Wednesday, November 26, 2008


While paying attention to the local news, it seems that many officers are involved in circumstances that lead to investigations or medical assistance. Lately, traffic officers on motorcycles have been struck by passing motorists, some resulting in death. Additionally, there are more stories on the local news involving shootings, in which a police officer was involved.

The latest officer involved shooting occurred in Rancho Cordova at a gas station. There was an argument inside the gas station between a male and female. The argument escalated to the point the clerk felt it was necessary to call the police. An officer arrived on scene and began talking to both parties. Soon thereafter, the male pulled out a handgun and shot towards the officer. The officer was able to find cover, returning fire and fatally wounding the male. The officer is now on administrative leave. The issue of crossfire and officer safety arises from this incident.

The location of the incident is one where many citizens can be expected to visit throughout their day. Fortunately, in this situation there were no innocent victims of crossfire. It is essential that an officer remembers to plan ahead for a situation where they would have to use their firearm. When contacting someone, or making a traffic stop, an officer should plan ahead to be in a position of cover. The cover allows the officer to use it to their advantage if the person they are contacting decides to shoot at them. Additionally, the position the officer is in is also essential to prevent any victims from crossfire. For instance, if one has planned for a possible shooting, they should look beyond the suspect to make sure there are not any uninvolved parties that may be struck by a bullet. In the above incident, if the officer was standing in front of the store, they should have planned ahead to move to a position where the possibility of a bullet going through the glass and striking a customer would be removed. Law enforcement is a unique occupation where situational circumstances change every second. Young men and women planning to enter the field of law enforcement should prepare themselves mentally to handle these situations in a professional manner, while maintaining public safety.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Officer Safety

The tough economic times of today are cause for many problems occurring in American households. People are loosing their jobs and are resorting to government assistance to help with finances. Some are cutting back on expenses by turning off the phone bill, cable, and conserving costly energy. One may ask what the connection is between a financial crisis and officer shootings.

A husband and wife were in an argument and police were called to respond. The argument ensued because the wife turned off the internet connection to the house and the husband was outraged over the incident. The argument escalated to the point where items were thrown around the house, which led to officers responding to the domestic disturbance. Officer Madrigal from the California Highway Patrol was shot in the right knee when he responded to the call for service. Officer Madrigal is reported to be in serious condition.

Unfortunately, the tough economic times have led to disturbances in households. Emotions and stress over financial responsibilities are rising causing many people to act unnaturally. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, the leading cause of death in the past ten years has resulted from gun shot wounds. As an officer, one must continue to be cognizant of proper officer safety. When responding to a disturbance call, or while making a routine traffic stop, one must be aware to take steps for proper officer safety. Officer Madrigal entered an unfortunate situation where the suspect had positioned firearms near every window in anticipation for officers to arrive. I am sure Officer Madrigal was practicing proper safety, but this situation goes to show that one must never become tranquil in regards to officer safety. The key point as a young, or veteran, officer is to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Monday, November 10, 2008

De-Briefing of a Traumatic Event

Previously, I have briefly touched on the emotional impact of officer-involved shootings. Recently, I experienced an event that led me to re-engage on emotional impacts from shootings. While speaking to an officer, he reflected on an incident in his career that seemed to have a big burden on him. The incident involved the shooting of an officer, but he was not involved with it other than the investigation that took place soon after. The officer’s emotions were clearly reflected through his voice, body language, and facial expressions. Later, I realized that he never de-briefed this situation, and it has been with him throughout his career. The emotional impact from the shooting showed signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is encountered when on is engaged in an incident that is, or is capable of causing great bodily injury or death. Police officers encounter stressful situations on a daily basis. Although it is not a daily occurrence to be in a gunfight, other situations may affect the officers’ emotional state. Dr. George Everly provides the following, at any time 15-32% of all emergency responders will deal with a reaction to PTSD, and this average is higher than that of Vietnam Veterans. De-briefings are recommended for officers to limit the impact of PTSD.

A concern with the culture of law enforcement is that one shows weakness if they express their feelings about any given situation. With traumatic events, however, the expression of one’s feelings is necessary to prevent PTSD. The Mental Health of America website explains that many people suffering from PTSD begin to live a passive lifestyle, and their relationships become weak. A de-briefing of an event will allow the involved parties to realize the symptoms that may occur, and are encouraged to take an active role in life. Some recommendations include exercise, connecting with family and friends, and not watching too much television. In all, if you or someone you know has experienced a traumatic event, like the officer I spoke with, the best thing to do is help them recognize the symptoms by talking to them about the event. Recognition will allow them to control the symptoms. Additionally, comfort them by informing them that they are not the only person whom may have experienced the PTSD from the incident, and they can take control.