Officer Safety

3 keys to improve your safety and success

Betsy Brantner Smith

I’m disappointed — but not surprised — to report that at least 25 percent of the women officers in my “Winning Mind for Women” class report that they are carrying handguns that don’t fit them.

In addition, female officers — and their male counterparts! — are still being injured and killed in vehicle incidents in which a seatbelt or a slower speed may have kept them safe.

And too many officers are filling their heads with negativity, which stifles their growth and endangers their lives.

Here are three keys to improve your career and enhance your officer safety.

Best of all, you can start doing each of these things right now!

1.) Make Sure Your Tools Fit You
Carrying a firearm that doesn’t fit you not only affects your scores on the range, but more importantly your confidence in your own ability to win a gunfight.

The fix is seems to be an easy one (carry a firearm that fits!), but most women and many of their smaller male colleagues are working in agencies which have a “one-size-fits-all” policy when it comes to firearms.

If the department won’t buy you a pistol that fits, ask permission to purchase your own. If that’s not an option, start documenting why you need a different handgun and provide several options for the agency to consider.

Document — in writing, with photos, and in person if possible — how an ill-fitting pistol affects your ability to shoot.

But remember to keep your demeanor positive and keep all emotion out of it. This is what Dave Smithcalls “The Power of Positive Annoyance.”

Don’t give up, be persistent, and carry a back up gun (which you should be doing anyway).

Also, make sure your shotgun and your patrol rifle (if you have them) fit as well. Youth stocks or collapsible stocks make long guns easier to handle for smaller people.

2.) Assess Your Driving
Driving and related activities are perishable skills which need to be practiced. Regularly assess your habits — good and bad — behind the wheel.

Do you tend to drive too fast? Do you spend too much time with your head down, looking at your computer screen, your ticket printer, or your smartphone?

Do you wear your seat belt each and every time you operate a vehicle, and do you practice taking it on and off?

So many officers still claim that “seat belts aren’t tactical.”  If you’re having difficulty getting out of your seat belt, you need to properly configure your gear, get a hard practice seat belt extender and practice.

There is never a reason for a cop to get hurt or killed because they refused to buckle up, on or off duty.

Slow down, wear your seat belt, and stay focused.

3.) Look in the Mirror
What do you see on the outside? Does your uniform or your suit (or whatever you wear on duty) fit you properly? Do you look like a professional? Are you as comfortable as possible? Do you have good boots or shoes?

Does your body armor fit well and provide good coverage?

After you assess the outside, take a look at the inside. What’s going on behind your eyes?

Does your “self talk” help you or hurt you?

You should be your own best coach and motivator —don’t fill your head with negativity. If you make a mistake (who doesn’t?) fix it, learn from, and move on, but don’t shirk your responsibilities.

You are responsible for your own officer safety as well as your own career satisfaction.

Embrace “personal responsibility” in everything you do.

Whatever your assignment is, law enforcement is an incredible challenge and a wonderful adventure, so make the most of it!

 

About the Author:

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety’s School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy’s website at www.femaleforces.com.

Contact Betsy Smith and Follow Betsy on Twitter

Credits

Article originally posted on PoliceOne, republished with permission from Dave Smith & Associates.

Unleashing her inner warrior: Ariz. cop beats a would-be cop killer

Nancy Fatura grew up in tiny Park Falls, Wis., where she dreamed of becoming a lawyer. But as a cop’s kid, she also craved excitement, risk and adventure.  In 1993, Nancy joined the US Army Reserves as a Behavioral Science Specialist and the girl from the Midwest found herself deployed to a combat hospital in Germany during “Operation Joint Endeavour.”

After her deployment, she returned to Wisconsin and tried out various jobs, including a stint with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles where she developed a fascination and an expertise in working with faked documents. Her birth state of Arizona was still in her blood, however, as was an ever-growing interest in police work.  She packed up her car and moved to Tucson.

Nancy was hired by the Tucson Police Department in 1999; she immediately loved the challenge of the academy.  TPD has nearly 1000 sworn officers and protects 500,000 citizens within 200 square miles; what a change for the small-town kid from Wisconsin!  Nancy credits her dad, a tall “cop’s cop” kind of guy and something of an intellectual, with influencing her during those rookie years.

“Mom gave me my spine but dad gave me direction,” she told me with pride. “I always felt I had a good mindset for law enforcement.”

Nancy thrived in the police environment, where work was, and still is, great fun for her.

Wake Up Call
As her career progressed, she worked in various assignments including patrol, narcotics, background investigations — and the requisite stint investigating prostitution in plainclothes — but she always returned to patrol.

She got married in 2004 to another Midwesterner and they had two kids.  Childbirth and the lifestyle of a busy working mom took its toll and despite her natural athleticism she put on weight.  In 2008, Nancy had an unnerving encounter with a suspect she’d put in prison years before.  She considered this her “wake-up call” and started working out again, but she felt like she wasn’t maximizing her efforts.  She lost weight (over 80 pounds in a two year period) and felt better, but Nancy knew there was more that could do.

So did Officer Mike Rapiejko, a Tucson fellow cop and fitness and nutrition fanatic; he approached her one day at the TPD gym and said “what the hell are you doing!?”  Fortunately for him, Nancy took this in the spirit in which it was intended, and a partnership was formed.

Mike coached her in weight training, cardio, cross training, and he also helped reignite her interest in training not only her body but her mind.  She attended her first Street Survival seminar as well as Dave Grossman’s “The Bulletproof Mind.”  These classes left her with a realization that she needed continue to train her own will to win. In fact, she loved Grossman’s sheepdog analogy so much that she invested in a small tattoo: “Beware of the Sheepdog.”

Now that I’ve gotten to know Nancy, I sometimes think the word “sheepdog” should be replaced with “pitbull.”

A beautiful blond with sparkling, happy eyes, Nancy Futura is not someone you’d look at and immediately say to yourself “she’s a cop.”  Her Midwestern upbringing gives her a relaxed, friendly demeanor, but even as she smiles and jokes, it’s apparently that those eyes miss nothing.  Like the sheepdog, she is always watching.  But like the pitbull, she is tenacious and almost impossible to divert off a chosen task.

In February of 2011, Nancy was on patrol when she drove by a small group of men on foot.  Something was “off” about the scene, and she turned around and headed back.  All but one of the men ran in the opposite direction and she took off after them.

After three men were in custody, the full story came out:  Nancy had witnessed a homicide.  The victim, already dying of a stab wound when she entered the area, might never have been avenged if she had not followed her instincts and run after the offenders.  “Beware of the Sheepdog” indeed.

In June 2011 Nancy decided to broaden her perspective with the agency and transfer to a new division, the Downtown Division.  She was a “Lead Police Officer” (LPO), a field training officer and a hostage negotiator with her eye on a sergeant’s position.  Change would be good.

Pitbull’s Memorable Last Shift
Nancy began her last shift with her current team later that month.  During the previous night, she had gotten involved in a suicidal barricaded subject that she had negotiated to a successful conclusion, so her intent was to spend most of her shift finishing the mound of paperwork that goes with such an incident.

As she patrolled her area she got a call of a “male shot in the head” at the Overboard Restaurant.  She was only 60 seconds away, so she raced to the address while starting to set up a perimeter as other units responded.

Dispatch came over the radio: “Male shot in the head, he’s pouring bleach over the scene.”

Witnesses called in more details as she arrived.  The suspect, Anthony Salcido, 30, was still on scene, inside the restaurant.

“I didn’t know if we had an active shooter or a hostage situation, and now I have a guy with a gun and a hostage in the restaurant,” Nancy said.

She began to direct citizens to safety as the suspect ran.  Then she lost sight of him for a second and he was able to dump the gun. The scene was chaotic and there were people everywhere.

As the suspect came into view, Nancy pointed her gun at him, shouted commands, saw that he has nothing in his hands, and re-holstered her gun as her partner on the call, Officer Chris Duenas, attempted to arrest the suspect.

The two men began fighting intensely, and every time she attempted to enter the fray, the suspect pushed her away, as though she was a tiny rag doll.  She was hit three times in the head.

Nancy drew her TASER, pulled off the cartridge as she’d been trained to do, and drive stunned Salcido multiple times, starting on his side and moving up toward his head.  Salcido was able to push Nancy’s TASER toward Chris’ head while it was cycling.  Chris was TASERed multiple times.  Nancy grabbed the end of the TASER to redirect it and also suffered a drive stun.

At that point she let go of the TASER, drew her pistol and quickly fired five rounds.  The first round hit Salcido in left front torso, and it was a fatal wound.  But he continued to spin, and she hit him three more times. He hit the ground on his back.

Still in the fight, her gun malfunctioned, so she tapped, racked, and readied herself for more, but Chris was already handcuffing the suspect and told her to re-holster.  Salcido’s original victim, the man shot in the head, was up and about, walking and talking.  The next officer who arrived on the scene hugged her and began to check her for injuries.  Chris was treated and transported for respiratory issues.

“I never thought ‘he’s winning, he’s going to kill me,” she said. “I never really had a negative thought.”

She didn’t know that’s she’d been in such an intense altercation until she read the witness statements.

She describes Chris’s actions as “valiant;” he fought for her and for both of their lives. An investigating detective, who called the incident “Battle Royal,” told her she had also “fought like hell.”

Not An Ending
The shooting was quickly determined to be justifiable, and it was back to business as usual.  That should be the end of the story, shouldn’t it?  Small town girl does good.

But it’s actually somewhat of a beginning.  Nancy Fatura continued her quest for fitness.  She participated in her first “mud run,” an activity she enjoys not only because of the challenge, but because of the diversity of the participants.  A month later, however, she was thrown a true curve ball.  Pre-cancerous cells forced her to endure major, invasive surgery that also halted her workouts and made her gain weight.

Still recovering but back in the gym, Nancy is now a counselor at the Southern Arizona Law Enforcement Academy and should be promoted to sergeant early next year.  She is also branching out, debuting her new workshop, “Unleashing Your Inner Warrior” at the Big Sky Women in Law Enforcement conference next month.

She is truly a role model on so many levels, and I’m so proud to call her my friend as well as my inspiration.  I’m hoping to join her on one of those “mud runs” soon!

 

About the Author

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety’s School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy’s website at www.femaleforces.com.

Contact Betsy Smith and Follow Betsy on Twitter

 

Article originally posted on PoliceOne, republished with permission from Dave Smith & Associates

Following your gut: Officer’s hunch saves kidnapping victim

Officer Ally Jacobs ‘went from zero to hero overnight’ for taking action when she knew something wasn’t right

In November of 2010 I was privileged to speak at the California Women Leaders in Law Enforcementconference in Pasadena. It was a huge, enthusiastic group and I had an outstanding experience.  After my closing keynote address, a woman came up to me and said excitedly “I just texted my friend and told her she was in your presentation!”

She was talking about Officer Ally Jacobs of the UC Berkeley Police Department, who I often speak about as an outstanding example of a female cop who followed her intuition when it was needed the most.  I gave her friend my business card.

Later that day I was at the airport running for my flight home and my cell phone rang.  “Hey Sarge, this is Officer Ally Jacobs.”  We chatted for a few minutes about the conference, my presentation “Career and Tactical Survival for Women” and life in general.  We promised to keep in touch and said goodbye. As I boarded the plane, I thought to myself “there’s a woman who doesn’t wait for things to happen, she makes them happen.”

Ally famously “made things happen” in August of 2009 when she was sitting in a meeting with her UC Berkeley colleague Lisa Campbell in the Special Events Office.  Lisa, a cop-turned-civilian, told Ally she had an appointment with a really “weird” guy and wanted Ally to sit in on the meeting.  The man, Phillip Garrido, wanted to hold a religious event on campus.  Ally immediately ran a check on Garrido and found out that he was a sex offender on parole for rape.

“If I’m going to be sitting in a room with somebody, I’m going to run them,” she told me.  She printed his lengthy rap sheet and waited.

Garrido came to the meeting wearing a cast-off, ill-fitting suit and introduced two young girls with him, 11 and 15, as his daughters. In contrast to Garrido’s intolerable hygiene, the girls were clean and obviously well kept, although terribly pale.  Ally, also a mother of two, began chatting with the girls while Campbell kept Garrido distracted.

The girls talked about their mom, their sister, their pets and their homeschooling.  They were polite, but their demeanor was somewhat robotic, and the youngest seemed especially socially stunted.  Ally also thumbed through the booklet Garrido had brought with him, which contained a business card from Antioch, Calif., an area nearly an hour from the UC Berkeley campus.  Her gut told her that something wasn’t right, and her police experience told her that Garrido was probably mentally ill, off his meds and using drugs. As soon as the meeting ended, Ally called Parole and left a message.  She feared for those little girls.

Garrido’s parole officer called her back and told her that Garrido didn’t have children.  Ally said that the girls had definitely looked like Garrido, so the parole officer made contact with Garrido at his home but at that time did not address the various violations, including being out of his restricted area and in the company of minors. However, on August 26th, Garrido was told to bring his family to the parole office in Concord, which he did.  Garrido’s “family” included the two girls, his wife Nancy, “Alyssa Franzen,” 29, who was eventually identified as kidnapping victim Jaycee Lee Dugard.

Kidnapped at age 11 by Phil and Nancy, Jaycee had given birth to Garrido’s daughters — the first when Jaycee was only 14 years old.  She was given no medical care or assistance and had her second daughter three years later.  The rest of Jaycee’s story unfolded slowly, but it was clear that her 18-year nightmare was coming to an end.  And for Ally Jacobs, life would also never be the same.

Ally first learned of these stunning developments when the parole officer called her cell phone as she was on her way home from work.  She was filled in on the investigation but was told “this is an FBI case, you can’t tell your department anything.”  She complied, and the next day, her day off, she got a phone call from work telling her to get to the station now.  There were hundreds of news vans and reporters in front of the campus police department, and only Lisa Campbell had an inkling of why they were there.

“I went from zero to hero overnight,” Ally told me.  She gave that first press conference with virtually no warning, and then all of a sudden everyone from Diane Sawyer to Oprah wanted to interview Lisa and her.  The press staked out her house, people stalked her; it was a very surreal time.  Nothing prepared her for the incredible invasion of her privacy.

“This is when critical incident counseling would have first come in handy.” Ally said.  She felt as though no one “had her back,” that she was on her own in so many ways. But she continued to move forward, receiving international attention and accolades while dealing with internal issues at her police department.

She was “written up” for her initial failure to notify the department — even though she had authored a police report that was signed off by the sergeant before going home that first night — and received a written reprimand, which she took in stride.  She also received a Certificate of Congressional Recognition, a Key to the City of Brentwood (she’ the second person ever to receive that honor), a Certificate of Senate Recognition, various meritorious service awards, the IAWP Excellence in Performance award, a Medal of Distinction from the California Peace Officers Association and so many more.

She was interviewed by everyone from Lisa Ling to Anderson Cooper, and yes, she traveled with her kids and her mom to Harpo Studios in Chicago to appear on the Oprah Winfrey show.  Her agency did not allow Lisa and her to travel to most of these interviews, so they were primarily done via satellite. While many of her co-workers were very supportive, one supervisor groused that he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

“All you did was make an f-ing phone call,” he told her with contempt.

As the aftermath progressed, Ally became friends with Duggard’s FBI handler Special Agent Chris Campion, and Chris eventually facilitated a phone conversation between Jaycee’s mother, Terry Probyn, and Ally.

“That was my closure,” Ally said, noting that Terry told her that “not a day goes by that we don’t think about you and thank you for bringing her back.”  Ally hopes one day to be able to meet Jaycee, but she respects her need for privacy and healing.

Ally was also was invited to be at the Garrido’s sentencing, where she had an unexpectedly tough time.  Sitting in the courtroom with Phil and Nancy Garrido sitting 20 feet away, she felt nauseous and disgusted.  As the charges were read, Ally began to weep when she first learned the details of the initial kidnapping, including that Garrido has used an electronic control device (ECD) on Jaycee.

“That just seemed so egregious,” Ally exclaimed.  As a mom, she kept thinking about her own kids.  Garrido pled guilty and was sentenced to life in prison, his wife Nancy received 36 years.

In many interviews, including mine, Ally Jacobs has stated how proud she is of Jaycee Lee Dugard for enduring all that she has suffered and what a wonderful mother she is for protecting and caring for her daughters while she was still a child herself.  Jaycee chronicles her ordeal in her book, A Stolen Life, which I highly recommend.

But as a cop, a woman, and a mom, I’m extremely proud of Officer Allison Jacobs.  As is typical in our profession, accolades and awards often lead to petty jealousy and criticism.  As the Garrido case unfolded, Ally learned who her friends were and who her detractors were.  But she tends to be philosophical about it all.

“I solve cases using my instincts every day, this one just happened to make news,” she says with a smile.

Still “making things happen,” Ally is now pursuing an advanced degree and telling her story to other cops in a presentation that often earns her standing ovations:

“When you see something, say something; don’t be afraid to take risks.  We (law enforcement) are sometimes afraid to act because of liability or cynicism or some other excuse; but why would we ignore our instincts?  Be thorough, do your job.  We need to put our egos aside and cooperate with each other.”

Cooperation is what eventually brought Jaycee home.

Few of us are prepared for the type of sudden and intense attention Ally Jacobs received (and is still experiencing) as the result of following her gut. Police administrators need to recognize that critical incident debriefing and aftercare are as necessary in these types of situations as they are following an officer involved shooting.

Ally stresses in her presentation the need counseling and closure, even if that “closure” comes in stages.  She also reminds cops to remember what it felt like to be a rookie, to enjoy their jobs and to ask themselves every day “would I be happy with my actions today, or would I be embarrassed?”  Ally stresses personal accountability, regardless of the circumstances.

“This happened to me for a reason,” she told me.

And I believe she’s absolutely right.  Crimefighter. Woman warrior. Role model. Game changer. That’sOfficer Ally Jacobs, and I’m proud to call her my friend.

About the Author

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety’s School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy’s website at www.femaleforces.com.

Contact Betsy Smith and Follow Betsy on Twitter

 

Article originally posted on PoliceOne, republished with permission from Dave Smith & Associates

Officer Brandy Roell: Always a fighter, forever a warrior

In the ambulance, the medics had commented that they had never seen anyone so badly injured remain so calm

It was September 8, 2008.  Rookie Officer Brandy Roell found herself being loaded onto a medical helicopter from an ambulance.  She’d just been in a surreal shootout with 43-year-old felon and would-be cop killer Andres Vargas.  Brandy had been left alone in the Vargas residence to finish the fight on her own after her FTO, who had also been wounded, and his uninjured back up officer had fled the house.  Vargas was armed with an AK-47, but despite her initial injuries, Brandy provided her own cover and made her way down the stairs and to the patio area of the house, where Officer Pete Garcia risked his own life to carry her to safety.  She’d made it out of that house of horrors, but the rest of her journey was just beginning.

In the ambulance, the medics had commented that they had never seen anyone so badly injured remain so calm.  “Are you in pain?” they asked her.  She told them her stomach hurt.  She also asked them to please straighten out her leg.  Her legs had been injured by debris in the initial blast of rifle fire, and when she had made her way down the stairs, a round from the AK-47 had pierced her gun belt and her keepers from behind, striking her spine and blowing a huge hole through her abdomen, exposing her intestines.  She heard one of the medics exclaim “holy shit!” as they examined her and discovered her extraordinary wounds.  “We have to get her there now!” he said, referring to the trauma center.

They cut off her clothing and stabilized her as they raced to meet the chopper.  The media was there – word had gotten out that two cops had been shot and Vargas was holding the SWAT team at bay outside of his house – and the medics yelled “cover her up!” as they transferred her to the helicopter.  Despite her injuries, she was aware of the media presence and she asked fellow public safety personnel to “contact my family.”  She didn’t want her kids, 8, 6, and 4, to see her on the news and become frightened. Selflessness is a core element of Brandy Roell’s true nature, and even as she fought for her life, she worried about those closest to her.

Brandy remembers only a little of the chopper ride before she lost consciousness.  She was treated at the University Hospital in San Antonio.  The initial surgery was extensive; Vargas’s round had entered her lower back and had blown a hole from the bottom of her breast bone twelve inches down to just above her pubis.  Her right leg was badly damaged, as was her spine and bladder.  She was unconscious for nearly a month.  She remembers little of those first 30 days, but she knows that her 8 year old daughter came to visit.  “She needed to see for herself that I was alive,” Brandy told me.  She was later told that the hospital was also crowded with cops as her brothers and sisters from SAPD gathered around.

As Brandy slowly gained consciousness, she recalled little things, like being bothered by the noise of the television set in her room.  There was talk of amputating one of her legs, which left her depressed.  She was thin but swollen, and in terrible pain.  She was afraid to move, and when she tried, she told me “I was surprised by how much didn’t work.”  After three months in the hospital, Brandy was transferred to a rehabilitation center.

She was told by one of the doctors she would be in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.  “I just looked at him and thought ‘that might be a pain in the butt,” she told me with a laugh. “I got up and started moving by myself…a little bit, a couple of steps at a time.”  She was left with no feeling in her left leg or on the bottom of her right foot, but she learned to use her hips to swing her legs, making her surprisingly mobile.  She generally has to use a cane, which frustrates her, and the internal damage has left her with a whole host of issues, including the inability to conceive another child.

As Brandy told PoliceOne’s Dave Smith in an on-camera exclusive for our “Will to Win” series, she feels guilty about her three kids.  “Sometimes I wonder if I was being selfish, becoming a cop.”  She is in constant pain and can’t always do the things she wants to do as a young  mom of three active kids.  “But I just try to show them the courage that I have,” she said, “and they are good little troopers.”

Brandy is now medically retired from the San Antonio police department.  Because she was still in field training at the time of her shooting, she is financially frozen and stuck at rookie pay.  At times she feels bitter.  “I didn’t get to do the things I really wanted to do, like work a homicide.”  Her husband is very understanding, but his life changed as well.  Their plan was for her to work as a police officer while he went to school full time to get a better job; that dream was shattered by her catastrophic injuries.  She received several awards for her bravery, but as she told me “I’m not the same person anymore, and I don’t know if that person is ever going to come back.”

“I think about how proud I was the day I graduated the academy,” Brandy says. “Wow, I was a police officer! I was so proud and happy that I had the opportunity to change people’s lives.”  Brandy hasn’t given up on her strong desire to change lives, and she wants other police officers to learn from her story.  “Never, never, never give up.” she told Dave Smith.  “Train hard, no matter how experienced you are.  The criminals are training hard, and we have to be ready.”

She advises officers who have lost their career like she has to find something about your situation that you can teach others, something that you can share.  “Give back” is her motto.  She is now becoming an activist fighting against human trafficking.  And, she told both Dave and I, “never leave another officer behind.”  Officer Brandy Roell was left behind that day, but she did what warriors do; she fought back, and she won.

About the Author

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety’s School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy’s website at www.femaleforces.com.

Contact Betsy Smith and Follow Betsy on Twitter

 

Article originally posted on PoliceOne, republished with permission from Dave Smith & Associates

A behind-the-scenes warrior: Amy Peterson-Uribe and the TAPS Foundation

Already this year we’ve lost 14 American law enforcement officers in the line of duty. All of these heroes left behind devastated family members — spouses, partners, siblings, parents, and of course, children.

Amy Peterson-Uribe knows what it’s like to be one of those left to pick up the pieces.

On May 10th, 2005 at 11 a.m. Amy was at home napping after working the night shift at the Phoenix (Ariz.) Children’s Hospital when the phone rang. It was her husband Adam, a second-generation Phoenix police officer, who was currently on duty.

“I think dad has been shot.”

You’re Just in Limbo
Adam’s father, veteran PPD Officer David C. Uribe had been shot in the head after making a traffic stop. As news of the shooting hit the air, Adam had been unable to reach his father on the phone and feared the worst. As his commander pulled up next to him, his worst fears were realized. Adam hung up the phone, Amy quickly dressed and a family friend came to the house to pick her up.

Arriving at the hospital, Amy remembers walking a gauntlet of other officers and their family members before coming to the bedside of her father-in-law. She stood with the rest of the Uribe family as they circled David’s bed, knowing that their patriarch would not recover. Officer David Uribe was taken off of life support and pronounced dead three hours later.

David Uribe, whom Amy still calls “Dad,” was buried with full honors and then the family was left to grieve and somehow resume their “normal” lives. Amy, a military veteran and mother of three, channeled her grief into dealing with the aftermath of her father-in-law’s murder. She began working with coordinators of memorial events — she wrote notes to well-wishers and attended meetings held by Concerns of Police Survivors and The 100 Club of Arizona. In May of 2006, the Uribe family attended National Police Week in Washington, D.C. and then returned home — one year had passed since David Uribe had been gunned down.

“It gets critical after the first year” Amy recently told me on the phone. “After that first year, you’re just in limbo.”

The TAPS Foundation is Born
Grief can do terrible things to a family, and people are rarely the same after such a traumatic loss. Adam and Amy ended their marriage in 2007. By then, Amy had already begun counseling survivors and working with The TASER Foundation for Fallen Officers. She was asked to sit on the CEO Advisory Board for The TASER Foundation to make sure all survivors were properly notified and their voices would be heard during events and fundraisers. It was during that year that she developed the concept that would eventually become The TAPS Foundation.

As a survivor and as someone who had already heard countless other line of duty death stories, Amy began to notice the lack of knowledge and consistency regarding benefits for the fallen. As she researched the issue, she also learned that this wasn’t unique to the police profession — fire and military had similar issues. She saw tragic circumstances where wills weren’t updated accordingly, families weren’t aware of grants to assist in such things as school expenses and Police Week travel, and so often neither the families nor the agencies were aware of the support services available. Because she is uniquely tied to all three professions, Amy decided to do something about the oversight she continued to witness, but first, she had some personal work to do.

As the now-single mom of three, Amy felt she needed to find out who she was as an individual before she could continue to help others. She also needed to lick her wounds and heal and needed to regain her confidence.

“I didn’t want to start this foundation with doubts in myself. I was constantly second-guessing my decisions. I needed to finish my own grieving.” She packed up the kids and moved to the Houston (Texas) area and began to lay the groundwork for the TAPS Foundation, whose mission is to educate and assist all first responders — police, fire, and military — as well as their agencies and families in learning about the benefits and resources available to them in the event of injury or death in the line of duty.

The TAPS Foundation — named for the mournful song that no family ever wants to hear — became an official non-for-profit organization in the Fall of 2011. Amy is the CEO and handles military and police agencies. TAPS President Felicity Rose Harris primarily handles fire and EMS agencies. Grief counseling is handled by Amy, as are in-service training seminars and public speaking engagements.

The Foundation’s goal for 2012 is to increase awareness for organizations that benefit survivors, increase the number of first responders who have updated their information and have advanced directives / wills in place, and eventually be able to give grants to the children of first responders who are in need of counseling following a traumatic event. Amy works with other organizations such as C.O.P.S. as well as with individual agencies and corporate sponsors. As she told me, “TAPS doesn’t want to compete with anyone, we want to enhance what they do and help to inform the right people.” TAPS is also planning its first annual gala — my husband and I will be there — in March.

Amy’s enthusiasm for the TAPS Foundation is incredibly infectious. She laughs easily but has a touch of that humorous cynicism typical of first responders. She’s a dynamic speaker and a tenacious advocate. She also knows her stuff. As I threw scenario after scenario at her she was able to provide answers with confidence, and more importantly, without condescension. Amy is a survivor, but she’s also a warrior, and she’s fighting for police, fire and military families everywhere.

The TAPS Foundation can be accessed online at www.tapsfoundation.com, on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/thetapsfoundation, and on Twitter as @tapsfoundation, or you can email Amy atamy.tapsfoundation@gmail.com.

About the Author

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety’s School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy’s website at www.femaleforces.com.

Contact Betsy Smith and Follow Betsy on Twitter

 

Article originally posted on PoliceOne, republished with permission from Dave Smith & Associates

Officer Brandy Roell: ‘You never give up, no matter what!’

Officer Brandy Roell of the San Antonio, TX Police Department was beginning the second day of her second cycle of field training with a field training officer that she hadn’t ridden with before. Brandy had graduated from the police academy four weeks earlier with her husband, three kids and her best friend Amanda among the supporters in the audience. She’d had a very modest, sometimes turbulent upbringing and was thrilled to be part of what she believed to be a “noble and honorable profession.” She’d worked hard in the academy, taking her training seriously. After graduation, Brandy spent her first month with an FTO who wasn’t thrilled to have a recruit riding along, much less a female, but she didn’t let that dampen her enthusiasm. She was going to be the best cop she could possibly be.

It was September 8, 2008. She and her new FTO, an eight year veteran of the force, had an early dinner at Subway; she remembers having a chicken sandwich and feeling good about the evening ahead. The FTO had gotten wind of a “deadly conduct” warrant for 43 year old Andres Vargas, who lived on the city’s southwest side. Vargas was wanted for threatening his wife with an AK-47 rifle but Brandy was unfamiliar with the case and had not been filled in by her trainer. She was a rookie, and she did what she was told.

The training unit followed another patrol unit to the suspect’s house. The Vargas home stood out among the other homes in the generally impoverished neighborhood; it was larger than the other houses and the entire lot was surrounded by an ominously tall wrought iron fence with spikes on the top. Members of a SAPD specialty unit had been surveilling the house earlier, knowing that Andres Vargas was armed, dangerous and wanted. The two patrol units parked near the address on Redstart Drive, and Brandy’s FTO asked dispatch to hold radio traffic.

The FTO, the other patrol officer and Brandy entered the fenced-in area and then the house with the help of Vargas’ teenaged son, who had the key and was cooperating with authorities. She remembers being nervous as they went in, but she was determined to do her job. “In the academy,” Brandy told me with conviction, “I gave one hundred percent every day. Even if you’re fighting the biggest guy in class, you never give up.” That determination and mindset was about to put to the ultimate test.

The three officers cleared the lower level of the Vargas home. She saw the suspect’s boots and pants on the floor, and his wallet and keys on the bar; his car was in the driveway. It was obvious even to a rookie that he was probably in the house. The son, who’d been allowed to remain in the house during the search, told the officers that his father had just gotten the AK-47, but he claimed that he hadn’t seen his father recently.

There was a stairway and a second floor yet to be cleared, and Brandy suggested to the two senior officers that they back out and call for additional units. She was told to continue the search by her FTO, and she did. With her gun ready, she began moving up the stairs to the second floor. Her FTO was behind her and their cover officer brought up the rear.

At the top of the stairs was a landing with no hallway, just two bedrooms and a bathroom. Brandy cleared the bedroom on the right and then the bathroom. Her FTO opened the door to the left and bullets started flying, rapidly and without warning. “Holy crap!” was her first thought. The noise and chaos were extraordinary. Her FTO was hit several times and fell down the stairs, the cover officer made it back down to the first floor uninjured. Both men were able to get outside as multiple units rushed to the scene. She was in the bathroom alone, and the gunman was still firing away.

“Water lines got shot, the house alarm was going off, there was lots of noise and distraction” Brandy said, so she turned her radio down. “I cannot die in this house” she thought to herself. “It was surreal; I kept waiting for someone to yell ‘cut!’ and for the scene to be over.” But it seemed like everyone had forgotten about the rookie still inside. “My brain was clear and I wasn’t going to give up. I was going to get out of this house.” And she knew she was going to have to do it alone.

The bathroom was filling up with water as she looked for a way out. She was unable to fit through the tiny second floor bathroom window. It became increasingly clear to Officer Roell that the only way out was back down the stairs, right into the path of the gunman. She used the large mirror on the bathroom wall to try and “quick peak” out the door. That’s when she made eye contact with Vargas and he started firing in her direction, through both the door and the wall. She was hit in the back of both legs as wood, tile and other debris flew through the air, striking and cutting her. She fell back into the bathtub and for a moment, she saw herself dead in that bathtub, crime scene photos of her uniformed, bloody body flashed through her mind. She knew some people would say “just another rookie female, not really ready for the job.” Brandy also thought about her kids, ages 4, 6, and 8, her husband Joe, and her “sister” Amanda, who’d pinned on her badge during the academy graduation ceremony just nine months earlier. Amanda was seven months pregnant, and Brandy wasn’t going to miss out on meeting the new baby. She drew on the strength and determination she’d used in the academy and decided she was going to save her own life, no matter what.

She steadied herself, stepped out of the bathtub with her Glock .45 in hand and hit the door, firing her way out of the bathroom entrance. She used two full magazines to provide her own cover fire as she headed down the stairs. She knew she was down to one full magazine, and she thought to herself “I can’t run out of bullets.” She could feel the burning in her legs but there was no real pain. She glanced back up the stairs to see where Vargas was and he fired a volley of rounds in her direction. She felt a tremendous blow to her lower back, and the world went into slow motion as she was propelled to the floor at the bottom of the stairs, her pistol flying out of her hand.

The rounds from the AK-47 had pierced her gun belt and her keepers, striking her spine and blowing a huge hole through her abdomen. Refusing to give up, she flipped onto her rear, faced the stairs and scooted backwards toward the patio doors, pulling herself with her hands, her damaged legs splayed out in front of her. She felt disembodied, but she knew she had to get outside, because no one knew she was in the house.

Brandy was able to propel herself to the French doors that led to the patio area and a driveway where a boat and trailer were parked. She heard an officer who was positioned under the trailer say to another team member “There’s another officer in there, I see her!” The other officer expressed disbelief, saying the house was clear of police personnel, but suddenly there was Officer Pedro “Pete” Garcia, wrapping his arms around the rookie officer and pulling her from the doorway. Garcia held the gaping hole in Brandy’s abdomen closed with his hands, keeping her intestines from exposure. He yelled to another officer to ram the fence with a patrol car, then he threw her on his shoulder and carried her to a squad car, exposing himself to more gunfire from Vargas. He put her in the unit and then returned to his team, who ended up in a six hour stand off with Andres Vargas before he took his own life with the same rifle he’d used to forever change the destiny of young Officer Brandy Roell.

Brandy was put in an ambulance and then flown to the hospital. “I don’t know if I’d be alive if it wasn’t for the officer who rode with me in the ambulance, keeping me awake and talking” she told me. When I asked her how she felt about Pete Garcia, I could hear her smile through the phone. “He’s still a close friend.” She calls Pete “honorable and noble,” the type of cop Brandy wanted to be, the type of person she thought all police officers were.

September 8th, 2008 changed Brandy Roell’s life forever, but it didn’t change the passion she has for the law enforcement profession or the fighting spirit she has displayed since childhood. In Part Two of this series, PoliceOne readers will see what a true winning mindset really means, long after the shooting has stopped. Until then, stay safe!

About the Author

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety’s School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy’s website at www.femaleforces.com.

Contact Betsy Smith and Follow Betsy on Twitter

 

Article originally posted on PoliceOne, republished with permission from Dave Smith & Associates

Entering 2011 in a ‘conspiracy of safety’

 

Dave Smith
“JD Buck Savage”

The year 2011 has already been a tough one for law enforcement fatalities — after a horrible 2010 I had hoped we would have some respite. We still may, but as I drove back from giving a talk at a leadership conference in Wisconsin I had an inspiration that may help us all be safer the rest of this year and beyond.

Safety is Everybody’s Responsibility
I had just pulled into a rest stop and quickly read my phone texts before going in. One of the first had been a text advising me of the tragedy in Miami. “Two officers killed!” This was a wet blanket on my fiery enthusiasm following my talk and as I walked into the building I saw a small sign that read: Safety is Everybody’s Responsibility. In my head, I cynically remembered an old saying that is a response to the sign: “if it’s everybody’s responsibility then it’s nobody’s responsibility!” The word “everybody” seems to unconsciously relieve us of any responsibility and the simple truth is that only you are responsible for your safety. Period!

That thought hit me like a brick, and I made the decision right there to propose that you and I start a conspiracy, a conspiracy of safety in the truest sense of the word. We tend to think of ‘conspiring’ as plotting an act of evil in secret, and that is one of the meanings of the word. But the root of the word “conspire” means literally “to breathe together.”

Just you and me, breathing safety together — you taking care of you, me taking care of me. We will do this day-to-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, consciously thinking of the risks we face and overcoming them one at time, each time they appear.

Perhaps as much as any profession we know death and injury stalk us in multitudes of forms, many springing at us unexpectedly and with terrible malice and while we cannot keep that from happening many times, we can harden the target… and that’s us!

We Have a Lot of Work Ahead
For decades from the stage of the Street Survival Seminar we have hammered home the idea of “When/Then” thinking and staying in “Condition Yellow.”

Your feedback over the years has been remarkable — the next step is joining us at PoliceOne in this new conspiracy. Breathe safety together with us.

We will continue to post articles, news, and videos to help you as our part of the conspiracy. You will actively think when you read or watch these posts, “What would I do?” mentally rehearsing YOU resolving this or that crisis successfully. On the street, think to yourself, “Not today, not on this shift, not on this call, not on this stop — I will not be caught unaware!”

All of us conspirators have a lot of work to do this year. We have to keep researching and interviewing and training and writing and you need to keep researching and learning and growing and training and at the same time dealing with the deadly detraining effect of “routine” on your mindset. When you make a traffic stop and everyone involved are “yes-people” and smiley faces, before you make your next stop, visualize the last stop, and mentally rehearse overcoming a variety of threats from subjects or vehicles that might have occurred on that stop.

Remember: always see yourself win or you are just worrying, which is negative visualization. Negative visualization is practicing to lose!

On every building search, field interview, alarm call, domestic, accident with injuries on a busy roadway, whatever you’re doing, you must think, “Not today, not now, I will not be caught unawares!”

Remember, this is a conspiracy — we are going to breathe this together, plan together, bring in others, and let it grow. You get a hot call and it’s icy, and you think, “Not today! I will drive within my capability, it’s a risk right now, right this second and I will overcome it!” That is your responsibility, your obligation in this conspiracy and when you get there another risk will arise and another and another, and each one you will greet with the thought, “Not today!”

One way to grow this conspiracy is to take a sticky note and put on your dash with the simple words,“Not today!”

When others inquire, simply tell them, “Injury and death haunts our profession, and I have decided that they cannot have me today!”

By making our personal safety an immediate issue it is no longer some abstract, some statistic, or some trite saying; it is a manageable concrete situation we can pay attention to right now!

How fast you drive, whether you wear your seat belt and body armor, maintain your equipment and skills, and keep you mind in the game is up to you, it really is your and only your responsibility. Making it a minute-to-minute thought gives it force and weight. Put all your keepers on? You bet! I will need my equipment to be stable if I am fighting for my life. Treat this stupid building alarm like the real thing even though I’m sure it this crazy windstorm that triggered it? Yep, your choice, your decision, your immediate situation and as you set up on the building and prepare for the search think, “Not today, I am ready.”

You see, your part in this conspiracy is tough, requires lots of effort, lots of awareness, constant thought, but if you do your part the likelihood we will be coconspirators at the start of next year is very very good! Grow the conspiracy.

 

About the Author:

As a police officer, Dave Smith has held positions in patrol, training, narcotics, SWAT, and management. Dave continues to develop new and innovative programs across the spectrum of police training needs designed to assist your agency and your personnel in meeting the challenges of policing in the new millennium. As a trainer, speaker, and consultant Dave brings with him unparalleled access to modern law enforcement trends.

Dave is now the owner of “The Winning Mind LLC,”  the Director of Video Training for PoliceOne Video and author of the new book “In My Sights.” His experiences as officer, trainer, manager, and police spouse lend a unique perspective to his signature class, “The Winning Mind.”  Visit Dave’s website at www.jdbucksavage.com.

Contact Dave Smith and Follow Dave on Twitter

Credits

Article originally posted on PoliceOne, republished with permission from Dave Smith & Associates.

The 1,000th ‘Newsline’

 

Dave Smith
“JD Buck Savage”

For more than 30 years, Calibre Press has helped the law enforcement community remain healthy both emotionally and physically, and win encounters of every kind. A thousand Newlines ago Chuck Remsbergexpanded his service to the crime fighting community by creating the first Newsline. It’s appropriate this Newsline be transmitted on Veteran’s Day — a day that America remembers the service of the millions of men and women who have served in our armed forces. So many of those heroes continue their service by putting on a badge and gun to protect our liberties here at home! We are so proud to be part of that mission by assisting you with training and information.

PoliceOne, Calibre Press, and the Street Survival Seminar exist to give you the resources you need to prepare yourself for whatever challenge you face. The philosophy of always having “When/Then” thinking is the driving force in our articles and videos. The real training has always been — and always will be — within you. You are the one who has to face the threats and stresses of our profession. You must craft your own mental and physical skills to meet whatever the street throws at you. While we provide tools to help you, it is your responsibility to keep your mind, skills, equipment, and body ready for the next mountain you’ll have to climb.

That’s why — whether or not you are a military veteran — you are our mission. This is your Newsline.  Your feedback guides the content. Tell us what you want to see, hear, and learn in the future and we will do our best to get it you. We look forward to hearing from each of you in the future — a future we hope to help make safer and better by continuing to grow as you do!

Stay safe.
— Dave Smith

 

About the Author:

As a police officer, Dave Smith has held positions in patrol, training, narcotics, SWAT, and management. Dave continues to develop new and innovative programs across the spectrum of police training needs designed to assist your agency and your personnel in meeting the challenges of policing in the new millennium. As a trainer, speaker, and consultant Dave brings with him unparalleled access to modern law enforcement trends.

Dave is now the owner of “The Winning Mind LLC,”  the Director of Video Training for PoliceOne Video and author of the new book “In My Sights.” His experiences as officer, trainer, manager, and police spouse lend a unique perspective to his signature class, “The Winning Mind.”  Visit Dave’s website at www.jdbucksavage.com.

Contact Dave Smith and Follow Dave on Twitter

Credits

Article originally posted on PoliceOne, republished with permission from Dave Smith & Associates.

Learning to act without thinking

 

Dave Smith
“JD Buck Savage”

Sitting in the Seattle airport getting ready to fly home from a Street Survival Seminar, I overheard two professional musicians talking. They were discussing instruments, their intricacies, and why they had chosen them. Being a musical illiterate I was amazed at the depth of thought and attributes of the various instruments each performed and how they added this or that to a tune or song. They came to one instrument and a fellow who seemed to play everything a country band or orchestra could imagine said simply “I gave up on it when I found I couldn’t play it without thinking. When I play a musical instrument my goal is to be able to play without thinking!”

He described how hard he tried but something about the instrument didn’t click and he had given up on it but loved to listen to it.

How many times have I heard this said about something in law enforcement — often in a conversation about a skill or tool someone couldn’t master, or someone found simple but seemed complex to others?

The evening before my flight from Seattle, I was having dinner with Officer Britt Sweeney of the Seattle Police Department — earlier in the day she had received the Medal of Valor from the International Association of Women Police at our Street Survival Seminar. Halloween would be theanniversary of the terrible ambush that claimed her Field Training Officer — Tim Brenton — wounded her, and made her name synonymous with excellent performance under incredible stress. She was flabbergasted by the attention she kept getting for doing what she felt she was trained to do — to fight back no matter what, to never give up!

Britt was no normal rookie, she was a product of intense athletic development and is a professional fitness trainer, helping others get fit by pushing them beyond their normal limits, and in doing so, learning to push herself as well. Like so many winners I have met in the past she could only say over and over she had done what she had trained to do without thinking when the time came.

At the table with us was Ben Kelly, the Seattle police officer who had been set up by Maurice Clemmons, the murderer of the four Lakewood officers on November 29th, 2009. He reaffirmed the same thing — when Clemmons tried to ambush him, he went into action mode and confronted his would-be bushwhacker and won. Simply acting without thinking, the way he had trained!

Listening to a world-class musician speculate on why his brain could pick up such a vast array of instruments and at the same time be stymied by one, proved to him the unique variety of human abilities and skills and that we are all different. He is right and we need to think about how we prepare ourselves to perform like the Sweeney’s, the Kelly’s, and the Orville Johnson’s of the world when our time comes to fight, take cover, duck, or play music. Learning our skills to that “thoughtless” level is exactly the goal we must all have. Motor research tells us if we have to ‘think” about what we are doing we are slower and more likely to error and overreact or under react.

We all agree our goal in every situation is to ‘WIN,’ not merely survive and that puts the burden on us to do our repetitions, just as a musician practices the instrument and the song to be able to perform flawlessly and “thoughtlessly” we need to practice as well. The “instrument” can be a firearm, a baton, or Dobro, and practicing the “song” is a powerful metaphor for the ‘context’ that a skill or instrument will be used in. You have to do your rehearsals over and over and be ready to perform in a fraction of a second.

I remember a martial artist/police trainer saying “you have to learn it until you forget it,” and I am sure that has been said by a million masters over the millennia. In fact, I have heard it said a hundred ways and expressed in others by those who had done it and not been able to articulate exactly why they had won, but they had! To hear a professional musician say the same thing in a different way that I had heard just hours before from two of our fellow warriors reaffirmed my beliefs — both anecdotal and empirical — about the nature of human performance.

Halloween — tomorrow night — is the first anniversary of the terrible murder of Ofc. Brenton, and the best way to pay homage to his sacrifice and honor his wounded partner who fought back is to reaffirm our own sense of mission and take it upon ourselves to practice our skills and rehearse our “songs” of combat to be able to win every confrontation; to react at exactly the proper “pitch and tone” to win, not only on the street, but administratively, judicially, and at home as well.

Stay safe.

 

About the Author:

As a police officer, Dave Smith has held positions in patrol, training, narcotics, SWAT, and management. Dave continues to develop new and innovative programs across the spectrum of police training needs designed to assist your agency and your personnel in meeting the challenges of policing in the new millennium. As a trainer, speaker, and consultant Dave brings with him unparalleled access to modern law enforcement trends.

Dave is now the owner of “The Winning Mind LLC,”  the Director of Video Training for PoliceOne Video and author of the new book “In My Sights.” His experiences as officer, trainer, manager, and police spouse lend a unique perspective to his signature class, “The Winning Mind.”  Visit Dave’s website at www.jdbucksavage.com.

Contact Dave Smith and Follow Dave on Twitter

Credits

Article originally posted on PoliceOne, republished with permission from Dave Smith & Associates.

Tip: The +1 rule for weapons searches revisited

Dave Smith
“JD Buck Savage”

The rule of “plus one” holds that if you find one weapon, you need to be looking for the second one. But from the very outset, you have to begin by expecting to even find that first weapon in the first place. As Street Survival Seminar Instructor Dave Smith explains below, this is the when-then thinking we know to be so important for an officer’s mental preparation.

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About the Author:

As a police officer, Dave Smith has held positions in patrol, training, narcotics, SWAT, and management. Dave continues to develop new and innovative programs across the spectrum of police training needs designed to assist your agency and your personnel in meeting the challenges of policing in the new millennium. As a trainer, speaker, and consultant Dave brings with him unparalleled access to modern law enforcement trends.

Dave is now the owner of “The Winning Mind LLC,”  the Director of Video Training for PoliceOne Video and author of the new book “In My Sights.” His experiences as officer, trainer, manager, and police spouse lend a unique perspective to his signature class, “The Winning Mind.”  Visit Dave’s website at www.jdbucksavage.com.

Contact Dave Smith and Follow Dave on Twitter

Credits

Article originally posted on PoliceOne, republished with permission from Dave Smith & Associates.