Ten Officer Safety Tips That Every Rookie Should Know (and a Refresher For Everyone Else)

June 23, 2017

by Ian D Scofield

Are you new to the force?  Even if you aren’t, these ten tips are things that you know and in your years you might have become lax in.  Each one of these ten tips will keep you safe in the field.

Do Not Assume Handcuffs/Restraints Pacify Someone

Many people (some officers included) tend to think that handcuffs and/or restraints mean that a subject has been pacified.  While this sometimes might be true, it isn’t always.  People who are restrained can still be deadly, never turn your back on them unless another officer has control of them.

Keep The Body Armor On

With all of the shootings in the news most departments are making it mandatory that officers wear body armor, but some departments still don’t require it.  No matter how tempting it is, your armor should always be worn.  It isn’t always the person you expect to shoot at you that will open fire.  Body armor can mean the difference between life and death.

Always Park Nose Out/Ready To Leave

This is one of the most basic parts of driving a patrol vehicle (or any other unit).  You should always take the time to back into a spot (also known as parking out).  Doing so enables you to be ready to leave should something happen.  If you aren’t able to park nose out, try to make sure nothing is obstructing your exit path.

Try The Passenger Side Window

There are various practices for approaching a vehicle but one that has become ever more popular in the recent years is a driver’s side approach.  This gives you distance between the driver and yourself.  The majority of the population is also right handed so it gives you a better view should they have a firearm.

A passenger side approach also takes you out of the path of travel of most vehicles, making it safer.

Watch The Hands

The body has many different tells that you can watch for.  One of the biggest ones is the hands.  Watching a subject’s hands can tell you when they might be reaching for something but it can also tell you when they are tensing up for a fight.  Often times an open hand means that someone is more passive while a closed hand speaks towards aggression or uncomfortableness. 

Remember that this should only be through your peripheral vision.  There are many different things to keep an eye on during a contact and they are all important.

Always Know Your Surroundings

As you move about your shift (and when you are off-duty) you should always be aware of your surroundings.  That means inventorying potential threats, knowing where the exits are, and also knowing who might help if you need it.  Being aware of your surroundings can mean the difference between life and death.

Never Sit With Your Back To The Door

Almost every cop takes a moment every now and then to sit at a coffee shop, or a restaurant, and eat.  This is fine, but you should never have your back to the door.  Having your back to the door opens you up to potential threats and makes it harder for you to be aware of your surroundings.  Try to pick a table that is sideways where all officers can see the door.

Always Play What If

Bad situations suck but you can prepare yourself for them by always running what if scenarios through your head and coming up with responses.  This should help prepare you if the worst happens.  And the what if scenarios don’t even have to be worst case scenario.  You could just be rehearsing an everyday traffic stop in your head.  Rehearsal is a form of training that you can take on in your head every day to keep yourself fresh and ready.

Don’t Let Your Defensive Tactics

Defensive tactics has become a very needed course as officers around the country have gotten into scuffles.  However, not every department requires regular refreshers and it is easy to let some of it go.  Practicing your defensive tactics with co-workers regularly helps to keep it fresh.

You should also take some form of practical martial art outside of work.  This will help to keep you limber and give you extra options when in the field.  Just remember to keep department policy in mind when deploying skills in the field.

Train Your Family

Training your family to know what to do should something happen might be a scary thing for them but it can help save the day should something happen.  Each family member should know what to do in a variety of situations, that includes if someone breaks into your home.  Make sure you go over what to do regularly so it is always fresh.

Take these ten tips to mind, they are all ones that I have been given throughout my years in security.  Stay safe and stay vigilant.    

About the author:

Ian graduated Seattle University with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice. He has held positions as an Auxiliary Public Safety Officer, a Security Patrol Supervisor, and as an in-house security officer for a major medical center. Through all of this he has picked up a wealth of experience, training, and education that he is happy to pass on to others. Ian can be reached at ian@iandscofield.com.

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