Many people count the possibility of getting shot as the most significant danger a police officer faces. Officer-involved shootings appear to be on the rise, and there is no shortage of video footage on television or online showing shootouts between officers and criminals. Today’s law enforcement officers face a multitude of dangers during everyday duties that rival the threat of getting shot. Officers are exposed to these dangers on a daily basis such as, foot and vehicle pursuits, responding code three (lights and siren), making an arrest, traffic control, heat stroke, stress, and duty equipment and biohazard or sun exposure.
Officers wear ballistic vests and heavy leather belts containing batons, pepper spray, handcuffs, a radio and a handgun. The equipment that is worn can weigh up to 20 pounds, which puts a tremendous amount of stress on the back, hips, knees and feet. Officers must also get into and out of a patrol vehicle up to 20 times a day wearing this equipment. As a result many officers are injured to the point of being unable to work in law enforcement any longer. Officers are also exposed to extreme temperatures for extended periods of time. Officers are at the mercy of whether, whether conducting traffic control at an accident scene in 100 degree heat or providing crime scene security in freezing temperatures. Most time they have not had time to stop at the store or the station before they are sent to the call so they can be standing out there without the proper protection or hydration they might need.
In addition to the physical dangers, being ready for the unknown is what officers must deal with, and this can place a significant amount of physical and mental stress on the officer. Officers need to remain vigilant and prepared for any situation that develops. Rarely does an officer have time to fully prepare for the emergency call for service. Officers have to rely on training and make split second decisions based on an ever changing set of circumstances. But one of the most dangerous aspects of police work is pursuit driving or responding “code 3.” Not only do the officers have to be in control of their own vehicle, they must be fully aware of the traffic surrounding them. Officers are also responsible for the fleeing suspect even though they have no control over his vehicle. One of an officer’s main priorities when responding “code 3”, or pursuing a fleeing suspect is to ensure the safety of the public. This takes split-second decision making, specific driving skills and an awareness of the motoring public that may not see the officer or the fleeing suspect.