Unsafe Until Proven Otherwise

I look back at my years as a firefighter and paramedic and recall once being held at gunpoint by an irate patient.  This was back in the early 80's and things were a little different then.  While I feared for my life, it was more out of the belief that the gun she was brandishing could go off rather than the prospect of us being held hostage.  She was upset at her husband and she was (looking back on it) more angry at him than frustrated with us.  Fortunately, an alert dispatcher was on the other end of the radio and asked "10-61?" to which the only acceptable answer was "Affirmative".  My officer at the time keyed up and said, "10-4, ma'am, everything is 10-4 here!"

Law enforcement was quick to arrive on scene and like I said, back then, hostage negotiation was more along the lines of one of the officers telling her to put the damn gun away before someone got hurt.  She did, she went to jail, and we lived to tell about it.

I went forward from that night being a lot more aware of my situation.  While later I became a commissioned law enforcement officer (for a while) and learned even more, after that night, at least, I paid more attention to not permitting anyone to get between my crew and the exit, watching people's faces and hands, and lighting up every space I was working in.

These days, incidents like those would have gone much differently.  But these days, the evil is a lot more intense.

While I happen to be a gun owner and I believe in my Constitutional rights, I am concerned about how adding another gun to a situation is going to play out if I were permitted to start carrying a sidearm on duty.  I don't honestly know if that's a good situation.  And while I am a peace-loving and open-minded individual, I am also aware that I have been in positions where I felt threatened and yet was able to negotiate a less-than-violent outcome, whereas had I been armed at the time, the situation might not have ended up so well for the person I was dealing with.

Maybe this is an opportunity to look at a number of things, like the availability of body armor, or equipping personnel with less-lethal means of dealing with violence.  I'm not saying I have the answer.  But what I am saying is that until we can prove a scene otherwise, we need to approach with greater caution these days.  Simply walking up to the front door, standing in front of it and knocking loudly is not what I consider good technique. Ignoring the presence of weapons in a room is not acceptable.  And these are all things I have seen seasoned personnel do in my career, and when pointed out, got this "Are you kidding me?" look.

The point is that if you can PREVENT an incident from getting bad, you need to.  Being observant, keeping a low profile, and taking in the surrounding clues can go a long way toward never letting things go south to begin with.

While this latest incident in Gwinnett County, GA will be dissected and we will learn lessons from it, I don't know how we could have ever prepared for a situation like that faced in West Webster, NY.  But while those incidents are extraordinarily tragic, they happen less so than the violence to providers faced daily around the nation.  And while these very newsworthy incidents illustrate very deranged individuals exist out there, they only scratch the surface of what we have to deal with every shift when we interact with people who are intoxicated, angry, high, delusional, or just have a chip on their shoulder.  And these days, there are a lot of those people out there.

If you don't know how to protect yourself, seek assistance from your local law enforcement agency for tips on approaching subjects.  Be careful going into places where you can't get out of and never let anyone get between you and the way out.  And establish a procedure in case things do go bad and the individual can figure out that pushing that little red button isn't going to be good for them.  Be proactive and hopefully, you never will have to deal with situations like these.

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