When Below 100 began, those of us who were working through the new concept identified key areas that needed to be addressed to reduce line-of-duty deaths. We looked outward and across our profession to identify root issues and daily threats, and we ultimately focused on areas resulting in five core tenets: 1) Wear your seatbelt, 2) Wear your body armor, 3) Watch your speed, 4) WIN–What’s Important Now? and 5) Remember: Complacency Kills!
Getting to that point, however, meant taking an objective look at events that had taken the lives of far too many law enforcement brothers and sisters. It was difficult because the losses were much more than numbers; they were real people whom many of us knew. It hit very close to home.
To objectively examine how officers had lost their lives required us to step across a cultural barrier, one that I experienced from my earliest days as a police officer. We were loath to comment on the loss of an officer other than to offer condolences. We would not/should not judge another officer as we were not there and did not have all the facts. Yet the Below 100 initiative is about doing right, not about finding wrong. It is about taking the lessons from those moments that cost us dearly and learning and transforming our thoughts and actions to prevent or reduce the likelihood of recurrence. We must honor our fallen by training our living.
To make it real, however, demands a foundational element that is the starting point of all Below 100-related issues: Belief. It is the belief that these warnings and dangers apply to each individual, not to all of us generally.
Below 100 only has the power to change us and reform us if we believe that we are truly at risk. Too many continue to operate in denial.
We must be willing to take a hard look at ourselves to find the truth of who we are and what we are about. No one can do this for us; only we have the power to make it happen and in order to do this we have to take an introspective approach. We must take off our blinders and set aside our ways to do an honest appraisal of how we think and what we do. How many times have you left your body armor behind or on the seat next to you, thinking that you could put it on when you get that hot call or when you sense danger? When did you last leave your seatbelt unbuckled as you drove at high speed, or approach a repeat domestic by pulling into the driveway because they had never before been violent? Most us have done all the above in some fashion and if we fail to turn our eye inward, we will do it again. It is a perilous version of the movie Groundhog Day.
If the outcome was not so final, we could say no problem. But from some truly preventable events there is no coming back. So let us have the discussion, not once and done, but daily. Not as a negative, but as a positive and beneficial act; that as part of our daily effort pays a dividend that we will appreciate long into the future. And let’s be clear, you’re much more apt to make it through your career by embracing the tenets of Below 100.
Only when you are honest with yourself can you be honest with your friends and coworkers. When you see the obvious: the fast driving, going without a seatbelt, not wearing body armor or violating basic safety principles, you must have the courage to talk to the people doing these things. Tell them you care about them and their families and that the last thing you want is to remember them by a picture on the station’s wall.
Below 100 is simple on the surface, but I have found it to be a difficult journey. The hardest part in my view is to convince ourselves that the real danger lies first in our hearts and minds; in our refusal or inability to see that it is not the other guy or gal who is at greatest risk. Introspection is needed and we each have the power to make these vital changes to our thinking and conduct.
Do it today; embrace Below 100 thinking and as Spock says, “Live long and prosper.”
Jeff Chudwin is the Law Officer Tactical Ops columnist. He’s also the 2009 Law Officer Trainer of the Year. He retired as chief of police after 38 years of service for the Village of Olympia Fields, Ill. A founding member and current president of the Illinois Tactical Officers Association, Chudwin is a former assistant state’s attorney and has been a firearms, use-of-force and emergency response trainer for more than 25 years.