I usually don’t stop to write openly about my inner thoughts and emotions very often. But this may be good therapy? And yes, all active personalities in my head agree that this is a topic worth talking about.
I was driving into work this last Wednesday and turned on the radio to listen to my favorite afternoon sports show. Programming was different that day. I was listening to the annual fundraiser show this radio station and disc jockey run to raise funds for the 100 Club of Arizona. A very worthy organization, that help financially support the families of fallen officers and firefighters.
Here’s where I expose my soft side. The stories I listened to during my drive into work were very moving. The wives and children of officers lost in the state of Arizona this last year gave their testimonies. The radio personalities were passionate and motivating. The idea that several local sports celebrities showed up to support the cause and donated memorabilia for an auction was encouraging. So with all that whirling around my skull I thought of the three friends my agency has lost over time. Before I knew it, I was crying.
From time to time the worry, the stress and the risk of the job will surface and the human inside of us feels it. We have mastered the art of masking that fear and keeping it managed. How else could we possibly do our jobs if we did not manage it? But on Wednesday, this old cop felt it one more time.
Memories of those brave friends I knew came back to me. The “I love you Daddy” I got from both my girls that morning before they left for school echoed in me. My wife’s voice replacing the voice of that young lady on the radio, who was talking about how much she missed her police officer husband who was killed by a drunk driver. These things occupied my thoughts at that moment. I felt for the men and women who have given their greatest measure of devotion to the job. I felt for their families and I felt for mine. My young girls probably don’t realize this just yet, but my wife and I understand that it is only for the Grace of God that I am not part of this year’s memorial.
After a few vulnerable moments alone in the car I start to collect myself. First responders do this very well. Composure and resolve is a character trait for all of us. Calm under pressure if you will. Well it is no lie that I am blessed to have been spared serious injury or worse after seventeen years on the job. But I do admit that there has been a decent amount of training and preparation put into it as well. You see, I have taught most every aspect of Use of Force or Defensive Tactics in Arizona for about fifteen years now. Punch, kick, throw and cuff. I’ve done all that a few grillion times. But at this moment in time I recalled some of my most recent officer survival training. I was lucky enough to attend some training almost two years ago. The class was a Train-the-Trainer session for a relatively new concept called Below 100. This was an officer survival concept (lifestyle), that was really picking up steam around the country. I left that class feeling that the training had better prepared me for survival than any other class I had previously attended. No offense to my friends in Russia who put me through a week of fantastic and grueling torture teaching me their military self-defense tactics.
The five Below 100 Tenants are simple yet essential. Why did it take so long for so many skilled instructors to put this together? Wear my seatbelt, wear my vest, watch my speed, always ask myself “What’s Important Now” (WIN) and remember that complacency kills. I thought to myself, these five tenants are things that are 100% in my control. Most all other self-defense is, well…defensive.
Below 100 has one very important initiative. Do everything we can do to keep officer deaths below 100 in a year. Little did I know before taking the class that this has not been done since 1944. So I wondered to myself, (still in my car mind you), what’s the count so far this year?
It is nearly midnight on Friday December 20th of the year. According to the Officer Down Memorial Page website, the count is 99. I hold my breath, cross my fingers and pray that this is the last and final count for the year. SO CLOSE!!!
You’ve probably figured out by now that I have a long drive to work. And by now, on that whacky Wednesday, I found myself at work, ready to throw on the uniform again. The somber feelings that stirred in me earlier have settled and I’m focused. After fourteen years as an FTO I’ve told young officers that what makes officers courageous is not the absence of fear but the ability to work through it.
To my peers and friends in the training world, let me encourage you to study the Below 100 initiative. Attend the training if you can, then make it part of your agencies culture. In Arizona, Below 100 is now part of the culture in many police departments, it’s taught at our state academy and in every FTO School that AZNAFTO hosts. I hope that 2013 has been as rewarding for you all as it has been for NAFTO and AZNAFTO. Please have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year and of course please be safe.
Sergeant Dan Greene (Chandler, Arizona)
NAFTO Board Member at Large
AZNAFTO Vice President