In the United States, there are roughly 18,000 law enforcement agencies, and almost nine out of 10 have fewer than 50 officers. Although television often depicts departments with resources, such as helicopters, armored vehicles and cover officers only 30 seconds away, the reality is most of our readers work in very different and challenging conditions.
I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with the biggest agencies (the New York Police Department and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the largest police and sheriff’s departments, respectively) and have nothing but the greatest respect for them. But I’ve also spent a lot of time with officers in small agencies who demonstrate the ability and fortitude to get the job done, no matter the challenge. Often operating with minimal resources and covering vast geographical areas, these officers work without the luxury of specialized teams to handle every situation.
I’ve seen supervisors go from overseeing a fatal accident investigation to making sure evidence is properly recovered at a major crime scene. So forget about CSI small agencies rely on frontline officers to make cases. In fact, many work with only one investigator who must find a way to handle case loads that include everything from missing kids to homicides.
Two excellent examples of small-town officers contribute to our magazine. One is a little more than 10 years into his career, and the other is at his peak. Officer Eric Dickinson is a senior police officer at the Vinton (Iowa) Police Department, an agency with eight officers. About a year ago, Dickinson wrote an article on self-application of first aid for police officers. The feature was so popular, Dickinson now teaches a class on the topic at a national conference.
The other contributor is Chief Jeff Chudwin, our Tactical Ops columnist and chief of police at Olympia Fields, Ill., an agency with 18 officers. Chudwin is widely recognized as an expert in tactics and weaponry. I’m proud to know both of these men and honored to work with them.
So here’s the challenge to all of you: It’s natural to take pride in your agency and to assume your fellow officers are the best. A certain amount of that is expected, and the resulting esprit de corps is healthy. But make sure you stop short of assuming that smaller means less competent. In many cases, smaller agency personnel must be capable of handling much more with much less and deserve a great deal of respect for doing so.
A Vendor That Serves & Protects
By the time you read this, I will have had the honor of presenting the Law Officer Gold Badge of Service award to Blauer Manufacturing Company. Now in its 78th year of business, Blauer earned the award by demonstrating outstanding commitment and service to law officers. Most of you have probably owned a Blauer product because the company has long been a benchmark of law enforcement apparel. But it’s not popularity that earned this award; it’s Blauer’s demonstrated generosity and commitment to public safety.
Past recipients included 5.11 and Panasonic Computer Solutions Company, both quality companies who’ve been there for law enforcement when the chips were down. Like these companies, Blauer responded with aid after Hurricane Katrina, sending two large trucks of equipment to the hardest hit areas. Earlier this year when Macon County, Tenn., was devastated by a horrific tornado, Blauer and other companies partnered with Law Officer to deliver equipment to the Macon County Sheriff’s Office. When the Blauer jackets arrived, each was put to immediate use because of a mid-March cold front that dropped more than 5 inches of snow. During my stay in Macon County, I didn’t see a single deputy without a jacket.
Blauer has also shown its commitment and service in other ways, including a major contribution to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Museum. And its products demonstrate a true understanding of our profession’s needs. Blauer makes items that were revolutionary when introduced, such as high-visibility raincoats and reversible gear that looks like a regular uniform but quickly changes to a reflectorized safety appearance.
A recent offering is a breathable Class 3 Major Incident Response suit that’s much more comfortable than traditional plastic suits. For those needing lower profile and more flexible equipment, the suit lets a first responder stay engaged for longer periods. Time and again, Blauer has shown that it listens and delivers the sign of a reliable partner.
Law Officer believes in recognizing honorable service and commitment. We believe that what gets recognized often inspires others to go the extra mile. Congratulations to Blauer Manufacturing Company, and thanks for keeping us covered for more than 75 years.
Dale Stockton is a 32-year-veteran of law enforcement, having worked in all areas of police operations and investigations and retiring as a police captain from Carlsbad, California. He is a graduate of the 201st FBI National Academy and holds a Master’s degree in Criminology from the University of California, Irvine. He has served as a Commissioner for California POST, the agency responsible for all California policing standards and training. Dale is the former editor-in-chief of Law Officer Magazine and is the executive director of Below 100.