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                                      Closing the Gap

     In this issue we are going to identify the limitations that both agency’s and officer’s put on themselves. The limitations that we will identify are tools or weapons of the profession that officers have carried and used for years but lately have decided to completely drop from their belts. This decision is usually a result of one of two thoughts by the officer. One the officer wants to reduce weight from around the waist and improve comfort to the lower back area. The second is due to the officer using a electroshock weapon and believes there is no further need to carry O.C. Spray’ or Impact Batons.  These choices not to carry certain tools or weapons limit the response of the individual officer, and challenge the force continuum and standard operating procedure of the agency.

     Since the introduction of Electroshock weapons some officer’s and agencies have slowly moved towards not carrying and utilizing O.C. Aerosol Sprays and Impact Batons. This decision has come about from the belief that the Electroshock Weapon is a “cure all” and will never fail. This decision is a huge mistake on the officer’s part since there is no weapon that is always 100% effective 100% percent of the time. Anything man made is subject to failure at the worst time. If the electroshock weapon fails, what would the officer do next? Let’s see how you can answer this question yourself. First off ask yourself what weapons and tools do you carry and utilize around your waist? Let’s say you have decided to drop your O.C. Aerosol Spray, and your Impact Baton from your duty gear. You’ve made this choice due to you utilizing an Electroshock Weapon and feel there is no further need for you to carry extra weight.  

                                                    WHAT IF?

     You are standing in front of an irritated male who you are interviewing for whatever reason you can come up with in your head. While you’re interviewing the irritated male he decides to aggress upon you. You react by pulling your Electroshock Weapon while simultaneously giving loud verbal commands. Your commands are not obeyed and you discharge the Electroshock Weapon in anticipation that the irritated male will react similar to other times you’ve made the same decision. The irritated male is directly impacted by the electroshock weapon but does not show signs of yielding. You decide to discharge the electroshock weapon again in hopes that a second attempt will have the positive affects that you are used to seeing. The second discharge failed and the irritated man is now within 5 feet from you. Now it’s time for you to change your thoughts, decision, and weapon/tool. Quick what do you have to use now? Radio, handcuffs, magazines, fire arm, hands on. What would you do, and how affective would it be?

     If you’ve ever found yourself in this position you might recall looking over your shoulder and mentally discovering errors of judgment, perception, and reaction on your part. This thought process is usually followed by another mental thought of self chastisement such as “I knew better than that”, “why did I do that”, or “why didn’t I do that”? If you’ve been in service for any amount of time I’m certain as you read this you are recalling a personal experience close to this.

    The Law Enforcement community has come along ways from carrying an Impact Baton, or Revolver only. We’ve added weapons, tools, and training to our duty gear for different threats based on different proximity’s to the individual officer. Each time an officer removes a weapon or tool from the duty gear that officer may find himself or herself in a situation where it is needed. If you have it and you do not need it your always better off. If you Do Not have it and need it you could be in a world of hurt. Think about that for a second.

                                         Force Continuum

     Ask most officers what the Force Continuum is and the usual answer will be “the reaction an officer should take when confronted by a threat”. In short the Force Continuum is a guide for the individual officer to understand and recognize for Actions versus Reactions. Most Force Continuum’s will display the officer’s options through assorted weapons. The officer must understand each individual weapon’s limited distances and affects and how to use them properly to react to aggressive actions. The actions versus reactions also include the level of force and weapon used to control a passive or aggressive person. Most Force Continuum’s used by agency’s will vary from how they are formatted from being in a written, graph, or pie format.         This Guide should show levels of response that correlate with department issued weapons and training. In reference to the Force Continuum every officer should know what the department’s Force Continuum is and how it is used while operating on duty. Not knowing how the Force Continuum is dictated by your agency is as bad as knowing it but not being able to articulate actions versus reactions. Never limit the weapons you carry and utilize if at all possible. We have enough limits to live by already.

                                    Standard Operating Procedure

     All officers working in a font line capacity should all be dressed alike, carry the same weapons and tools, and operate in the same capacity of enforcing Federal, State, and Local Laws. Most agencies SOP’s will describe how the agency as a whole will operate in many different descriptions. Every agency SOP will dictate to the officers what type of uniform may be worn while on duty and will even for further by describing uniforms for specialized units within the agency. If the agency issues fire arms most agency SOP’s will dictate the make and model of the issued fire arm as well as the ammunition that will be issued and carried on duty by the officers.

     If the individual officer decides Not To carry a certain weapon or tool while on duty that officer may need to reference the department’s SOP to confirm department policy and compliance. The same can be said if the officer decides To carry an additional weapon that is not described within the department SOP that officer may need to question the administration for compliance. An important word to locate and understand in any department’s SOP is Uniform.

What this means is if the department SOP dictates that ALL officers shall carry a certain weapon or tool while on duty this needs to be done across the board for all line officers.

     If there is any variation of what officers carry from one officer to the next, and how they are suppose to operate in certain circumstances this may put the agency and officers in a negative legal position in court. This usually comes to light after a negative incident that opens up the agency for debatable questions and possible negative scrutiny. Know your agency’s Standard Operating Procedures.

                                                Court Room

     Have you ever known an officer or heard of an officer who was involved in an incident where serious harm or death to an individual was the end result? I’m referring to an incident that occurred between an officer and citizen where the officer used lethal force to gain control of a scene or person. Due to the outcome of that incident and the actions versus reactions of the officer public scrutiny as well as court room scrutiny follow. You can be assured that the defense attorney would be looking at the officer’s time in service, training, and past history. The defense attorney will also be looking at the SOP and Force Continuum of the agency involved. If the defense attorney is able to locate inconsistencies of how individual officers operate from shift to shift, or officer to officer it will be brought to light and scrutinized fully. The Defense attorney may also find inconsistencies of individual officers who may carry different weapons and tools which will also be brought to light in a negative fashion.

     We have all heard of an incident where lethal force was used by an officer and that officer comes under heavy scrutiny by the public. You may have also heard form a citizen asking you “why did they shoot the person”.  “Wasn’t there something else that the officer could have done”? Usually when we hear these questions asked of us we become defensive due to the public not understanding what Law Enforcement has to deal with from day to day. This question has been asked to me over the years as I’m certain you’ve had it asked to you as well. We usually respond with “Sir/Mama I don’t know, I wasn’t there”. That usually doesn’t give the person asking the question an educational answer to their liking. That person usually then makes the statement “Well I believe I could have done something different beside kill them” as they walk away. This same mentality of this citizen is the same mentality of the citizen usually sitting in the Jurors Box in the courtroom.

     In short I’d like to express that I am not able to determine any certain out come of any incident. I do believe that an officer Should Not limit himself or herself by a lack of knowledge and training, or weapons that should be used while on duty. As with anything we do from day to day we have to articulate and answer for it in great depth and detail. Be careful out there and watch each others back. Sometimes all we have is each other.