Annette's post yesterday and the news about the FBI agent shot and killed here in Pittsburgh yesterday got me thinking about how dangerous law enforcement can be. Most civilians take that fact for granted. We were lucky in the department where I was a secretary for ten years that we never had a fatality. The guys I worked with never took dumb chances and they could always count on each other for back up--even the ones who didn't get along.
Yesterday morning, FBI Special Agent Sam Hicks and members of a multijurisdictional drug task force stopped at a home in Indiana Township to serve a warrant on Robert Korbe. Agent Hicks was shot and killed by Christina Korbe, Robert's wife. Hicks was the first FBI agent killed in the line of duty while serving in Pittsburgh. (Several agents from Pittsburgh have been killed elsewhere, including Martha Dixon, for whom the Pittburgh FBI building is named.)
According to statistics released by the FBI, of the 57 officers feloniously killed in 2007, 55 of them were killed with firearms. (Note: according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund website, this number is 68.) On the the website Policeone.com it states that of these 55, "38 were killed with handguns, nine with shotguns, and eight with rifles."
The only thing deadlier than guns for police officers is traffic fatalities. In 2007, 83 officers died in motor vehicle accidents.
We had the following posted on the bulletin board in the squad room where I used to work:
THE TEN FATAL ERRORS THAT HAVE KILLED EXPERIENCED LAWMEN
1. Your Attitude - If you fail to keep your mind on the job while on patrol, or if you carry problems with you into the field, you will start to make errors. It can cost you or other fellow officers their lives.
2. Tombstone Courage - No one doubts that you are brave, but in any situation where time allows, wait for backup. You should not try to make a dangerous apprehension alone and unaided.
3. Not Enough Rest - To do your job, you must be alert. Being sleepy or asleep on the job is not only against regulations, but you endanger yourself, the community and all of your fellow officers.
4. Taking a Bad Position - Never let anyone you are questioning or about to stop get in a better position than you and your vehicle. There is no such thing as a routine call or stop.
5. Danger Signs - You will come to recognize "danger signs"--movements, strange cars, warnings that should alert you to watch your step and approach with caution. Know your beat, your community, and watch for anything that is out of place.
6. Failure To Watch The Hands Of a Suspect - Is he or she reaching for a weapon or getting ready to strike you? How else can a potential killer strike but with his or her hands?
7. Relaxing Too Soon - The "rut" of false alarms. Observe the activity, never take any call as routine or just another false alarm. It's your life on the line.
8. Improper Use or No Handcuffs - Once you have made an arrest, handcuff the prisoner properly.
9. No Search or Poor Search - There are so many places a suspect can hide weapons that your failure to search is a crime against fellow officers. Many criminals carry several weapons and are able and prepared to use them against you.
10. Dirty or Inoperative Weapon - Is your firearm clean? Will it fire? How about ammunition? When did you fire your weapon last so that you know if you can hit a target in combat conditions? What't the sense of carrying any firearm that may not work?
(The above was published by the National Association of Chiefs of Police.)