A few years back, I had a conversation with one of the veteran police officers that patrolled near my site, whom I highly respected (and still do till this day).
We were discussing different situations concerning officer safety and he posed the following scenario, one he’d once been presented with in his earlier years (much of it’s paraphrased, but gets the point across):
“Due to a mandatory training event, every officer has been pulled off the streets, leaving just you and one other unit to patrol your sector for the night.
As your shift is about to end, you get two calls simultaneously from dispatch:
A priority multi-vehicle accident with reported injuries.
A priority call advising you that while on an assignment, the other officer in your sector has stopped responding to his radio.
You are advised of the accident location and the other officer’s last-known position. The calls are located on opposite ends of your sector. Assume that there is no supervisor available to consult with.
Time is ticking. Which call do you respond to first?”
I pondered this scenario for a moment, then said I’d take the accident. The cop gave me a sly grin and asked why.
I explained that my duty was to public safety, and that with injured civilians, the accident would take precedence.
The cop eyed me kindly as he promptly informed me I was wrong. I’ll save his explanation for the end of this article, but give it some thought yourself to see if you can come up with the answer yourself.
As a police officer (or security officer in my case), your primary function of course should be to protect life before everything else. However, it’s easy to forget that this also directly applies to yourself and your team members as well.
Below I’ve created a visual presentation of what I refer to as the Protective Diamond. Its purpose is to help you understand who you’re responsible for keeping safe, and the priority they should take when you perform your duties.
The order you do it in does not change, and some of you will find this uncomfortable to digest. It’s always in this sequence:
- You: No matter how much training you have or how great your tools, if you are incapacitated you are useless to everyone. If you are wearing a uniform, you might now become a target for additional harm. If you work armed, your weapons now become a safety hazard, as those with bad intentions now have an opportunity to arm themselves with your gear. By safeguarding yourself first, you are not being selfish. You are maximizing your potential to safeguard others now and well into the future.
- Your team: There is indeed strength in numbers, but even the mightiest of forces can be weakened, then defeated, if slowly whittled away a little at a time. Everything in the previous bullet point applies here in terms of risk if a member of your team is incapacitated. Additionally, failing to adequately extract a team member from danger can prove damaging for morale afterward, and even encourage would-be criminals to take advantage of a perceived opportunity to wreak havoc.
- The public: This refers first and foremost to the client you’re serving, of course. Police officers have a duty to protect everyone, however your job is much more concentrated– you’re only responsible for the people either on your property or directly charged with protecting.In the course of your duties, you’ll often have limitations on what permitted actions can be taken if you observe a danger unrelated to your client’s interests. Be sure to pay attention to these, as it will reduce your liability in the long run. Remember, the top priority here is you, and you’re useless if you’re incapacitated. Being sued into bankruptcy and losing your job can certainly be considered incapacitating in a non-physical way. Remember– safeguard yourself first.
- NOTE: If you work as a body guard, close protection agent or in a similar executive protection role, your client comes before you and your team. There’s no room for negotiating on this, so if you’re unwilling to put someone else’s life before your own for a paycheck, this field of work isn’t for you. There’s a reason why EP personnel are the among the highest-paid security workers in the industry.
- The suspect(s): Suspects aren’t suspects without reason or cause (and if they are, you need to reevaluate your judgement and decision-making skills). They have, by definition, exhibited behavior that indicates potential criminal activity of some sort, and therefore may pose a risk to the safety of those around them.
However, this doesn’t mean that they themselves don’t have rights. After all, this is good ol’ America, where our rights are unalienable. If you are an impartial, professional security worker, you will recognize that it is not up to you to play judge or jury, and you shouldn’t be biased in the execution of your duties.
With that said, because of the aforementioned risk for danger, your first goal (after ensuring the safety of yourself, your team and the public, in that order) is to ensure that the suspect poses no threat before extending them the same protection you afford your public/clientele.
If you use the Protective Diamond’s hierarchy to help you prioritize, you will increase your odds of safety and survival every time you become involved in an incident. As promised, the cop’s answer to the scenario presented above:
“You choose the call to back up your fellow officer every single time because you’d want the same if he were you and you were in trouble. Communication is extremely important in this line of work and the fact that he stopped answering his radio could mean that he’s incapacitated.
If he’s incapacitated, his weapons are available to whomever wishes to take them. His life could be in danger. And if you respond and he’s okay, he knows you’ve got his back.
Plus, it’s not just us on the streets you know. Vehicle accidents with injuries happen, and we’ve got paramedics, fire and rescue for that. Always protect yourself and your team first.”
Stay safe out there.