Deadly Distractions

I was talking to an officer the other day and he related the following:

The officer was dispatched to a 415 (man with a gun) call. This officer is very seasoned and has a lot of street time under his belt. In fact, some might term him an O.G. (Original Gangster), but in the police sense of the term, not in the criminal, bad-guy sense of the term.

Officers had set up a perimeter for the hapless suspect, at night, in a violence- ridden area. The call was very real and not a simulation in any way, shape or form. The stage was set.  There was an armed suspect somewhere in the immediate vicinity, and no one except the suspect himself knew his intentions, capabilities or exact whereabouts.

This officer (the O.G.) had deployed a shotgun, set his position appropriately, waited as he was supposed to and then covered a specified area on the off chance that the suspect might emerge and provide some exciting moments. The officer waited for some time and then noticed a rather unusual phenomenon occurring down the alleyway from his covering position.

The bad guy’s still out there and
you ’re on your Blackberry ? Are
you kidding?

Several junior officers, who were ostensibly deployed on the same call, were casually leaning against their black and whites and calling, texting and twittering to wives, girlfriends, mistresses (perhaps sheep), on their little Blackberrys or whatever the heck it was that they had at the moment.

Are you kidding me? You’re on a hot call, you’re on a perimeter search for an armed suspect, and you’re presently engaged in a police mission that entails risk. The bad guy’s still out there and you’re on your Blackberry? Are you kidding? You’re not performing your job effectively, you are unsafe and might very well get yourself or others killed or injured. You’re out of your mind. There are real bad guys out there who can—and want to—hurt you, pal.

You see, these are the officers who get waxed on the street and we have to go to their funerals. Police work used to be, well, police work. Hey brother, while you’re twittering, you just might take one in the lips … sorry. While you’re engrossed in your little luminescent screen, you just might not see the bad guy, who’s fully prepared to shut down the shop, coming at you.

What’s happened out there, people? It used to be that you hit the streets looking for bad guys, yanking and banking and hooking up those who needed to be hooked up without the distractions provided by compact, overly complicated, girly hued communications devices. (As a side note, the old, brick styled, 10-pound silver and black handheld LAPD Motorolas could literally take off a suspect’s head. Now that was a righteous police communication device—not a sissy cell phone.)

By the way, if any of this does not apply to you, then stop reading and go hook up a bad guy. The real tragedy is that the ones who should read this article probably won’t.

I’m willing to bet that some police officer somewhere has already totaled a black and white while his head was buried in an iPhone or Droid or Smartphone or whatever.

There is nothing short of an earthshattering revelation that can’t wait until you’re back at the station or other similar safe location to address. The street isn’t the place to do this and certainly not while you’re on perimeter containment.

Officer O.G. related that this same situation occurred again a week later. Maybe this is more of a supervisory problem than anything else. Police work should still be police work.  Los Angeles is full of information airheads who blithely drive, walk and proceed through life buried in “twitting” mode as the city burns down around them. Today, more time seems to be devoted to Facebook and Twitter and writing about life rather than living life—there is a distinct difference between the two.

If you’ve got a badge and a gun and they’ve turned you loose on the streets, then lose the Blackberry and do some real police work, OK? That way you get to go home in one piece to your significant other rather than getting laid open on some cold, unsympathetic table.

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Scott Reitz

Scott Reitz is a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and director of the highly acclaimed International Tactical Training Seminars. Course information and schedules are available at their website at

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