California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 12


Are Too Many Responsibilities Compromising Officer Safety ?

By Leischen Stelter , Editor of InPublicSafety . com , American Military University
When five police officers in Dallas were killed by a military-trained sniper in July 2016 , agencies around the country conducted briefings to discuss ways officers could protect themselves should they find themselves in a similar situation . Now common practice , these briefings are one of the most effective tools for promoting officer safety , allowing agencies to share emerging threats , promote best practices , identify policy issues , and discuss training needs .
Sergeants generally bear the responsibility of teaching officers how national incidents affect officer safety . Jeremy Nikolow , a graduate of American Military University ’ s Criminal Justice program and 11-year officer at a large agency in central Florida , was recently promoted to patrol sergeant . He makes it a point to mention national incidents pertaining to officer safety during his daily briefings . In September , he discussed tactical and safety concerns after three Arizona officers were injured when a man intentionally drove his car into them at a gas station .
“ Those officers were standing in a circle so they had a good 360-degree view ,” said Nikolow . “ Sometimes , no matter what you do or how aware you are of your surroundings , you can ’ t prevent attacks .”
Incidents like those in Phoenix , Dallas , and Baton Rouge , where officers were targeted for attack , illustrate the inherent dangers of law enforcement . Nikolow believes it is the responsibility of a sergeant to identify officers who may be showing signs of distress . “ Not every officer is able to compartmentalize after an incident . Some really need to sit down and talk it out ,” he said . “ It ’ s important to recognize those officers and find practical ways to work through it .”
Sergeants are also responsible for conducting debriefings , a practice that has become more common among agencies . “ We debrief now more than we ever did in the past ,” said Keith Graves , a police officer for over 28 years and current Criminal Justice student at AMU . Graves is a
Sergeant with the Livermore Police Department in California . “ Whenever there ’ s a major call , I like to get people together immediately after to talk about what went right and wrong .”
Sitting down and critiquing an incident also serves as a daily reminder for officers to be aware of their biggest threat : complacency . That ’ s something Michael Kashiktchian has already learned in his two years as an officer .
Kashiktchian was hired by the Riverside County ( CA ) Sheriff ’ s Department in 2014 , but has only been patrolling on his own as a Deputy Sheriff for eight months . He supplements his experience in the field with public administration classes at AMU . His training regularly reminds him never to make assumptions about what he ’ ll be facing .
“ Officers will inherently start developing an idea of what a call is going to be like ,” he said . If it ’ s a theft , for example , officers might start to think about photographing the scene , collecting information about stolen property , dusting for fingerprints and so forth . Instead , officers should constantly remind themselves that they don ’ t know what they ’ re walking into and be prepared to use a myriad of techniques and tools .
“ We have a checklist running through our minds , which seems like a constructive practice ,” said Kashiktchian . “ But it can lead officers to lower their guard .”
Talking about officer safety is nothing new — it ’ s always been paramount for law enforcement . What has changed
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