Many people count the possibility of getting shot as the most significant danger a police officer faces. Officer-involved shootings appear to be on the rise, and there is no shortage of video footage on television or online showing shootouts between officers and criminals. But is that the most dangerous aspect of police work?
Today’s law enforcement officers face a multitude of dangers in their everyday duties that rival the threat of getting shot. For example:
- Foot pursuits
- Vehicle pursuits
- Responding code 3 (lights and siren)
- Making an arrest
- Traffic control
- Heat stroke
- Duty equipment
- Biohazard exposure/sun exposure
Officers are exposed to these dangers on a daily basis.
They wear ballistic vests and heavy leather belts containing batons, pepper spray, handcuffs, a radio and a handgun. The equipment they wear can weigh up to 20 pounds, which puts a tremendous amount of stress on the back, hips, knees and feet. They must also get into and out of a patrol vehicle up to 20 times a day wearing this equipment. As a result many officers injure themselves to the point of being unable to work in law enforcement any longer.
Officers are also exposed to extreme temperatures for extended periods of time. Whether they are conducting traffic control at an accident scene in 100 degree heat or providing crime scene security in freezing temperatures, they are at the mercy of the elements. Most time they have not had time to stop at the store or the station before they are sent to the call so they can be standing out there without the proper protection or hydration they might need.
In addition to the physical dangers officers must deal with, they also must always be ready for the unknown. This can place a significant amount of physical and mental stress on the officer. They must conduct business in “condition yellow,” not overly anxious but aware of their environment at all times.
Officers need to remain vigilant and prepared for any situation that develops. Rarely does an officer have time to fully prepare for the emergency call for service. They have to rely on their training and make split second decisions based on an ever changing set of circumstances.
But one of the most dangerous aspects of police work is pursuit driving or responding “code 3.” Not only do the officers have to be in control of their own vehicle, they must be fully aware of the traffic surrounding them. They are also responsible for the fleeing suspect even though they have no control over his vehicle.
One of an officer’s main priorities when responding “code 3”, or pursuing a fleeing suspect is to ensure the safety of the public. This takes split-second decision making, specific driving skills and an awareness of the motoring public that may not see the officer or the fleeing suspect.
It’s fun watching “Scariest Police Chases” on television, but it’s a totally different feeling when you’re actually in one of those pursuits.
So why do officers put themselves in danger each and everyday? Is it the excitement? Do they need a surge of adrenaline?
They do it because they realize Lodi is a unique city in the Central Valley and keeping its residents safe is fulfilling. All most officers ask in return is an occasional “thank you” for the effort they put in each and every day.
Any comments, questions or advice for Behind the Badge can be e-mailed to Jeanie Biskup at firstname.lastname@example.org; mailed to Lodi Police Department, 215 W. Elm St., Lodi, CA 95240; or asked by phone at 333-6864.