Protecting Your Home Against Burglars

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Burglars. They force their way into your homes and take your stuff. And, if that’s not bad enough, they place their grubby, sweaty, unwashed hands on your most personal and private items while searching for your valuables. That’s right, those filthy paws touch your unmentionables. Oh, and they touch the food in your refrigerators and pantries. Yeah, YUCK!

Picture this. You’ve just come home after a fun night of dining, dancing, and a bit of karaoke over at Dolly’s House of Pancakes and Mud Wrestling Emporium. You park the car and walk up the front steps and see that someone kicked in the door (the huge footprint next to the broken knob was a clue).

Once inside, you immediately realized that it was a thief who’d broken in. You know this because they stole your most precious belongings (another clue). You also realized how incredibly stupid it was to enter the place without first knowing if the bad guy was still inside, or not.

Yes, yes, you know. Your mother told you to always call the police and wait for them to arrive. But curiosity, the same thing that always, without fail, kills cats, pushed you across the splintered threshold.

Why, you ask yourself, did the crook target your house and not the homes of your neighbors? So, again with the curiosity, you explore the yards and houses of your nearby friends and enemies. Hmm … the Johnsons have a really big dog that barks at anything and everything. The Petersons have an alarm system. The Smiths have bars on their windows and doors. And the Joneses … They have a moat, alligators, and gun turret positioned at the top of a guard tower that’s manned 24/7. Oh, and there’s a fully tricked-out tank parked in the driveway.

Therefore, compared to your neighbors you’re a sitting duck. An open invitation to all bad guys. Your lack of, well, any sort of anti-burglar protection is a welcome mat.

So what is it that burglars look for when deciding which homes to enter and which to steer clear of? And, which deterrents actually work to keep them away?

The “likes.”

  • Open doors or windows – These are THE ultimate invitations to bad guys. LOCK your doors and windows! When thieves do force their way inside, they prefer to kick in a door over breaking windows. Their reasoning is that one loud BANG is less likely to attract attention over the sound of breaking glass.
  • Preferred time to break in – Between midday (just after) and 2 p. m. is ideal for many thieves. This is the time when people have finished lunch and returned to work, and it’s prior to the time when kids arrive home from school. However, nearly all professional crooks prefer to knock or ring the bell first to see if anyone is at home. Then, if someone does come to the door they’ll explain away the intrusion by stating they’re looking for a lost dog, pretend to conduct a survey, etc. Be very suspicious of those types of unexpected visits from strangers.
  • Some burglars conduct surveillance on homes prior to going in. They love to see that you have a fixed routine. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you do NOT maintain a daily standard. Switch things from time-to-time. This includes hiding a key somewhere on the outside when you leave. If a bad guy is watching when you slip the key beneath the rock, you’ve just provided easy access. Sometimes leave for work earlier, or later. Take a different route home. And do not allow anyone to see where you hide a key. In fact, use a secure lockbox if you must hide a key outside the home.
  • Homes with overgrown bushes and shrubs. These provide excellent cover for thieves.
  • Houses set apart from other houses. Lots of area between the two.
  • Cheap doors that are easily broken.
  • Older windows that are easily opened.
  • Prime target – Nice home with lots of blind spots around the outside.

Favorite items to steal?

  • Electronics
  • Jewelry
  • Cash
  • Credit cards
  • Guns. An NRA sticker, flag, etc. posted anywhere is a sign that guns are inside, somewhere. The same is true for mail received. Gun magazines and mail from gun organizations and groups is a good indication that firearms can be found inside the home. Remember, bad guys do conduct surveillance. Always use a gun safe to protect against theft, and to prevent firearms from getting into the hands of anyone who shouldn’t possess or touch them.

Where inside the home do thieves search when looking for valuables?

  • The #1 location is the master bedroom. Next comes … everywhere, from the freezer to the toilet tank and everywhere between. They’ll turn over beds and empty out drawers. Whatever it takes to find the goodies. But, they do it quickly … in a period of just a few minutes. In and out!

What is it that causes burglars to think twice about breaking into a home?

  • Large, barking dogs. Many incarcerated thieves say a big snarling K-9 tops the list of theft deterrents.
  • Bars on windows and doors. Not worth the effort, many crooks say. Small dogs are nothing more than a minor annoyance to most bad guys, and many won’t hesitate to harm the animal to silence them.
  • Vehicles in the driveway. Many bad guys say they will avoid a home if they see a car in the driveway. Unless, of course, they’v conducted surveillance and the car doesn’t move for weeks at a time.
  • Radio and TV noise coming from inside. Most crooks will not go into a house if they hear these sounds, especially when combined with lights on.
  • Lights on. This one receives mixed reviews. Some bad guys say the combination of lights on with blinds closed is sign that no one is at home, especially if the porch light is also on.
  • Alarm systems. Not a big deal to many crooks. Those who don’t mind say they can get in and out before police can respond. Some even say they’re able to disarm most systems with very little effort.
  • Cameras. Sure, they’re an obstacle, but they’re also a sign that valuables are inside.

Okay, there you have it. So put your concerns aside and go out tonight and enjoy your night on the town. First, though, don’t forget to leave on the lights, TV, and radio, and a car in the driveway. Be sure your Rottweiler is on duty and that you’ve trimmed the shrubbery, told your neighbors you’ll be out, notified the police to patrol your neighborhood, replaced the front door you purchased at Walmart last year, nailed all windows shut, and whatever you do, remove the “I LOVE and Collect AR-15s” sign from the yard. Then, just before heading out the door, hide your valuables in the secret basement safe that’s hidden behind seven layers of brick and stone. Now you’re all set.

Oh, please stop posting on Facebook that you’ll out of town, or out for a night of drinking, and that your house is empty and the dog is at the vet for a series of 10 breast reduction surgeries, and your alarm system is broken and that you hope no one sees the post because you accidentally left a zillion dollars in cash on the kitchen table.

So, enjoy your night out. I heard it’s two-for-one drink night at Dolly’s House of Pancakes and Mud Wrestling Emporium!

 

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INTERPOL: Federated Searches

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INTERPOL was established in the very early 1900s. The organization’s vision was to connect police from around the world, to help them work together to make the world a safer place.

What is INTERPOL?

The International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) is the world’s largest police organization (190 member-countries). The mission: Preventing and fighting crime through enhanced cooperation and innovation on police and security matters.

How does INTERPOL make all this happen?

  • INTERPOL provides training
  • analyzes information and investigative support
  • conducts operations
  • maintains and provides data and secure communications channels

Of course, there’s more to it than the list above, but it is one point from the list that we’ll address in this article—data and communications and how they relate to the title of this piece, “INTERPOL: Federated Searches.”

Before we dig in, though, first imagine that you’re a deputy sheriff who’s working alone in an area of the county far away from the nearest town. Your closest backup is on a call and thirty minutes away, and that’s if she could drop what she was doing to immediately rush to your aid.

You see a car driven erratically (all over the road, from lane to lane and sometimes from shoulder to shoulder). So you activate your emergency equipment (that’s lights and siren, in case you didn’t know) to initiate a traffic stop.

Once you approach the driver’s window you notice three small children in the rear seat area. After a bit of investigation you learn that neither child is of the same ethnic background and neither are of the same race as the quite nervous driver, a man who’s forged license identifies him as a man named Tommy P. Terrorism. (You later learned the P. stands for Pedophile).

Fortunately, forward-thinking leaders in the deputy’s state decided to join the list of federated states, locations that have instant access, through INTERPOL, to a worldwide database of known, dangerous criminals. A quick check, much like the standard NCIC check conducted by officers across the U.S. (a check for wants and warrants, etc.), and our deputy discovers the driver of the car is wanted in a member country for the murder of 87 police officers. A “hit” from another country indicates the driver is also wanted for the abduction of small children. And, the guy is a known terrorist who’s wanted for the bombing of a school in his home country.

Without access to this database, the officer would need to detain the driver for a very long time, probably more than is constitutionally permitted, to investigate his suspicions. And that’s if anything at all could be learned without access to the international database. More often than not, officers have absolutely no way of knowing if the person they’ve encountered is wanted in another country. This database is VITAL to protecting the officers on the street, us, and our loved ones.

To help separate the various levels of danger and/or severity of crime and other information, INTERPOL maintains a color-coded system of alerts, a series of “wanted posters.” This is the information that’s distributed worldwide.

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Keep in mind, these notices (red, for example) are not a formal authorization to apprehend someone. In the U.S., we need a formal arrest document and even then it must be vetted by the Department of Justice prior to the arrest.

This database also includes the records of stolen vehicles and equipment (over 7 million), stolen and lost passports, proof of identity documents, visa, etc. (nearly 60 million), and even information about firearms used in commission of crimes.

Now we see how important federated searches can be. A quick call on the radio to is all it takes. The dispatcher will then send the request for information to one of the sharing systems, such as the NCB (see below).

One quick call could save the life of those little kids in the backseat of Tommy Terrorism’s car. And, that same radio call could be the one thing that saves the deputy’s life out there on that dark and deserted country road.

Now lets take a look at the member states. All 50 were eager to join this extremely important service, right?

Not even close.

The actual number is somewhere south of 15 U.S. states having federated status (Nebraska joined in January, 2017). Ironically, federated states report a far greater number of suspects they’ve implicated in major terror plots.

Again, the process is simple. Officers run a check on a person and the nearly instant results show either the person is wanted for something, or not. This is the same type of result that officers see each time they run a check on someone using U.S. databases. No secrets. Nothing nefarious or ominous.

A few states (less than 10) already have the necessary preparations in place, but still have not signed on. The remaining states (over half) have made no move toward becoming a federated state.

This is NOT part of the immigration controversy. Has nothing to do with it. NOTHING. Federated searches are strictly and totally about international criminals, and it’s been in place for a very long time.

Actually, the first INTERPOL “database,” was established is 1927. Introduced a year earlier, the National Central Bureau (NCB) stated that each country should form its own main point of contact for international inquiries. In the U.S., that point of contact is located in Washington D.C. (INTERPOL Washington, the United States National Central Bureau). The Washington Bureau is jointly managed by Homeland Security and the Justice Department.

Divisions of the Washington Bureau include, Drug Crimes, Economic Crimes, Fugitive and Alien, Counterterrorism, Human Trafficking, Violent Crimes, and more.

INTERPOL Facts

  • INTERPOL does not employ law enforcement officers.
  • INTERPOL uses four official languages to communicate with member countries—English, French, Spanish and Arabic.
  • INTERPOL does NOT contact private citizens. Any contact will be made via local law enforcement. If you are contacted by someone who says they’re an INTERPOL officer, well, that statement would be false. Call your local police to let them know.

 

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The Challenges of Policing in the Rain

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Before we dive into the meat of this article … a poem (sort of ).

Rain and Mud

Rain.

Mud.

Delightful, are the two.

Until it’s you, who,

Must roll and fight.

In the rain and mud,

To handcuff a thief.

Rain.

Mud.

Water,

Dripping from your nose,

Onto your clothes.

And handcuffs.

And gun.

Rain.

Mud.

Wet.

Slimy.

Cold.

Yucky.

Goo.

But,

The job is done.

Arrested.

Cuffed.

Stuffed.

And booked.

The bad guy,

Who stole a bun.

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Yes, the “poem” was cheesy and horrible, but it’s purpose is to begin the discussion about cops and rain. After all, it’s not always sunny and dry between book covers, right?

Hey, I’ll bet that chances are pretty good that you’ve not really given much thought to what it’s like to work in the rain as a police officer. Well, doing so presents its own unique challenges, such as:

  • Keeping your weapon and ammunition dry.
  • Preventing water from finding its way into your portable radio.
  • Struggling to apply handcuffs to the wet and slimy wrists of a soaking wet and muddy suspect.
  • Having to thoroughly clean mud from the locking mechanism of your handcuffs
  • Pursuits on wet roadways.
  • Blue light glare reflecting from raindrops and wet things (pavement, buildings, etc.).
  • Flashing lights, windshield wipers, blowing debris, radio chatter, suspect in back yelling, screaming, kicking, and spitting—all major distractions while driving.
  • Struggling with a suspect while wearing a long, bright yellow raincoat—nearly impossible.
  • Locating the rain cover for your hat. It’s not never in the spot where you normally keep it.
  • Trying to run after a suspect, through wet grass, puddles, mud, while wearing a police uniform and slick-bottom shoes—nearly impossible.
  • Hard rain makes it difficult to see … anything. Such as the guy with the gun who ran into the cemetery … at night.
  • Never fails. There will be a car crash during each and every rain storm. Directing traffic in the pouring rain is a horrible experience. And cold.
  • Protecting crime scene evidence from the elements without compromising or contaminating it.
  • When the shooting starts, having to instantly locate the pass- through pocket/gun slit in the long, bright yellow raincoat. Not the best time to figure out how this is done.
  • Catching an outdoor call the first few minutes of the shift and then wearing wet, cold clothing for the next ten hours. Believe me, the feel of icy-cool Kevlar and wet polyester against your body is no picnic.
  • K-9 officers have a set of their very own challenges—muddy paws and wet fur, for example. The stinky odor alone is enough to send our senses into rehab, and thats just the handlers. Wet dogs inside police cars also smell bad.

Well, they do …

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Writing Small Town Cops: Do You Have Barney-Fife-itis?

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What is Barney-Fife-itis, you ask? Well, lots of writers suffer from it, and it’s a horrible disease. Nasty, in fact.

The best way to describe it is to take you to a small town somewhere deep inside your imaginations, where this stuff lives and breeds like the black mold that hides beneath your bathroom vanity.

So lets go there, to that spot in your mind where …

Yes, it’s a small red-brick building nestled between Betty Lou’s Cut ‘n Curl and Smilin’ Bob’s Hardware and Pawn Shop. The lone parking space in front is reserved. A sign reads “Chief’s Parking Only.”

Inside, the hallway to the right takes you to the water department and the office of the building inspector. There, you can also purchase dog tags and yard sale permits.

A left turn leads to the town’s police department, a force comprised of five dedicated, hardworking police officers—one chief, one sergeant, two full-time officers, and one part-time guy who’s also the mayor of the next town over.

Complaints can be filed with the dispatcher at the window, or by dialing the local number. Calling 911 in Small Town works the same as calling 911 in New York City. Hmm … there is a tiny difference, though. When you call 911 in Small Town somebody always shows up to see what’s wrong. Not always so in Big City.

Small Town dispatchers also work the computer terminals and NCIC. They know CPR and they know everyone in town and the quickest routes to their houses.

Officers in Small Town attend the police academy and they receive the same training and certifications as the officers over in Big City. No, Small Town PD doesn’t have all the latest fancy equipment with the shiny, spinning dials and winking, blinking lights. They don’t have special detectives who only work homicides or white collar crime. And they don’t have divisions dedicated for traffic, vice, narcotics, and internal affairs. Budgets simply don’t allow it.

Officers in Small Town are cross-trained. They each know how to run radar, direct traffic, dust for fingerprints, interview suspects and witnesses, and they know how to investigate a murder. They work burglaries and assaults. They also arrest drunk drivers, drug dealers, people who abuse their spouses, rapists, pedophiles, and robbers. They break up fights, help kids cross the street safely, and they locate lost pets. And, if one of their officers  steps out of line they’ll straighten his butt out, too.

Of course, Small Town is totally fictional, but there are many actual small towns with small police departments. And those small departments work the same type cases as the departments in larger cities. No, not all departments are large enough to have officers who serve as detectives. But they all employ police officers who are fully capable of investigating any type of crime. And they do, from traffic offenses to murder. Sure, they perform the same work as a detective, but they do it while wearing a uniform instead of some fancy-smancy suit.

Yep, most small departments operate the same way as the large ones, just on a smaller scale.

For example:

The Yellow Springs, Ohio Police Department serves a village of slightly less than 4,000 residents. Therefore, the department is small. However, there’s a college in town and the village is located near Dayton and Springfield, which translates into the potential for a higher crime rate than would normally be found in a town that size. And, the potential for more crime means more proactive police work for the small number of officers.

The YSPD doesn’t have plainclothes detectives to investigate major crimes. Instead, as is the case with many small departments, uniformed officers investigate all crimes. Therefore, when an officer receives a call from the dispatcher they see it all the way through, from the 911 call through court, including evidence collection, interviewing witnesses, etc.

If the officers need additional help, or resources, they call on the sheriff’s office.

Remember, not all departments operate in the same manner. Some smaller departments DO have detectives, and those investigators may or may not wear a uniform. They could dress in a coat and tie, and they could have the title of detective, or investigator. If they’re a detective who wears a uniform their rank would normally remain the same. There is no standard rule. It’s entirely up to the individual department.

One other thing to remember—a police department and a sheriff’s office are not the same. Deputy sheriffs work for sheriffs, not police chiefs. But that’s a topic for another day.

Since the topic today is “small town departments” and the officers who work there … well, hold on to your hats because I’m about to make an earth shattering announcement! Ready?

Here goes.

Sure you’re ready? Are you sitting down? Have your nervous medicine in hand? Your doctor on speed dial?

Yes to all of the above? Okay, then. Here it is, and I’m holding nothing back. Not this time.

(One second. I’m taking a deep breath)

Okay, here’s the news …

Small town cops are the same as cops in big cities!

Yes, they are. I’ve said it and the secret is OUT!

They receive the same training. They do the same jobs. They go through similar hiring procedures. They enforce the same or similar laws. They use the same or similar equipment. And, well … to write them all as inferior, stupid, ignorant, incompetent, etc. is not only absolutely and unequivocally wrong, it’s extremely offensive.

I’ve often wondered why some people assume that people who have little are to be considered inferior, or less intelligent when compared to those who have a lot. This is also true when considering law enforcement agencies. Those with the shiniest and best equipment are often seen as employing officers who are smarter than their peers who work for small town departments with meager budgets. Of course, this unfair stereotyping occurs throughout most walks of life.

Try breaking it down in this way:

  • Small Town, a town of 4,000 residents, employs five police officers. Those five officers provide police protection and coverage for those 4,000 citizens.
  • Big City, a city of 100,000 employs 125 officers.
  • Break down the number from Big City into three shifts (day, night, and rotating for the off hours of the other shifts) and you wind up with just over 40 officers per shift.
  • Now, since Big City covers a much larger land area than Small Town, officials divided Big City into 8 precincts.
  • Each of the eight precincts covers a land area the size of Small Town.
  • Each precinct employs … wait for it … FIVE officers.
  • Some of those precincts have 4,000 residents, or more, including the extremely high-crime areas. Therefore, these precincts of 4,000 residents are covered by five police officers, which is the same scenario that plays out in every small town and city across the country.
  • Many small town police officers attend the same police academies as their peers in larger cities. In fact, they’re often classmates in the same academy. And, their instructors are the same, their desks are the same, and the equipment used is identical.

Anyway, budget, land area, and location are the major differences. Not intelligence or training.

*The above scenario is fictional. I merely used it to illustrate the point. It is, however, a loosely accurate portrayal.

Let’s continue to explore our small town department.

YSPD dispatcher.

NCIC and other equipment.

Above – Felony traffic stop in a small town. The procedure is the same in both large and small departments.

Issuing a traffic summons in a small town is no different, other than surroundings, than the same situation in a larger jurisdiction.

An arrest is the same no matter where it takes place. Tactics and techniques are identical. So is training.

Small departments may not have the latest, modern equipment, such as LiveScan fingerprint terminals. Instead, they still use the old ink and ten-print cards. Both produce the same results.

Ten-print fingerprinting station.

Small departments collect and preserve evidence using the same methods and materials as do larger departments.

Evidence storage is the same, but is on a smaller scale in smaller departments.

YSPD evidence room office/processing area.

Evidence safe in a small department (for narcotics, etc.).

YSPD officer’s workstation/office.

Small departments follow the same procedures as any other department. The job is identical to that of a big city officer, just in a different location.

Interior of a YSPD patrol car. Some cars feature mobile data terminals (computers), and some don’t.

~

As always, please check with experts in the area where your story takes place. Those are the people who can best help with your research. Not someone who once read a book about how cops work in small towns. Obviously, to read incorrect information and then pass it along is, well, it doesn’t make the details any more accurate. Wrong is wrong.

To do so would be no different than me reading a book on brain surgery and then telling you about so you can then operate on your readers and fans. Reading a book about something does not make someone a crackerjack on that particular subject. However, actual experience and training does indeed produce experts.

Otherwise, we still see “Guess-perts” (the folks with no real experience or training) telling authors to write small town cops as “Barney Fifes,” when that couldn’t be further from the truth. I know, there are “Barneys” in many departments (other professions as well), but they’re not exclusive to small towns. It’s just that they’re far more obvious when they’re one of only five officers citizens see every single day.

So, if you’re going for accuracy, the best advice for you, my writer friends, is to …

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Edged Weapon Attacks: The Twenty-One-Foot Rule … maybe

Recently, I had the pleasure of presenting a fun workshop to the San Francisco Area Romance Writers, and sometime during the workshop someone asked about the 21-foot rule. They inquired because they were curious to know if what they’d heard—that it is nearly impossible to … well, read on. You’ll see why she asked.

So, here we go … Confusion at the very onset.

Edged Weapon Attacks: The 21- 30-foot Rule Suggestion

Police officers are forced to make many split second decisions during the course of their careers, and one of those decisions is when to use force, and which level of force should be employed, if needed.

Should a Taser be used when a combative suspect is holding a knife? Should the officer go for her firearm if the suspect is swinging a baseball bat at her head? Is an officer ever justified to shoot an unarmed suspect? Are there situations when officers must retreat? All these decisions are made within one-half to three-quarters of a second. That’s about how long it takes the average human to react to a given situation.

Let’s first examine the scenario pictured above. Here, an officer stands facing a knife-wielding suspect who clearly presents a danger. The bad guy is holding an edged weapon (a knife) in the classic “ice pick” position. Years ago officers were taught that a suspect could be shot, and justifiably so, if he were wielding a knife in a threatening manner while positioned within a distance of twenty-one feet (the 21-foot rule), or less, from the officer. The reasoning was that the suspect was without a doubt an immediate, deadly threat.

Officers were also taught that they’d not likely survive this scenario without using deadly force. The fact is, it’s doubtful that an officer could draw his weapon and squeeze off a round, without aiming, if a suspect began his charge from a distance of twenty-one feet or less. Many agencies and officer survival instructors (I taught this at the academy) have pushed that distance back even further, to 30 feet. This distance plus the time is takes the officer to decide a course of action is called the “reactionary gap.”

The reason for the increased distance is because not every scenario is identical. Not every officer reacts in precisely the same manner. People perceive things differently. Some suspects are faster than others. The list goes on and on and on. Twenty-one feet is not enough distance in many instances.

Suppose the officer properly assessed the incoming threat and managed to draw his weapon and fire. How long would it take to think about and perform those two basic tasks (draw and fire)? Inquiring minds wanted to know so they conducted a series of experiments.

The fastest officer tested was able to draw his weapon from a security holster in a little under 1.5 seconds. The slowest was a about 2.25 seconds. Sounds pretty fast, huh? Maybe not, and here’s the why not.

The average suspect can cover the distance (21 feet as seen above) from a standing still position to the officer in as little as 1.5 seconds, nearly a full second quicker than the slowest officer is able to defend himself.

Today officers must rethink the twenty-one foot rule a bit. Sure, the thug (a universal term for a “bad guy”) is potentially a deadly threat, but not an actual deadly threat until he makes some sort of hostile movement toward the officer. In other words, the 21 foot (or 30) distance is not automatic permission to shoot. There MUST BE a THREAT!!

Of course the officer should have his firearm in a ready position as soon as he perceives the threat. By the way, this is definitely a situation where the officer should always choose his firearm over a non-lethal weapon, such as a Taser or pepperspray. Remember the the old saying, “Never bring a knife to a gunfight?” Now there’s a new addition to that rule—“Never bring a Taser to a knife fight.”

The key to knowing when it’s time to shoot is simple. If the officer feels that his life, or the life of an innocent person, is at risk, then the shoot is justified. However, the officer must be prepared to articulate his reasons for pulling the trigger. Was the suspect making stabbing motions while advancing?  Was he charging the officer? Was his/her or the life of someone else in jeopardy? Was there a threat of serious bodily harm?

There are reasons, too, that may not justify the shoot, such as the suspect being so intoxicated that he couldn’t possibly have followed through with the threat. In short, the threat must be real, or at least perceived as being real in the eyes of the officer.

The officer must also be able to recognize when a threat is over. If the suspect drops his weapon, the justification for deadly force ends immediately. The same is true when a suspect uses an automobile as a weapon. When a driver uses his car to charge an officer, the officer may shoot to stop the threat. However, when the car speeds past the officer, heading into the sunset, the threat is over. In most circumstances the officer may not shoot at the fleeing car. Where would those rounds go? Besides, bullets won’t stop a moving car. Suppose the driver is shot? What happens to a driverless car that’s careening down a busy street at 50 mph?

When any suspect points a firearm of any type at an officer, deadly force is immediately justified.

In situations like the one pictured above, it’s not uncommon for officers to hesitate briefly before using deadly force to stop the threat. Why? Interestingly, officers sometimes perceive women and children as being less of a threat than a male suspect. That’s why simulated firearms training sessions, like the ones we use at the Writers’ Police Academy, use both women and children in the shoot/don’t shoot scenarios.

The woman in the picture above is very much a deadly threat, therefore, the officer is justified in using deadly force.

Interestingly, but not surprising, a couple of people at the RWA session last weekend said the woman in the photo above was in no way a threat to the officer. Of course, I immediately asked why they felt she wasn’t a threat. My favorite response was, “Because she’s wearing sandals.” Another was, “He’s bigger than she is.” And, “She’s a woman. He should be able to handle this without shooting.” These responses are fairly typically among citizens (and writers) who’ve never been involved in a deadly encounter like those police see on a regular basis.

No doubt about it. This IS a deadly force situation. The small, sandal-wearing woman is very much a threat to the officer.

The 21- (or 30) foot rule is not actually a rule. Instead, it is merely a guideline officers use when determining the outer edge of the reactionary gap.

Obviously, officers do not pull out a tape measure to examine distances during a dangerous and deadly situation.

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However, they should practice the drill over and and over again until they’re comfortable with how and when they should react and to learn which method works best for them. Retreat is certainly an option to consider if the officer feels that’s the best move at the time.

The big takeaway from this piece is that officers are legally permitted to use deadly force whenever they feel their lives or the lives of others are in jeopardy. And, that the courts have ruled that we, as ordinary citizens who were not at the scene of an officer-involved shooting, may not second-guess how the officer perceived the threat(s) they faced at the precise moment deadly force was used. That’s it in a nutshell.

Let’s see how well you do with a short true or false quiz. The answers are posted at the end.

True or False

1. There are constitutional limits on the types of weapons and tactics officers can use on the street.

2. An officer’s intent and state of mind at the time she used force can be an important factor in determining if that use of force was legal.

3. An officer must always retreat before using deadly force.

4. Officers MUST see a suspect’s weapon before using deadly force.

5. Officers must always use the least amount of force possible to gain control of a suspect.

6. Officers may shoot a fleeing felon.

7. Officers may not use force when conducting a pat down (Terry stop) search for weapons.

8. Information discovered after using force can be a factor in determining the legality of the force used.

9. Courts and juries are allowed to evaluate an officer’s use of force by considering what the officer could have done differently.

10. An officer’s prior use of force incidents can be considered in court when evaluating whether the use of force in a current situation was legally justified.

Quiz Source – Circuit Court Judge Emory Pitt, Jr. and Americans for Effective Law Enforcement

Answers 1F, 2F, 3F, 4F, 5F, 6T, 7F, 8F, 9F, 10F

*By the way, police officers are not taught to kill anyone. Not ever. Instead, they’re taught to stop a threat to life. And, it’s not always a firearm or edged weapon that threatens human life. Victims, including armed police officers, have been beaten to death by suspects using no more than their bare hands.

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Scenes from the RWA meeting last weekend in Emeryville, Ca., across the bridge from San Francisco.

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The Q&A portion of the program was quite energetic. Actually, this was the exciting scene at the time we gave away a free registration to the Writers’ Police Academy.

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Speaking of the WPA, Peggy (Margaret) Lucke decided to show off her WPA attire.

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Book translator Jeannette Bauroth and her husband, Mike, stopped in all the way from Germany! By the way, Mike is the guy who goes to the homes of the recently convicted (of certain crimes) to confiscate their firearms.

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L-R, Denene Lofland, Jeannette Bauroth, Mike Bauroth

And this …

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Cops: Why They Look And Act “That Way”

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Predatory animals watch and stalk their prey before moving in for the kill. They’re patient and often wait for just the right target, the weakest animal in the pack. They do so because the battle will be easier, and humans, including criminals, are no different. The cop who looks and acts weak—the meekest of the herd—often finds himself the target of attack, from verbal abuse all the way to physical assault.

So what do cops do as a front-line defense against all that unnecessary grief? Well, for starters, they’re taught to portray what’s known as Command Presence.

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An officer who looks sharp, acts sharp, and is sharp has an advantage over the officer who dresses sloppily and isn’t all that confident about their work. The latter are the officers who most often find themselves having the most difficulties on the street.

Command presence is all about being at the top of the game. Taking a few minutes to be sure your shoes, badge, and brass are polished goes a long way toward projecting a positive image. So does wearing a clean and neatly pressed uniform. And let’s don’t forget regular trips to the folks who cut hair for a living. All these things make an officer look sharp.

Think about it. Who would you have more confidence in, the officer with the dirty, wrinkled clothing and shaggy hair and who doesn’t take the job seriously?

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Or the officer who looks fresh and sharp, and projects a solid air of authority?

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Crooks size up officers the same way you do. They just have other things in mind when they do. They watch, looking for the weak ones, and those are the officers who’ll most likely be dealing with escape attempts, lies, and other criminal tricks.

Tips for developing a better command presence.

– Be professional at all times. And that includes updated training. A cop who knows his job inside out projects more confidence. The same is true with physical training. Stay in shape and know and trust your defensive tactics.

– Good posture is important. Someone standing straight and tall has an advantage over the officer who slouches. Poor posture sometimes comes across as a weakness, especially when confronting an aggressive suspect.

– Always make eye contact when speaking to someone.

– Honesty and consistency are important traits. The bad guys will quickly learn that what you say is what you mean, each and every time. Treat everyone fairly and consistently.

– First impressions only come around once. Make it your best impression. If a suspect’s first impression of you is that you’re weak, well, expect to have a rough day.

– Size up everyone. Always be aware of who and what you’re dealing with, and stay one step ahead of the person in front of you. Remember, that person may want to kill you, so be prepared to do what it takes to survive. And I mean do this each and every time you come into contact with someone. You never know which person is the one who plans to do you harm.

Most importantly, believe in yourself. Have confidence in what you do and who you are. All the shoe-shining and training in the world will not help you if you’re playing make believe. The bad guys will see through that in a heartbeat.

So wear the badge proudly, stand tall, and do what it takes to come home at night.

 

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** Attention Readers and Fans **

Have you reserved your spot for the 2017 Writers’ Police Academy?

Yes, the WPA is open to everyone!!

Train with the pros.

Train beside your favorite authors!!!!

Sign up now at:

Writerspoliceacademy.com

Space is limited!

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