|What a Difference 30 Years Makes|
The instructors were all retired or active cops and each taught in their area of expertise. The range instructor was a retired F.B.I. agent who taught us to get the most out of the 18 rounds we had. There was no excuse for not hitting your target, and each shot had to be accounted for. We learned defensive tactics from another retired Fed, and learned a kick-ass wrist-lock that beats anything I've learned since.
After 30-plus years in corrections, Sheriff's departments, and police departments, I've seen a lot of changes in training, tactics and equipment. When I started, the average cop on the street carried a radio about the size and weight of a brick. It had three channels and the nearest telephone was in a call-box. Batons were either the new nylon or the old hickory sticks. A pair of handcuffs and a key ring with a few keepers were on the standard leather Sam Browne belt. Some carried mace, and almost all had a .38 revolver with an extra 12 rounds, often in a dump pouch.
When speed loaders came on the scene, it was almost revolutionary. Squads were sometimes equipped with a wire cage, and a 12 gauge pump shotgun was mounted between the front seats. Computers were something that was seen only in science fiction movies. The only contact with dispatch was through a radio that could pick up "skips" from across the nation. Body armor was mostly unheard of and only special teams had access to it.
Now, when I go out on the street, I have a nylon belt that holds a semi-auto pistol with 45 extra rounds, a collapsible baton, glove pouch, radio case, Taser , OC spray, cell phone , handcuffs, and a transmitter for the in-squad video system. I wear body armor that in hot weather stick to me like mayonnaise on toast, yet I wouldn't consider going on-duty without it. The squad car is a rolling office, with computers, video, printers, radios and an enclosed plexi-glass back seat. Accompanying the shotgun is a rifle and a trunk full of emergency equipment.
The average street cop or corrections officer goes out with more gear and better equipped than most old-timers could imagine. The education standards are much higher, and the training and academies are more inclusive. In essence, officers on the street or in the prisons today are better prepared for survival than anytime in the past. Yet, with all of these improvements, officer safety and survival is often hampered by the biggest killer of all-complacency.
Yet, that same-old-crap can turn into a steaming pile of disaster in a heartbeat. It's complacency that allows a C.O. to walk with their hands in their pockets, onto a rec. field full of inmates because of the preconceived notion that nothing ever happens. It's complacency that kills or injures us when we drive or respond to an incident ,whether on the street or in the joint, and forget that there is a world of other things going on that still requires our attention. It's complacency that makes us ignore the fundamentals.
I, along with everyone reading this, am guilty of allowing complacency to ride along with me. I have been in situations that, but for the grace of God, could have turned against me. I count it as luck that they didn't.
What if I go to Joe Trailerpark's house and he comes out with a gun, or a knife, or what ever? What if I get to the accident and power lines are across the car? What if I'm taking count and a fight breaks out? What if an inmate grabs me and tries to pull me into their cell? These are all real possibilities. If you play out the scenarios in your mind that you might have to deal with, you will be better prepared. Plan your course of action. Plan your response. Plan your escape route. Plan to survive. That's the best outcome for any situation.
Above all, remember: complacency kills.