On Monday I drove my little Prius to the Bay Area to attend a Below 100 Training. This is the third such training I’ve sat through, and it gets me every time.
Below 100 is a campaign to bring our national on-duty death toll down from 140-160 a year to below 100. By simply reminding peace officers of the five tenets of officer safety, perhaps there will be more officers going home to their families. That’s the goal – to bring our officers home at the end of each shift. Because we spouses benefit from such a campaign, I support Below 100 with every fiber of my being. Keeping families intact and thriving includes keeping our officers alive!
The first tenet of Below 100 is Wear Your Belt. Not the gunbelt, but the seatbelt. This seems to be number one because so many officers don’t wear their seatbelts in the patrol car. It is perhaps the hardest tenet to follow, because police culture, even some departmental training, stands by the belief that wearing a seatbelt will inhibit easy departure from the vehicle. It may or may not be true most of the time (how long does it take to take it off and is it worth that to put yourself at risk), but when the patrol car suddenly loses control, the occupants will have an easier departure from the vehicle than they would like. Many of our on-duty traffic fatalities are because the officer is not wearing a seatbelt and they are ejected or thrown violently into the windshield.
The second tenet is Wear Your Vest. My husband came on at a time in CHP history where the vest was beginning to be worn in the Academy. They were trained to put it on as a piece of equipment – as necessary as the gun or badge. My husband wears his vest even today as a Chief – even though he doesn’t pull people over anymore. Some departments don’t even issue a vest as part of the uniform. On Monday I listened to my friend Gene, a retired CHP officer, talk about surviving a n incident where the criminal tried to finish him off by shooting him point blank in the back. We sat riveted as he recounted his story of survival and saw pictures of the vest. The vest was toast, but Gene was very much alive.
The third tenet is Watch Your Speed. Why do cops speed? Because they can! Our officers love to drive fast – but time and again, speeding to something that they really don’t need to has resulted in accidents that cause extreme hardship on the officer, other officers, and/or Joe Citizens. At the training, we watched as an officer speeding to a stolen car incident took out a kid on a bike and killed him. Trust me, that was difficult to watch. And then we listened to the officer get into the car and start crying like a baby. For good reason.
The fourth is WIN – What’s important now. This is a reminder to think on duty. Making choices to keep situational awareness for the task at hand. Approaching a car on the safest side depending on traffic (CHP approaches cars on the passenger side to keep themselves from getting hit by distracted motorists), making sure there is adequate safety for deploying spike strips, and other safety concerns while policing.
The last tenet of Below 100 is Complacency Kills. This is the reminder to our officers to keep alert. After day after day of routine policing, there can be a tendency to settle into that routine and be caught unawares by something dangerous. We watched a video of an interview with one of our CHP widows. She said that the day her husband was killed on duty, she had been spooked by another LODD a few days earlier and told her husband to be careful. His answer – “Don’t worry, honey! I’m invincible!” Other than a goodbye, that was the last thing he said to her.
We as spouses are very much affected by this campaign. Already there are stories that are coming forward that this training has saved lives. Kids have their parents, spouses have their officers, mothers have their kids because we are intentionally reminding our officers to be safe. You and I, too, can add a little reminder here and there as our officers head out the door to keep the peace.
It just might save their lives.
For more information on Below 100, visit Below100.com.