Officer Safety - Officer Survival
January 9th, 2020 By Dennis O'Connor, Law Enforcement Liason
Throughout law enforcement, the term "Officer Safety" is used consistently as a phrase to illustrate safe practices while conducting police operations. When presented in a format, where the public is involved, this phrase can send a message that the officer is more concerned about his or her own safety then the public they were entrusted to protect.
This phrase taught early on in law enforcement training, teaches that if something is unsafe an officer must adjust his or her course of action until it is safe or he or she will hesitate because the situation is unsafe. In addition a phrase that has complimented "Officer Safety" is "Go home at all cost". We must seriously ask ourselves, "What is that cost we are referring to?" Do we not act, do we turn and look the other way, what exactly are we talking about?
These phrases are super comfortable phrases, that give officers hope that safety is built into the job and at the end of the shift he or she will go home regardless. This is far from the truth. Police work is a contact sport, you will be hurt, both physically and mentally, you will take trips to the hospital for sustained injuries and unfortunately officers will be killed in the line of duty.
I have participated in law enforcement long enough to say, just when you think you are doing everything by the book the dynamics change and if you are stuck on "Officer Safety" you most likely will choose a poor course of action.
Now how should we refer to things when it comes to policing? First let's call it officer survival, because we are most concerned with surviving a violent encounter. Secondly let's work on our ability to process the situation we are in and respond accordingly, based on our education, training and most importantly experience. Next let us be proficient in our issued equipment including our firearm. Lastly we must be physically fit to perform this job because as noted before, it is a contact sport and you will have physical encounters of varying degrees were you must survive.
If an officer adopts the mind set of "Officer Safety" and "Go home at all cost" he or she will develop a self-preservation based on fear and self-protection which could put the officer at odds with the Oath of Office they swore to serve and protect their jurisdiction and community. The job we signed up for calls for putting ourselves at the forefront of the fight, placing our armor between the evil that exists and the people we serve. Yes we want to go home at the end of our shifts, but unfortunately that is not guaranteed. Our ability to go home will be solely based on preparedness, willingness to stay in the fight and an understanding that sacrifices both emotionally and physically will be made regardless of how safe we wish it would be.