You’re on Patrol


imageSecond guessing is easy, we all do it. We watch football games and second guess the play called by the coach, or the penalty made by the ref. we can watch the instant replay over and over in super high def slow motion from every angle possible. Second guessing is easy, until it isn’t. Until it involves a split second decision that involves a matter of life or death. Where even the slightest hesitation can end in the death or serious harm to the officer needing to make the decision.

Those that think the police aren’t trained properly are the ones that have never taken a moment of time to research what police training is all about. They have no idea what it’s like to go to work everyday and have to wear a bullet proof vest because there are people who will harm you. They close their eyes and don’t want to believe there are bad people out there who will not hesitate to hurt you. Police train constantly in the use of force, they are trained in the use of deadly force. They qualify with all equipment they carry. They go through simulation training in which little pellets are fired at them that hurt, this raises the stress level during training and simulates as closely as possible the stress in making those split second decisions. Police are pepper sprayed so the can recognize the effects of pepper spray, realize it won’t kill you, and be able to work through the effects. They are tasered so they can recognize the effects the taser has on an individual and understand the pain it causes. They practice hand to hand combat, and grappling techniques because in a struggle they need to know how to fight for their lives and prevent someone from getting their firearm. They also train on how to save your life. They train in CPR, Heimlich, how to stop bleeding, they carry Narcan to reverse the effects of heroin overdose, they can immobilize people to lessen the effects of serious head or neck injuries. They train in verbal judo to try to calm a situation before any of the tools on their belt need to be used. They train in psychology so they are able to tell a person a love one has just passed away, or to talk someone out of harming themselves. Police train, train and train again. Over and over, not just with firearms but in every aspect of the job. Constantly evaluating, revising, improving and becoming proficient in their profession. Unfortunately they don’t have the benefit of instant reply, the call can’t be reversed. They have to live or die by the decisions they make in a split second.

Imagine for a moment, you’re on patrol duty. You’re on the overnight shift. 12 hour shift. 6 pm to 6 am. Your area of responsibility on this night includes residential areas, business areas and a major highway.

Earlier you stopped a car for going through a red light. You made contact with the driver who was very annoyed that you stopped her. She is in a hurry and doesn’t have time for this. She demands to know why you stopped her. You try to explain but she cuts you off. That light was yellow, there is no way she ran a red light. Yet the fact is the light had been red for well over 4 seconds and in fact was green for traffic on the cross street. She’s a good driver she yells at you, but when you check her license she has 6 points. You issue her a summons, she screams she’ll see you in court. You tell her to have a good evening. You move on patrolling your area of responsibility.

You had worked the night before, the same shift, quiet night. You had a couple of false fire alarm calls and a DWI arrest at 2 am. . During your 12 hours off you got some sleep, but had to be up to take your son to soccer practice and your daughter to her orthodontist appointment, your wife or husband, which ever the case is for you, works so you have to pitch in even when sleep is at a premium. You can’t sleep as soon as you get off in the morning, who can as soon as you get home from work, you’re wound up, you get your workout in, take care of a few household chores and lay down to try and sleep when the rest of the world is awake and demands you be awake as well. Lawn mowers, trash trucks, dogs barking, door bells, phone rings all contribute to your lack of sleep.

You decide you need a cup of coffee to help you stay more alert. You stop by the dunkin’ Donuts. You don’t want to because it only furthers the silly cops and donuts stereotype, but hey who doesn’t like a donut every once in awhile. You walk into the donut shop and immediately you hear “ oh oh the cops are here, I didn’t do it officer arrest her” you smile and fake laugh at the same line you hear every time you walk into anywhere. You’ve heard it now for 10 years. The shop insist on you not paying for the coffee, they want you to stop by for free coffee because when cops are there they aren’t likely to get robbed. Instead of arguing and insisting you pay, you just leave a couple of dollars in the tip jar. It’s the right thing to do.

Just as your about to take your first sip of coffee, you hear your call sign on the radio. “ central to 506” you answer. The call is an unresponsive male in a bathroom in one of the apartments. You activate your lights and siren and Rush to the scene. You’re met at the door by an elderly woman who is shaken but frantic. She says her husband went to the bathroom a half hour before. When he didn’t come back out she checked on him and found him wedged between the toilet and the bathtub, she says he must have passed out. You enter the bathroom, and struggle to move a 290 pound man that is stuck in an awkward position. Once you are able to get him out into the open area of the bathroom, you asses the situation and determine there is no pulse. . You radio to all responding units that CPR is in progress. You begin, the training you’ve done over and over kicks in. You don’t hesitate you know exactly what and how to do it. You hear and feel ribs break as you do compressions, you know your compressions are deep enough. You struggle slightly to get a good airway but after repositioning the head several times you are able to get air into the lungs. You do CPR for what seems like 20 minutes before anyone else arrives. In reality it’s been 3-4 minutes. Another officer arrives and he takes over breaths while you continue with compressions. After another 5 minutes the volunteer EMTs arrive and you turn over CPR to them. Later you find out that Mr. Johnson did not survive and was pronounced dead in the ER. It saddens you so close to the holidays.

Just as you clear that call and enter the information in the in car computer, you notice the time 2335 (1135pm), you hear a request for back up on a traffic stop at the edge of your zone. You swiftly proceed to the area the officer called for a backup. As you arrive, you meet with the other officer. He tells you the driver of the car has outstanding warrants for assault and he wanted someone there in case things went bad. You never want to make an arrest alone if you can help it. There are other people in the car. You see besides the driver there is a front seat passenger and someone in the back seat. You position yourself at the right rear window so you can clearly see the front seat and rear seat passengers. Your partner asks the driver to step out of the vehicle. The driver protests, asks why, the officer just wants him out of the car before discussing the matter in front of everyone in the car. It’s best to separate them so he can’t get bolstered in confidence by their protests. The driver exits and meets with the officer at the back of the car. The officer explains that there is a warrant outstanding from the next county over for assault charges. He states the bail is $2500.00 the person says he doesn’t have that kind of money. He then starts yelling that this is all “bullshit” that you stopped him for no reason, when you can clearly see a broken taillight. You, as the backup, are watching this transpire but also are aware of movement by both of the passengers in the car. You see the front seat passenger reaching under the seat. And the door begin to open, you yell “stay in the car and show me your hands”! They don’t comply. Again you very loudly yell, “shut the door and let me see your hands” they again don’t comply, you draw your firearm and point it in their direction. Now you ratchet up your command in a language that there is no mistaking what you mean. “Show me your fucking hands now”!, they see the gun pointed in their direction hear the tone of your voice and comply. While this is going on, your partner has already advised the driver he is under arrest and is attempting to place handcuffs on him. The driver pulls away as the officer reaches for him. You get on your hand held radio and request more units, everyone else is currently tied up on other calls. You ask dispatch to have a car from the next town over roll down the highway. You see both the front seat passenger and rear seat passenger talking. You can’t hear what’s being said, but they seem very agitated and keep looking at your partner and the driver and you at the back corner of the car. You can hear the front seat passenger yell “ this is fucked up” and “fuck this fucking bullshit”, “this is over today”!. Meanwhile your partner is still attempting to gain control over his subject. You need to assist your partner in gaining control, but are also weary of what’s going on in the car. You tell dispatch to get backup out now, that you have three non compliant. You’re advised that one unit on the other side of town has cleared up and is rolling code 2 in your direction. You can hear the siren wailing in the distance. Your partner is now hands on with the driver, they are on the ground while your partner is trying to gain control you now see he front seat passengers hands are down and again they are reaching under the seat, you yell again let me see your hands motherfucker” it’s the language of the street, you use it to convey urgency, it doesn’t seem to phase them. Your gun is drawn, it’s pointed in their direction, you step closer to the car yelling show me your hands. The backseat passenger is yelling don’t shoot don’t shoot. You’re unclear if he means you or the front seat passenger. You glance back at your partner who is still in a struggle on the ground. You need to help over there, but you can not leave your self and your partner exposed to what might be in the car. You should have got each person out individually secured them and then effected the arrest but things don’t always work out that way and now shit has hit the fan. Your mind is racing a mile a minute playing out all scenarios that you’ve trained for, that you’ve replayed over and over in your mind. You think WTF is taking backup so long to get here. You look back at your partner, who is struggling with this other person. You can not let that continue. You yell back at the car, stay in the fucking car or I’ll fucking blow you away!, it’s all you got at the moment and you hope it buys you time. You head over to your partner and see that the perp is clearly reaching for the officers gun. You point your weapon at him and yell get on the fucking ground! The subject looks at you momentarily, which is long enough for your partner to gain the upper hand. He’s able to get the subjects arm behind his back and apply pressure. You hear the subject yell you’re breaking my arm. You know he isn’t. It’s a move that’s designed to cause pain and to feel like you’re arm will break. It’s a pain compliance move, one that you’ve had applied to you countless times in training. You know how it feels, it hurts, but it won’t break your arm. Your partner is now able to get handcuffs on the subject. With that you immediately get an uneasy feeling as you hear that passenger car door opening, you turn your attention back to the car and immediately yell show me your hands, show me your fucking hands. Adrenaline is coursing through every square inch of your body. Everything seems to be moving slowly, as the door swings open. You yell stay in the car and show me your hands, you see the passengers legs begin to step out of the car, you yell again stay in the car, you can see the backseat passenger yelling “ no no no”! Now the front seat passenger is placing both feet on the ground, everything is moving so slow. Your command now changes. Get the fuck on the ground, get in the ground mother fucker! No compliance, the passenger is standing up now, slightly turned away from you. You can not clearly see their hands. You’re yelling to show me your hands, no compliance. In your mind you’re actually asking yourself, why aren’t they showing me their hands, what are they doing? You clearly have a weapon pointed directly at them, you are no more than 20 feet away as you continue to yell commands. Show me your hands, get on the ground! The passenger takes a step to their right turns towards you and begins to raise their right hand. You see a black metallic object in their hand that they are raising in your direction. You yell one more time to stop, they don’t and you pull the trigger, as you are trained to do you fire until the target is no longer a threat. In this case you fired 7 rounds in rapid succession until the threat dropped to the ground. You can hear the backseat passenger yelling Oh my God you shot him, for nothing, you shot him for nothing. He didn’t have a gun! You command the back seat passenger to show you his hands he complies, you hear the backup officer arrive on scene, things are speeding back up again. You realize that all of this transpired in the matter of 90 seconds from the time the driver was asked to leave the car. As backup arrives and secures the backseat passenger you see that the black metallic object was a metal box containing drugs and drug paraphernalia. The front seat passenger was the drivers father and he knew his son needed help and wanted to give the drugs to you to get the whole thing cleared up and his son some help. You now ask yourself why didn’t he just do as I said, why didn’t he just listen to me?

Is the shoot justified based on what you just read, you are the cop. What do you think? If you wouldn’t have fired what would you have done? Things slow down but all of this happens in seconds, split seconds to make a decision. If you wouldn’t shoot, what if it was a gun? When would you shoot? The scenario can not change, no one tells you their intention You have no idea what or who are in the vehicle. Is it ok to die there on the highway?

I want to hear from the folks that would use pepper spray or taser. Or think they would have shot to wound which officers are NOT trained to do. The only thing in this situation that is changeable is if it were a gun or not. The time, lighting, and all circumstances can not change.



Categories : Family Life


  1. Madalyn Knudsen says:

    Pottsie – all I can say is WOW! Which is why I’m a programmer and not in LE. This is so difficult being both human and a parent. Not being trained in LE, in all honesty, I unfortunately would of pulled the trigger. In this day and age, you never know what lies in the darkness. It’s a 50/50 shot that the person had a gun and that’s a gamble I wouldn’t want to take if it was my life or his. But on the other hand, being a Mom and wanting to make sure my kid was ok, I would of personally followed the orders. That is what I don’t understand about people and LE. Maybe it was my upbringing and that I was taught to have respect. I have had good encounters with LE and I have a bad experience too. But I followed their instructions, they didn’t find anything and let me go. It’s a tough job and I do have respect for those that do the job and do keep me safe. You just wanted the “what would you do” and unfortunately I would shoot.

  2. Rev Doc says:

    As a Veteran of the Military, and having Family as Cops, including two that have died in the line of duty,I would have done Exactly as it played out. That rear window of the car is not bullet proof if other passengers have a weapon, and a Taser is good for one time. Pepper spray is no guarantee he will not blindly shoot in your direction if he possessed a gun. So exactly as it played out, would be how I would have done it. except only one shot would have been needed to take down the perp. OK, maybe 2 for assurance.

  3. I never had a partner, so if this played out I would have been alone. Which ups the ante significantly. The officer in this scenario was absolutely correct imo. If the object had been a gun, and I was armed with pepper spray, that would be a bad outcome. Unless you can look into the future, you can’t know what they have and what their intentions are. All parties repeatedly ignored lawful orders and your partner is down fighting for their life and back up is not nearby. A passenger turning and raising their hand towards you with a dark metal object in hand, hesitation could kill you. Every time you suit up to go out, this is a possibility.

  4. First off let me just say that that was very well written.
    The officer was clearly justified in shooting the perp. You only have seconds, and the perp is already not complying with any of your commands and is starting to become slightly combative with his words and actions. Officer sees what he thinks is a weapon, and makes the life altering decision to shoot the perp.
    It is a tough world we live in, especially now, and if a perp is not going to comply with what an officer is saying then he will have to deal with the consequences, what ever those may be.
    In conclusion, I don’t see where pepper spray or a taser would of worked in this situation. The officer was justified.
    I am not an officer, but have had some training to be a volunteer deputy when I was younger. I chose not to pursue that career full time because my children were young and mom needed to be there for them full time. Being an officer is a highly stressful job and I applaud all of you for your bravery.

  5. Amanda says:

    Not LE, but I absolutely would have to agree with you. That article was intense.
    I have a feeling that people will say that you should have waited just another split second to maybe get a better view, but the reality of a situation is that if you ‘wait’ until you’re sure, if it is a gun, you’re already hit several times. Bullets fly awfully fast, and riders are awfully easy to pull…. You had no choice but to make a decision. It’s sad, but it’s what happens sometimes, and compliance is key. Always.
    Thank you for the thought-provoking article, Mr. Potts.

  6. Amanda says:

    Not LE, but I absolutely would have to agree with you. That article was intense.
    I have a feeling that people will say that you should have waited just another split second to maybe get a better view, but the reality of a situation is that if you ‘wait’ until you’re sure, if it is a gun, you’re already hit several times. Bullets fly awfully fast, and triggers are awfully easy to pull…. You had no choice but to make a decision. It’s sad, but it’s what happens sometimes, and compliance is key. Always.
    Thank you for the thought-provoking article, Mr. Potts.

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