Every day, officers nationwide spend shift after shift facing all fashions of danger guided by the belief that the most important thing is to go home safely. Unfortunately, the danger does not always end at the station house locker room. You must not let your guard down just because the shift is over.
On October 8th, a veteran Sgt. with the Houston Police Department experienced a true nightmare- he realized he was being followed home. The Sgt. was traveling home from a second job, still in uniform and driving his personal vehicle, when he realized he was being followed by a car filled with several teens. When the Sgt. noticed the suspicious vehicle behind him, his training kicked in. He made several random turns and, after each, found the vehicle was still in his rearview. Finally, he turned down a side street and stopped to determine if his shadow would keep going. Not only did this shadow also make the turn and stop but a rear passenger also exited with a gun in hand and advanced towards the Sgt. After identifying himself and unsuccessfully ordering the attacker to stop, the Sgt. was forced to engage the suspect – causing all 4 would-be assailants to flee. Thankfully, all four were later arrested – one wounded at the local hospital and the others still in the suspect vehicle.
What happened to the Sgt. is a real, but often ignored, danger every officer must be prepared for. Are you? Do you take steps to avoid this happening to you? Do you have a plan for when it does?
- Cover Me – many officers follow the practice of never traveling to or from work in uniform or, if they do, covering their uniform while doing so. This is a good, sound tactic if possible but not every department provides a locker room to change in and sometimes covering doesn’t make a difference – such as when in plain clothes or wearing identifiable trousers etc. Plus, it does not take into account being followed directly from the station. So, although this is a sound practice, it should not prevent additional planning.
- Clean Car – a retired officer I know swore you would never find an FOP, PBA or similar emblem or sticker on his vehicle. This wasn’t because he didn’t support these organizations, but instead because he did not want his vehicle being identified as belonging to a police officer. He figured that, if need be, he could identify himself to a fellow LEO while still keeping the bad guy guessing. Something to think about if you drive a personal vehicle to and from work.
- Different Routes – one of the biggest advantages you can give yourself in avoiding a potential ambush is not being where the attackers expect you to be by varying your route from day to day. Again, great if you can do it, but not everyone has the ability to drive multiple routes from the office to home. Plus, for many of us, we eventually need to travel at least part of the same route to get to our driveway. This takes us to the next tip.
- Stay Alert, Be Ready – even if you follow all of the tips above, and even add some of your own, there is always the possibility that you too will find yourself in a situation similar to the Sgt. If you do, the key to survival is staying alert so that you can identify what is happening early, and be ready to take action if it comes to that. Just like the scenarios you run in training or with your partner on patrol, you need to think about what might happen and, more importantly, what you might be able to do when it does. Where can you go to have a tactical advantage? Do you have communications with the local station? At what point during the trip will you be able to do what the Sgt. did to verify your suspicions?
I have no idea if the Sgt. had preplanned for such an attack or if he took any day-to-day actions to minimize the possibility, but what he did do was recognize what was happening, confirm his suspicions and take action. Who knows what would have happened otherwise. Maybe he would have been ambushed somewhere along his route, maybe he would have been the target of a later attack after the teens had identified his home. Luckily, we will never know.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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