Studying the Cop Killers

Greg Ellifretz over at Active Response Training had a great post today analyzing the 2011 FBI Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) report. The LEOKA report, which I was not previously aware of, compiles stats and case studies of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, as well as stats about assaults on cops.

Greg’s post does a great job of breaking down the statistics, so I strongly encourage you to read his post. I wanted to talk about one specific case study from the piece of the report which summarizes the circumstances of each officer who was killed, and about some lessons we can learn from it.

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IANAL: Talking to Law Enforcement After a Shooting

The conventional wisdom on the Internet says that, if you ever have to use lethal force to defend yourself, the best response to the police is to say nothing. “Tell them, ‘I refuse to answer any questions without my lawyer present’ and then shut up,” the Internet tells us. Or, sometimes people advise us to say “I was in fear for my life” and then shut up. But is this really the best course of action after a shooting?

The “shut your mouth and say nothing” advice is driven primarily by the belief that (a) you might say something in the heat of emotion that could later be misconstrued as incriminating, and (b) that the police are looking for a reason to arrest you. The first is very likely true; the second not necessarily so.

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In my last post, I mentioned the ride-along I did two days ago with my local sheriff’s department. I learned a lot from this experience, so I’m sure I’ll have more than one post about it. But for this post, I wanted to talk about a specific call we responded to, and some of the lessons I learned.

I’m necessarily going to be a little vague about some of the details of what went down, because they’re not important and because I don’t know what tactical information I observed that might be sensitive. In the broad strokes, we received a call to a local school for “shots heard”, and what we discovered were several improvised explosive devices. (I’m not going to help any other teenaged miscreants by talking about the exact construction of the bombs, but suffice it to say that they were made with relatively common household objects, and they would have been quite dangerous to anyone close to them when they went off.

We found and identified a couple of these devices and I accompanied the two deputies while we searched for others. After the search, the deputy with whom I was riding called his supervisor for advice on what to do with the devices. While he was on the phone, a third explosive device we hadn’t seen detonated less than sixty feet behind us. By the end of the night, two of the devices had exploded – with considerable force – on their own, and a bomb squad member had arrived and disabled the third (much larger) device.

So, what lessons did I learn from the experience? [Read more…]