Law Enforcement. The job is dangerous, no doubt about it. Driving at high speeds. Guns. Bullets. Knives. Fights. Bombs. Well, you get the idea.

So what can officers, fictional or real, do to stay safe in a world where bad guys have no problem with taking pot shots at anyone, anytime? Certainly there’s no guaranteed method of living to see tomorrow, but cops are trained survivors. They’re taught the things they need to do to make it home at the end of the day, and they’re definitely taught the things officers should NOT do.

Unfortunately, with time, convenience often wins over safety. And let’s face it, a false sense of cozy well-being and street survival do not play well together. The complacency monkey that often hangs over the heads of many seasoned officers is very real and very dangerous

So, what can officers do to rid themselves of the deadly monkey?

1. Search. Search. Search. And search again! – Always search suspects thoroughly before placing them inside your patrol car. Never assume your partner searched the guy. And search them before cuffing, if possible.

2. Handcuff, handcuff, handcuff – Always handcuff suspects, and always handcuff to the rear. Never, ever cuff anyone with their hands in front no matter how passive they may seem. The exception, of course, is when transporting jail or prison inmates to court and other locations. Those situations occur long after an arrest when adrenaline and the desire to flee is greatly reduced. Still, some prisoners are flight risks and/or a danger to the officers and others and should be handcuffed to the rear. Safety first. It’s impossible to undo an assault, or death.

3. Hands – Always watch the hands. They can be used as deadly weapons. Always make the bad guy show his hands and keep them where you can see them.

4. Relaxing is for home, the beach, and at ball games. Never let down your guard when answering a call of any type. Each and every person encountered has the potential of harming or even killing you. And, speaking of relaxing, get plenty of rest during your off time. There’s nothing worse than being partnered with someone who’s sleepy, not alert, and not functioning at the top of their game.

5. Upper hand – Officers should always maintain control of the situation. Not the bad guys. Assume an advantageous position and keep it. Do NOT let the suspect move into a better position than yours.

6. The Cop’s Sixth Sense is rarely ever wrong. If something doesn’t feel right to you then it’s probably not. Regroup. Back out. When unsure, wait for backup. And that brings us to #7.

7. A dead hero will always be dead. There’s no shame in waiting for the cavalry to arrive. Do not enter into a dangerous situation alone, if possible. Sure, we all know there are times when you have to do some things that civilian folks would never do, but don’t be stupid.

8. Good equipment. Be sure all your equipment is in top-notch shape—radios working, handcuffs free of anything that’ll prevent them from locking in place, weapons are super clean, oiled, and ready to fire, OC spray is not out of date (be sure to shake the can once in a while to keep the ingredients well-mixed), ammunition is clean, magazine springs are in superb condition, etc.

9. Drive safely. Use the tips you were taught in the academy. Two hands on the wheel (let your partner work the radio and lights, if you have a partner). Never follow the suspect’s tail lights unless you intend to follow him off a cliff. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. BACK OFF the pursuit if you’re uncomfortable with the speed you’re traveling. Remember, the bad guy can’t outrun your radio. You already have the license number and description of the car, right? One dumb bad guy getting away is not worth your life. Never.

10. Always wear your vest. Wear reflective gear when directing traffic or at accident scenes. Use flares when needed. Get plenty of exercise and eat well and eat healthy food. And train, train, and train!

Spend time with your family.

The Monkey Song
“Here we go ’round the dry thistle
Monkey can climb but I can whistle
He can’t sing and I can’t dance
And the monkey don’t have to wear no pants.” The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, “The Monkey Song”


  1. Barbara L.
    Barbara L. says:

    Did you ever see the video of the police officer who was killed in Franconia, NH a few years ago? Both he and the guy he maced and then turned his back on died. Apparently, there was bad blood since who knows when.

  2. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Graham – It’s easy to worry about all cops because I was in the business for a long, long time. Believe me, I know what you face every day. But the danger level is even greater today than it was just a few years ago. On another note, though, you and Phillip are family. So be careful!

  3. GunDiva
    GunDiva says:

    And never take shortcuts! If you start skipping steps, taking shortcuts, because you’re in a hurry, you’re going to start doing it more and more often, it becomes habit, which helps lead to complacency.

    I teach my phlebotomy students a lot of these same things; needles are every bit as deadly as guns, only they’ll take years to kill you, whereas a gun might or might not kill you and it might take minutes to days to die. With a contaminated needlestick, you’re looking at taking YEARS to die.

    GRAHAM says:

    Thanks, Lee, for the information. And thanks for all the compassion you show towards us law enforcement officers. And it was great to see you at Phillip’s graduation.

  5. Lee Lofland
    Lee Lofland says:

    Well, the idea is that once someone is cuffed it’s much more difficult to search all the hiding places (well over 100) on the body. But, it’s probably a bit safer to get the cuffs on as quickly as possible.

  6. Katie
    Katie says:

    Great list, Lee, and I love the facial expressions on the officers carrying the gorilla. Question on #1–why is it preferable to search a suspect _before_ cuffing them?
    Thanks! Katie