POLICE Magazine

JAN 2019

Magazine for police and law enforcement

Issue link: https://policemag.epubxp.com/i/1067555

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Page 82 of 84

80 POLICE JANUARY 2019 WELL, here I am reading my line of duty death report about an officer killed when he loses control of his vehicle and leaves the roadway while responding to a domestic violence call. e final sentence of the post freezes my gut: "Seat belt was not in use." Damn! I am constantly reminded, by how an incident is re- ported, of some basic issues in officer safety. e reports reveal exactly what the officer thought mattered. Just think to yourself how often you read a critical incident re- port which includes the following, toward the end: "e officer's life was saved when his body armor stopped the shots from entering his chest." I guarantee you the in- stant that round exploded into the officer's body armor he thought that vest was the one thing in the world that mattered most. "Mattering most" is an odd taxonomy for the things in our lives. Today it may seem that getting to the dentist or buying that anniversary gift for your loved one (don't forget this!) is the most important matter mattering before you. However, I submit that a lot of "little matters" matter most from sec- ond to second. And some of these are ubiquitous, constant matters that we may, from time to time, neglect. Neglect- ing a "little matter" can turn it into a "matters most" matter in a fraction of a second. Let us take our friend, the seat belt. Now 99.9% of the time a seat belt is just an anchor for your rear end as you drive casually around. e fraction of the time you drive "hauling ass," when you absolutely need that butt to stay in that vehicle, is pretty low and accidents do not show up on your phone's appointment app. at split second when an unexpected crisis occurs is, sadly, not the time to re- member how important a matter keeping your body in the cockpit truly is; but in actual fact, in those hundredths of a second, it is the thing that matters most! e fact that a seat belt is passive and, once fastened, a constant throughout the time you are in transit in a vehicle means the conscious act of attaching yourself to your ride takes a fraction of a second upon entering the vehicle, and detaching should be a simple "habit" with no conscious thought whatsoever. So we can say that the matter of fastening your seat belt should be of little mat- ter except for the fact that keeping your matter intact de- pends on the seat belt caring for the matter it is designed for. e weak element in the design of your seat belt is you. You have to take care of one small matter to make all the meanings of matter in this sentence matter. So dam- mit … why not? e same holds true for body armor. is is a passive tool that requires you to put the damn thing on before danger, and take it off after. But we can't know when we will actually need our armor. By which we mean, "We don't know when it will matter most." Yeppers, we do not, so that is why it is passive; once put on, it is there until the moment it matters most, throughout the shift, until such time as you decide it just does not mat- ter enough to keep wearing it—hope- fully at the moment you are no longer on duty. OK, here is the point. If you believe your life matters, the people who love you matter, the job you do matters, and the actions you take matter, then why do you fail to do things that will matter most when your life is on the line? If you don't wear a seat belt, start wearing the damn thing. Worried about "being tactical" (whatever that is when you are hauling ass in your patrol vehicle)? en practice unfas- tening your seat belt without looking. Body armor is in the same categor y, and the percent- age of officers k illed today without it on makes me shake my head in amazement. At a time that is as dangerous as I have ever k nown in my life, the number of crime fighters who can't see how much body armor matters is a matter of great sorrow to me. I hope you will take time to evaluate the things in your life that matter most, pri- oritize them, and then act on them … this is no small matter. Dave Smith is an internationally recognized law enforce- ment trainer and is the creator of "JD Buck Savage." You can follow Buck on Twitter at @thebucksavage. Don't wait until tragedy strikes to recognize the importance of taking a moment to ensure your safety. The weak element in the design of your seat belt is you. THINGS THAT MATTER MOST IN MY SIGHTS ILLUSTRATION: SEQUOIA BLANKENSHIP DAVE SMITH For more humorous anecdotes go to www.PoliceMag.com/davesmith

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