Are Cops Born To Speed?

December 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

We’re now just days away from the end of another deadly year for police officers, and it’s been well documented that we are on our way to the 14th consecutive year of roadway incidents being the leading cause of death to law enforcement officers in America. I had been an EVOC Instructor just one year when this trend started and I have seen an increase in awareness and training almost every year since the trend and despite those efforts the trend remains and we have seen NHTSA tell us that since 2000, 42 percent of the officers killed behind the wheel were not wearing seatbelts. Since 1999, we have seen 43 percent of those officers killed in single-vehicle collisions which indicate that many of them may have been related to excessive speed.

We have to ask ourselves, “Why?” Why do our officers ignore proven safety devices and proven safety measures when they know it is killing and injuring those in our profession at alarming rates?

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Right Vs. Left

November 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The following article is by California Highway Patrol Sgt. (Ret.) Mike Allen. Mike runs a great website that we encourage you to visit and he is an example of just how influential one person can be. His article beings up some great points and as EVOC Instructors, it is our responsibility that our officers are given information on issues such as these involving the roadway.

I am from a law enforcement agency (California Highway Patrol) that advocates right/passenger side or off traffic approaches to vehicles during traffic stops. In my career, this approach, if you will, is the safest for an officer in a lot of different situations. For instance, many citizens do not expect, and are waiting for the officer to come up to their driver’s door. This is one aspect of the passenger side approach as it will, more often than not, catch the driver by surprise. This can also allow you to see what might be lying in the passenger seat or in the driver’s right hand before they know you are there.

Another safety aspect of the right/passenger side approach is that you are away from the traffic lanes. How many videos has everyone seen of an officer making a left side or traffic side approach and getting hit or just taken out by a passing motorist? The scenes of those collisions are horrific. Those videos should stand alone in making you aware of the hazards of the job in general, but more specifically, the hazards of working that close to moving traffic. Even the side mirror of a big rig passing by could essentially tear your head right off, much less getting your legs struck by a passing car.

The last safety aspect of right/passenger side or off traffic approaches is that you usually have escape routes available. The alternative on the left side = running into traffic?? “Really?? Is that wise??” The off traffic approach provides various avenues that you can take to avoid being struck by another vehicle, or if the occupant(s) of that violator’s vehicle starts shooting. Hopefully you’re not turning your back and running, but firing back as you are backing away towards cover.

When conducting business while on the shoulder all your business should be to the right of your patrol vehicle as well. Set your gear up to easily access it from the right side. When you need to grab equipment from your trunk make sure you do it quickly but check traffic before opening the trunk lid and continually check it periodically while there. I’ve seen many an officer who got crunched while at the rear of a patrol car. One specifically was when Toyota had the slogan, “Oh what a feeling.” Fortunately that officer eventually came back to work and is still going strong today.

Another very important factor when making a traffic stop is to never make a stop, if you can avoid it, alongside a guardrail, wall, steep embankments, etc. This gives you zero room to maneuver if you need to hightail it out of there for any reason.

Some of these incidents will happen and there’s just no way to avoid them. We can only lessen the severity of these events by being ready and prepared for them when they actually do occur.

For you folks in other parts of the world where you drive, where we consider the “wrong” side or the left side of the road, just reverse what I’ve said. To easily remember this for everyone, simply approach on the off traffic side of your violator’s vehicle. Just another way to safely make it home at the end of your shift.

will add that when you are in a parking lot or other area that doesn’t have speeding traffic whizzing by you, go ahead and make that driver’s side approach…but still maintain observation of your surroundings.

I know there are some agencies/departments out there that advocate driver’s side approaches on traffic stops, train their officers in that approach, and don’t want to see anything but…a driver’s side approach. Let me tell you, I feel that this goes right along with the tenets of the Below 100 Initiative where we need to make a cultural change in the way we do business to keep ourselves safe. The best thing about it is – none of it is difficult. Common sense needs to be more common today. Maintaining that “On-Duty Mindset” is one way we’ll stay safe and make it home.

59 Days: We Must Believe

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

With 73 days left in 2011, I felt an urgency that we must continue to be vigilant against the threats against us and just because we were on pace to have the highest number of line of duty deaths since 2006 did not mean that it had to happen. I heard from many of you that felt the same way and as I write this with 59 days left I sense a profound “push” from our profession to do everything possible to reduce line of duty deaths.

Of course every law enforcement officer wants to prevent line of duty deaths and every year we see a lot of talk about that but as I mentioned in the last article, we know everyone’s heart by their actions and the action must continue.

The first action must be a belief. The belief that we will reduce line of duty deaths to record lows. There have been just two years in the last century that our line of duty deaths did not reach 100 and the last year that occurred was 66 years ago. While I know every officer wants to limit our deaths, I continue to hear officers tell me they do not think it will happen. “That sure is bold” was what one supervisor told me recently and I sometimes see the look in the faces of those in an audience that almost have a disbelief that we can do this. My own father, a retired Captain, even told me it wasn’t possible.

We must believe.

This is about our attitude and we must believe it. The first three months of 2011 was horrific for our profession. We lost 52 officers and 20 of those came in the Month of March. We began the Below 100 Train the Trainer Courses in April at the ILEETA Conference and it certainly seemed like we were trying to accomplish the impossible. After all we were on pace to have 208 deaths this year and as of 59 days left in 2011, we are on pace to match the 2010 deaths at 160. While that is not acceptable, please consider that there have been tremendous gains made. In April, the pace was 208 and just two weeks ago, our pace was 165 and we have seen glimpses of actually accomplishing Below 100.

We lost 7 officers last month and 10 in September. Those were the two lowest months of 2011 and you have to go back to 2007 to see back to back months that low. Are you closer to believing?

If we maintained the pace of the last two months for 12 months, we would lose 102 officers in a year and if we lost 7 in one month, can we not fight hard to do that every month and actually be Below 100!

We must believe.

According to our friends and supporters of Below 100, The Officer Down Memorial Page, we lose an officer in the line of duty every 49 hours but as recent as 2001, we went 20 days without a LODD. In October, we went 7 days twice. This can be done and it begins with controlling what we can control.

That is what Below 100 is about. What can we do now to reduce line of duty deaths and those actions do not require days of training. It does require an attitude change and that starts with belief.

We must believe.

That belief begins now. It goes from call to call; from shift to shift; from week to week and month to month.

It is only then that we will see dramatic reductions in the tragedies that have become so common in our profession. Those tragedies do not have to be common. With belief follows action.

We must believe…..

73 Days Left

October 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

You can’t be involved in the Below 100 Campaign and not think about numbers.

The trainers that are out there right now pushing this program have one thing in common and that is that they believe that we will get our annual line of duty deaths to below 100 in a year. That belief has to be there for their work to happen and while we will not get there in 2011, what can be done now to keep the end of year total to as low as possible and launch us into 2012 where I sincerely believe that we will do this?

Gordon Graham is a huge advocate of the Below 100 Campaign and one thing that he says that has always stuck with me is that “if it is predictable, it’s preventable.”

So what about the last part of 2011? There are 73 days left in 2011 as I write this and a quick look at our past reveals what we may be up against if we are not vigilant.

In the last 3 years, we have averaged 30 line of duty deaths with 73 days to go in that respective year. That would put the 2011 numbers on December 31, 2011 at 165. That cannot happen and would be the highest total we have seen since 2006.

So what are we to do? The first thing to do is for us to not give in. We cannot give in to “the way it always is.” Well, we’ve lost on average over 160 officers a year for the last decade so 165 isn’t too bad? That attitude would be a grave error and one we cannot afford to have. Do you or those around you have this attitude? I don’t expect others to come out and just say this but we know someone’s heart by their actions. How is training in your agency? Are tactics discussed in squad meeting, after calls and more importantly before the call? Do we see safety violations by the officers around us and discuss it with them or do we let it go?

We all have a part to play and with 73 days to go, it is time that we all do more.
We should look at how these deaths are happening. In the last two years, we have had more gunfire deaths in the last 73 days than anything else and following close behind are vehicle related deaths. We should note that is against the yearly total. Overall, in a year, roadway related incidents have led line of duty deaths for 13 years and currently lead in 2011 so what does this tell us?

Do we encounter more violence as we enter the Holiday season? Could we respond to more family disturbances or suicide calls? Many experts say that is correct and while 3 years of data isn’t scientific, it tells me enough to tell you to stay vigilant and be prepared for anything. In baseball you can do good 3 out of 10 times and go to the hall of fame. As a lawyer you can mess up a lot and simply get reprimanded…if that. But in this business, the law enforcement profession, we have to be perfect. We must be 10 out of 10 and when that is what we expect and do, we will be closer to Below 100 than we are today.

We still have time. We have 73 days left in 2011. Hundreds of thousands in our profession and their families are counting on it.

It doesn’t have to be 165 …

Courtesy:  Law Officer Magazine

Tips To Selecting Driving Instructors

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

They say that in life your path intersects with so called “defining moments”—times where something, or someone, is introduced into your world that alters the shape of your future from that point forward. For me, I owe the last 20-plus years of law enforcement EVOC driver training to one man: Lt. John Leas (Ret.) of the San Diego Police Department. 

Note:  I met Lt. John Leas many years ago and he became very involved in our efforts here at PDI.  He gladly took the role as the West Coast Representative and was our biggest supporter.   I saw John just about every year at various conferences and meetings and he was just a great guy to be with.  John has left quite a legacy in regards to driver training and his efforts will make a difference for years to come.  It will always be an incredible honor to have met him and worked with him.

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Below 100: Be The Change

August 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

A seven-year-old boy in the UK raises $300,000 in a single day for the Haiti Relief project.

A 13-year-old boy with one leg climbs Mount Kilimanjaro and raises $75,000 for Project Freedom in Africa.

A husband-and-wife team takes their Challenge Day program to a single high school in 1987. Since that day, the program has been implemented at thousands of schools around North America and likely saved thousands of young lives.

What do these stories have to do with Below 100?

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2011: The Ups and Downs

June 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

“I’m worried about these firearm deaths Travis…They really concern me.”

That was the response I received from a national organization when I pressed them about doing more in regards to vehicle related deaths.

That was earlier in the year when felonious deaths to law enforcement were well above a record pace and well ahead of roadway deaths.

I absolutely understood his concern and we SHOULD be concerned and we should act but why do we seemingly continue to ignore the obvious.

That obvious fact is that for 13 years in a row, roadway incidents have been the leading cause of death to law enforcement officers so at what point will we recognize this issue and fight this battle?

Today, June 28, 2011, firearm deaths are still leading but only by a slim margin (36-31).  This isn’t a contest.  If an officer dies, no matter how, it is tragic and we must do all we can to prevent it.  I’m just not convinced that we are doing everything we can. 

Some are and I’m proud to be associated with Law Officer Magazine’s Below 100 Campaign.  The campaign, designed to push our annual deaths to below 100 discusses not only roadway incidents but complacency in general.  The campaign has been endorsed by COPS, California POST and numerous other organizations.  Some organizations that should be involved are still on the sidelines.

How can you help?  How can you fight the battle?  Get involved and do your part.  I would recommend going to the Below 100 Website and see how you can become involved.

You don’t think one person can make a difference?  Let me encourage you to check out what CHP Trooper Mike Allen has done.  If that doesn’t inspire you, nothing will.

Now lets get to work……

Travis Yates

Police Ambushes & Seatbelts: The Debate Continues

June 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Original Article via Police One

By now you likely know that vehicle related incidents have been the leading cause of death for law enforcement for 13 straight years. I have been very vocal during that time period and in the last few years I have seen an increased focus on the issue throughout law enforcement. What you may not know is that the latest data from NHTSA shows that 42 percent of the officers killed behind the wheel since 2000 were not wearing seatbelts and that number is an increase from the previous ten years. The issue, it seems, is getting worse and on a weekly basis that number is supported by what I am told.

A few weeks ago, I was teaching out of state and an officer came up to me on a break, away from his co-workers. “I’m glad you are talking about this seatbelt issue” he said. “I work nights — I see it every night — seatbelts are not being worn.”

It’s always hard to believe when I hear it but it is that denial that if it continues, will continue to kill officers needlessly and dying while not wearing a seatbelt is a death that doesn’t need to happen.



Why is this happening? Most cops will tell you it’s about the “ambush” and that should be a real concern for us but does it warrant the failure of not wearing a safety device that has proven over and over again to be highly effective?

The Reality of the Ambush
Every police officer in America remembers November 29, 2009. That morning, Sergeant Mark Renninger, Officer Tina Griswold, Officer Greg Richards, and Officer Ronald Owens of the Lakewood (Wash.) Police Department went to a coffee shop. Two of them faced the door and when Maurice Clemmons entered the coffee shop, acknowledged the officers and went to the counter, they would have no reason to think that evil at it’s very core was about to be unleashed and just seconds later all four officers would be brutally murdered.

While not the first ambush-style attack against law enforcement, the Lakewood Incident would spur conversations and training topics that continue today and one of the topics that continue is the reason why officers say they do not wear seatbelts.

“I’m afraid of an ambush” and “I may have to exit the car quickly” are by far the biggest reasons used for not wearing seatbelts. Those are legitimate concerns and I do not diminish them. In fact, we should discuss and train in reference to those concerns.

An ambush attack is a reality in our profession and while most of them occur outside the vehicle, they can and have happened while we are behind the wheel of the car. Due to this fact, seatbelts are not being worn in our profession and the deaths of hundreds of our finest men and women have happened because of that.

Ambush Survival
Some of the finest trainers in the world have documented the dangers and prevention of ambushes but let me say a few things about vehicle style ambushes.

• You Are a Target

Your uniform and your vehicle are targets and we must have awareness when either of these is in play. You may be driving your patrol vehicle but you just got off work or you may be going to lunch from a training day and know this….the evil looking to do you harm doesn’t know that. Condition Yellow is that relaxed alert without a specific threat and while driving it is appropriate to be in that status, we must be ready for a heightened condition.

Stopped Means High Alert

I often tell others that not wearing a seatbelt for the “ambush” reason is silly because I can’t recall an ambush happening on an officer going 65 mph down the road but the truth is that it does happen when we are not in motion. For that reason, we should not be in a relaxed alert status when we are stopped in a vehicle. We should be alert on everything around us and in particular the vehicles that are around us.

I’ve never liked being “window to window” to another vehicle and if that vehicle has dark tinted windows I will do whatever it takes to not be beside them. When approaching a stop, try to let the cars around you stop first. This will give you an opportunity to position your vehicle away from other cars or with an exit strategy. If you are the first vehicle at a stop light, try to stop several feet short of the intersection. As other cars pull up behind and beside you, you then have an opportunity to move forward away from those cars. While it can happen out of your control, try not to get “boxed” in from all sides while sitting still. Pay attention to all of the cars around you. Is there a vehicle that seems to be trying to get close to you and if so treat them as a threat first and someone needing directions later. While exiting your car may be an option, the most effective is likely driving away from a threat and then engaging.

As professionals and trainers, we have a choice to make. Accept senseless deaths in our profession or get to the root cause of the issue and deal with it. I hope you will choose to deal with it and the only way to deal with it is to talk about the truth and the truth is that ambushes in a vehicle do occur. While it is a rare event we must always be prepared for it but not wearing a seatbelt should not be a part of that preparation.

Seatbelt Removal
We must train officers on tactical seatbelt removal and that training must be ongoing. In times of a stressful event, you will rely on your training and you must build in the muscle memory of a tactical seatbelt removal in that training base. Removing your seatbelt effectively, away from anything that could catch it, must be as natural as drawing your weapon from that latest Level III holster and this can only be accomplished by training.

We reason that by not wearing a seatbelt you can exit the vehicle faster and that is simply not true. The only reason you are exiting the vehicle faster without a seatbelt is that you are not prepared and that preparation can only come with pre-planning and training.

There is a reason you snap your holster instead of leaving it unsnapped because it may be faster to draw. There is a reason you wear a vest when in reality you may be able to maneuver or run faster without it. That reason is that it is safer to wear a vest where your survival rate is much higher in a shooting and you secure your weapon because we know that suspects will attempt to use them on you and we overcome any small concerns we may have in using these safety features through training. Show me a well trained officer and they can draw just as quick with the snaps on as off and the truth is that a well trained and prepared officer can exit their vehicle just as fast with a seatbelt on or off. It is your choice to make.

By not wearing a seatbelt, you are sacrificing the best safety device available to you in preventing what has been the leading cause of death for law enforcement for 13 years in a row. Hundreds of law enforcement officers have been proven wrong and the time has come for this to stop.

In seminars, I open with a question to the audience. Do you believe that we will ever see a year where our law enforcement line of duty deaths can be zero? I typically get a rookie in the room sheepishly nodding their head yes while the veterans emphatically say no.

The truth is that we will never see that day. Our profession works in a very violent environment and evil with a little knowledge can prevail at times. While we will continue to see ambushes, we must continue to do everything we can to prevent it. Law enforcement is a risky business and we all accept that but we should not sacrifice proven safety devices such as seatbelts in that quest for prevention.

Captain Travis Yates commands the Precision Driver Training Unit with the Tulsa, Okla. Police Department. He is a nationally recognized driving instructor and a certified instructor in tire deflation devices and the pursuit intervention technique. Capt. Yates has a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Northeastern State University and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He is the owner of, a website dedicated to law enforcement driving issues and the Director of Ten-Four Ministries, dedicated to providing practical and spiritual support to the law enforcement community. You may contact Travis at

The Power Of One

May 31, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

What does the Power of One mean? This phrase came to me a few weeks ago as I was thinking about some of the remarkable achievements that just one individual has made.

Individuals such as Private Nicholas Madaras. An American Soldier that was home on leave from Iraq in July 2006. Nick decided that he wanted to come up with as many soccer balls as possible to bring back to the children near his post. Being a passionate soccer player, he wanted to give the balls to the children as a gesture of good will. He did this but Unfortunately, Nick was killed by an IED on September 3, 2006 and was never able to distribute the balls himself.

Private Madaras was just one Soldier, not of any rank, but he showed what the Power of One can do. Today, soccer balls have been donated from 46 states and literally thousands have been distributed in Irag and every one of them bears the name, Nick Madaras.

The Power of One…..What is that and how does it apply to you?

We make the mistake of thinking that we can’t make a difference.  You are the Power of One.  You can do something to change the world…to change the country…to change your state…to change your county, your city and your agency.

The question is what will you do?

In the coming months we will be highlighting stories from individuals that did something to make that difference in law enforcement.

Travis Yates

IACP Traffic Related LOD Report

May 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

During Police Week 2011, IACP released this report  detailing the Line of Duty Deaths that involve traffic related incidents.  As you are aware, has long been discussing this issue.  In fact, it is the sole reason the site was formed in 2003.  We are pleased that an organization such as the IACP would take a look at the issue.

With over 700 officers losing their lives from 2000-2009 in roadway incidents, we can no longer ignore this issue.

 IACP President Mark A. Marshall sent a message to the more than 21,000 members of the IACP in response to this:  “This is simply unacceptable. As police leaders, we can and must do all that we can to reduce these horrific numbers.”

It is time we move from “talk” to action.  I urge anyone reading this to do just that.  If you are unsure what to do, then contact us and let us help you.

Travis Yates


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