enforcement-related professionals representing a wide span of ranks and agencies last year.

Not much needs to be said here beyond this: think about your actions and their consequences this coming year and forever forward.


Your career is more important than a bet over a bucket of piss

Strides in LE Technology
This was another year of continued advancements that can help you be more effective and safer. Make sure your top “geeks” (and I use that term in a most respectful way) are staying on top of this stuff.

A lot of very good technology is inexpensive, if not free, and can be very effective in helping you do more with less.

Keep in mind that there have also been technological advancements and activity on the “bad side” (think Anonymous, whose “members” hacked the FBI and Stratfor).

Make sure those same tech guys are staying up on all of that as well.

Dealing with the Mentally Ill
Once again, back to the economy. With tightened budgets and reduced spending, odds are high that the number of mentally ill people on the streets will continue to increase and with that, the number of encounters officers have with mentally ill subjects will also increase.

Be sure your training includes tactics and techniques for safely navigating these contacts.

Animals Being Animals
This year was marked with a seemingly noticeable number of fatal pit bull attacks. Be sure you’ve trained yourself to stay alert to the possibility that you may encounter one, particularly when responding to private residences, and that you’ve trained yourself to quickly make a deadly force decision related to an attacking dog given the fact that you will need to act fast, and that your shooting abilities can meet that challenges of a fast-moving, low-to-the-ground, agile, focused, and resilient animal.

Crowd Control Issues
The Occupy movement seems to have gone quiet for a while, but history shows us it will resurface. So, some advice:

Don’t slide into complacency when it comes to ensuring that your agency is ready to deal with dense, often spontaneously appearing crowds of demonstrators. Practice some “when/then” thinking on an agency level and ask, “When a group of protesters show up and we need troops on hand to control the commotion, then we will implement this plan to cover the hot spot(s) without leaving the rest of the community unprotected.

Getting Below 100
On a very personal level, I came to fully embrace the concept of Below 100, and although this number was not achieved this year, we did see fewer officer deaths overall in 2012. At the same time, though, the number of fatal attacks on officers rose. 

Like so many of the issues we face, there is not a single answer. There is not one single philosophy, training program, or departmental policy that will help us reduce the number of officers killed every year.

But on the issue of helping our officers be safer and more successful there is no room for “not invented here” parochialism. I didn’t think it up, but the Below 100 program has me as a supporter. 

Maybe this time next year, we can really get Below 100.

Stay safe out there my friends. 

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