protect

I’ve been in Law Enforcement for more than 26 years as I write these words. In all that time I’ve only responded to perhaps a dozen or so calls for service that were still occurring. Over the years I’ve probably responded to literally thousands and thousands of calls and most of the time the incident was long over upon my arrival. At times with catastrophic results to those involved.

As we receive the call from the dispatcher, we immediately begin responding to the call. If the call is in progress while we are enroute and the dispatcher is still on the phone with the caller/victim, we get periodic updates via  our radio or computer of what is going on.  Often I can imagine what carnage or unspeakable violence is going on while we are rushing to the call.

Like most police departments in urban areas; our response times vary widely from probably around two minutes at its best to who knows how long after all the cuts to so many departments around the country. Two minutes…seems like a short time doesn’t it? I imagine it feels like two hours to the people waiting.

I write these words because in my experience the police will rarely and I would imagine never be there exactly when you need them. The saying that the police are only minutes away when you need them in seconds.

This is no slam against the police. Hell, most of us, the police I’m speaking of, want to help and be there quicker, because this is virtually impossible. Why? Because police departments are inherently reactive. Sure there are some aspects of police work that are police work that are pro-active. Officers around the country are always busy making traffic stops, doing investigations, initiating good quality police work that makes our communities safer every day. An officer might be in the right place at the right time and be able to stop the crime while it is happening, but this is soooo rare. Rare enough it can’t totally be depended on.

What I’m speaking of is calls for service. The whole thing is a process with delays in each step. The delays might only be seconds in the best of circumstances, but when seconds count minutes are too long.

This takes me back to the title of this text, ” You are the true First Responder.” This could be in your home or elsewhere. The police and the system they work in are not built for quick response in literal terms. they have many lags in the system and process that will delay their response.

Now…if the title is true, are you ready to defend and protect yourself and your family? Are you carrying concealed? Do you keep a secured but accessible firearm in your home that you can use to defend yourself with? If you do carry concealed do you still carry when you are at home.

I think these are questions we need to ask ourselves. Years ago when the economy around the country was flourishing I still heard rumblings of complaints of police response times. With the so-called “Tough Economy”, for the last half dozen years or so, what has happened to your police department and sheriff’s offices. In most areas of my state of Michigan, there have been cuts in personnel across the board. Less police to serve the public. Mind you, I said serve and not protect. Look up Warren v. District of Columbia for more on this.

It is your responsibility to protect yourself. It is your God given or natural right to protect yourself. No one has that responsibility for you, more than you. I encourage everyone reading these words to do all within their power to assure yourself that you can protect: You and your family.

 

 

 

By six, I’m referring to watching your back, or your rear. Pay attention to possible threats that may be watching but don’t show themselves. If you have a funny feeling like something isn’t quite right, don’t ignore it. Don’t talk yourself out of paying attention to it. It is usually your subconscious picking up on clues that something is wrong even if your conscious mind misses them.

I once sat on a jury of an assault with intent to murder case. A little surprising as a police officer, but the defense ran out of challenges for cause to take me off of the jury. The gist of the case was this: An elderly woman leaves a well known shopping mall here near Flint and proceeds to go home. This was around the holiday time and she had bought some items and took them home with her. Unbeknownst to her a car follows her all the way to her home from the mall; approximately 6 or 7 miles away. As she is getting out and putting her items in her house, this crook, grabs her, assaults her and nearly killed her. This is a horrendous ending to a story that so many people play each and every holiday season in cities all around this country. Cars full of Christmas items and no secure way to transfer them to the house, like an enclosed garage. The truly negative part is her being accosted and nearly killed for some items that probably had no true meaning. Was there a way of her preventing what happened? Perhaps there is.

I will give the answer in the form of a suggestion to those that will be out shopping during the holidays. With the advent of various types of sport utility vehicles; many modern cars don’t have a dedicated trunk where you can secure and hide items from view. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been walking back to my car from a store during early morning Black Friday sales and see car after car, full to the brim with future presents all uncovered in the back of some vehicle. If you have tinted windows in the back of the vehicle that will help a great deal. If you don’t have that, take a blanket or sheet and cover-up your items. A would be thief wouldn’t be able to tell if you have the latest electronic gadgets which would be in high demand or some Christmas trees or ornaments or something that would be significantly less important. Since they couldn’t tell and there are so many targets to choose from it might not be worth their time to play around with your vehicle and possibly get caught. If you can, park a bit out in the parking lot, not right next to the front. Yes I know this will make you have to walk further and does somewhat leave you in an isolated area. My point is that if someone is looking at you as a target and following, it would help to have some relative isolation so that you can see is someone is following you from the store. When you get to the car, glance in the back seat and make sure it is clear. I’m a police officer and usually armed, but I do this all the time.

When you drive home, glance in the rear view mirrors from time to time. Look for more than just traffic that might be going around you or how pretty you look. Look for vehicles that could be following you. Look for things significant or subtle about such a vehicle. Such as the color, make, driver and anything significant about him/her, bumper stickers, anything that may help you remember that vehicle if it’s seen again. If you do get close to home and see a vehicle that is following you, have a plan in place for what to do. Don’t panic, stay calm.

In this scenario I would offer the following suggestions: First, don’t go straight home. You wouldn’t want this person to know where you live. Even if you believe you may be safe at home, if you have an exterior garage or none at all, you leave yourself with many moments where you are extremely vulnerable. If you feel you’re being followed, keep driving down well lit and if possible crowded streets. Make several turns if possible to see if the vehicle keeps following. If they keep following, I would suggest driving straight to the police department or sheriff’s office. If you have a cellular phone you can call them from your car once you’re outside. Either way, this affords you some time while you drive to see if you are truly being followed.

I don’t wish to spread panic about the holidays and all the fun that comes with them. I offer these words as a reminder to protect yourself and watch your back. No one else will as well as you and your safety or the safety of your loved ones is your number one responsibility. Take control of what you can control. Pay attention. Be aware and always be safe.

Always Remember…you don’t have permission to Quit.

Jeffrey Washington
NeverQuitEver

Many people don’t think about this beforehand and then find themselves stuck in this very situation. With a little foresight and planning you may just be able to get out from under the problem without any hurt or harm coming to you and yours.

Picture this scenario. I pack up my family and tell them we are going to a festival at the Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit. We decide to take a bit of a scenic route and drive our car towards downtown through various neighborhoods on Woodward Ave, which goes from Pontiac to downtown Detroit. Now if you’ve ever been where I’m speaking of, you know that there are parts of this street that have some of the nicest homes and small businesses that don’t make you feel nervous at all. Then there are other parts, “the hood”, where you better watch your back and the persons beside you as well. I use this location as an example, but let’s be real. There are parts of most cities that most of us wouldn’t be caught in if we had a choice.

Now imagine, if while we are driving through the rough part and our car breaks down. Now I know what is probably going through your mind. You may be thinking, I’ll just use my cell phone and call for help or call AAA or something like that. I admit in a pinch that is your best option. And it’s always good to have options. What if I tried all of that and nothing worked. NOTHING. Now I’m stuck with my family in our car, in a neighborhood I know nothing about and I might need to walk to get some help. How are you going to do it. I’ll give you three words: Act As If.

Act as if, walking in this neighborhood, is as normal as the sun coming up in the east in the morning. Act as if, there is nothing to be nervous about and you can get to your destination or find that help you need.

You may want all of you to stay together if you have to leave the car. If that is the case, make a point to blend into the surroundings as best as possible. Look around at the people walking around in the neighborhood. How are their clothes fitting, colors worn, etc. Do all that you can to make yourself and the members of your family look like you belong in that neighborhood. If you are a family group but you don’t see other entire family groups walking around, keep that in mind. You can split up and walk on different sides of the seat or one group ahead of the other to give more space and bring less attention to yourselves. Use your imagination, but by all means don’t forget to, act as if. If you have little kids, make a game of pretend of the experience and have them be little actors.

No matter how difficult the situation may appear, the mental aspect of it can carry you through. If you believe that you can get through it, more than likely that is just how it will happen.

Remember…you don’t have choice to quit.

Jeffrey Washington
NeverQuitEver

Sometime ago, I went to a local grocery store near my home with my wife, Amy. We had a list of things we were getting and we were just walking around the store just like everyone else. I see this all the time and it drives me crazy. Women walking around with a shopping cart and their purse in the little fold out cart section, where kids or babies sit. You know the place, right in front of your hands. Usually their purses are in this basket wide open, with barely a thought to protecting their contents. It always strikes me as strange when a women walks around the store like this and when they see me coming down the aisle going in the opposite direction, they want to get back to their cart real quick and make sure their purse is secure. Why not protect your purse during the entire time you are at the store. Why not carry it on your shoulder, and tucked under your arm. Well I digress. Back to the story.

We come to the section of the store where all the potato salads, gourmet cheeses and the like are located. As my wife is walking around the display case on the other side a woman pulls up in front of me and parks her cart. Her purse is in the front and she walks away by at least six to eight feet. Just as she does this, I see a guy walk up about 3 feet from her cart and begin looking at the bulk cookies or something like that. He catches my eye because he walked up so quickly and he doesn’t have a cart or anything. He glances at the display and at her cart a couple times. I look at the lady and she is oblivious to the possible threat. The guy glances up at me. I figured the only way of thwarting what he may have been thinking of doing is to just stare him down and that is just what I did. I stood right where I was and just watched him. He looked at me, then her purse a couple times more, then he just walked off. Shortly thereafter, the woman comes back to her cart and she walks away as well. I didn’t say anything and I kind of regret it.

I told my wife, what I had seen and she says that I should have told the lady that I am a police officer and what I saw. I think she is right. Later on that day I think of how am I going to advocate for people to protect themselves on this blog, when I can’t do it near home, where I live and around the people that I serve everyday. She gave me something to think about and I plan to approach future situations differently.

I found a couple videos of this type of theft caught on tape. I hope you will look at them and ask yourself, have you permitted yourself to be this same type of victim. This goes back to previous post about, watching your surroundings, keep your head on a swivel. It happened so fast, these women probably didn’t realize anything until they got to the register and saw their purse or wallet were missing.


Most thieves are opportunists. They might not have been planning to steal, but since the opportunity is right there in front of them, they can’t resist. As stated earlier keep your purse under your arm on your shoulder or at least if your are buying a lot of things, put in in the larger part of the cart, where it will be hidden once groceries and other items are placed around it.
 

Remember…you don’t have permission to quit.

 

Jeffrey Washington

NeverQuitEver

Ever heard the term? It’s my understanding that it is used at times in circles of the military. Basically it is a term to make it easy to remember. Having self awareness and paying attention to your surroundings is paramount.

I’ve picked up a swivel head doll and twisted his head. Until the spring stops moving he looks like he is shaking his head “no” to about a thousand questions. In essence that is keeping your head on a swivel. Looking back and forth, scanning the area and the people within your vision, possible threats and the like. This is a subtle and easy technique that neither looks paranoid or overly cautious. It just looks like you are aware of all that is going on around you and using your eyes and ears to their fullest.

I would like to challenge you to try it. The next time you are at a local store, remember to keep your head on a swivel. Now this doesn’t mean that if you’re with someone, you have to look ridiculous doing this. Just occasionally scan back and forth and make note of what you see, smell, hear and I dare say taste. Your senses are there for a reason and they can become refined with focused practice.

This reminds me of a police officer wearing a shoulder mike on his uniform. Someone talking to us may wonder how me make heads or tails of all the traffic or what sounds like gibberish coming across the air. Over time we learn to discriminate. We can be on a call, talking to people, talking on a phone, doing many things and all of a sudden the dispatcher says your call sign. You may have only been listening sporadically but you picked that number up as soon as it was call. Not only that, but you hear other important bits of information as well. That type of listening takes practice. When I was a rookie, I remember being in the patrol car and wondering just that, “How the heck am I supposed to know when they are talking to me or when am I supposed to be paying attention.”

That same type of skill can be practiced with your other senses. It will take deliberateness of intent and doing it every chance you get. In time you can hone these skills and you will find yourself picking up little things that maybe you didn’t pay attention to and catch in the past. It might even surprise you in a good way. Keep at it. For yourself and your family it is important.

Take care of each other,

Jeffrey Washington
NeverQuitEver

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