Tragically, this past week we witnessed the line of duty death of two Wyandotte County deputy sheriffs. Theresa King and her partner, Patrick Rohrer, were slain while transporting a prisoner to the Wyandotte County Correction and Court Services Building in downtown Kansas City, Kansas.

Unfortunately, their deaths mark the 72nd and 73rd line of duty deaths involving police officers this year. So far this year, 30 officers have been killed by gunfire. These sobering statistics may indicate that 2018 will be even more deadly for officers than in 2017 when we witnessed 46 officers killed by gunfire and 135 line of duty deaths overall. In 2016, it was a particularly deadly year with 64 killed by gunfire and 161 line of duty deaths as the war on cops began to rage in the wake of executive-inspired social activism aimed at law enforcement nationwide.

I frequently travel around the country and talk with police officers of every rank and file. Without exception, those conversations always tend to end up on the subject of how the operating environment in which they work has changed so dramatically over the past several years. The threat of violent and deadly assaults on police officers today, either through random attacks or well-executed ambushes, by virtually anyone in the community is an everyday reality burdened by these brave and honorable public servants.

While on duty, officers generally operate in a state of situational awareness known as amber, specifically while on the street and in the public. Amber is the color associated with a steady state of awareness which is bracketed between yellow (low threat) or green (no threat) on one end of the spectrum and red (high threat) on the other side.

The concept is that an officer in green or yellow, although less mentally strenuous, is considered to be dangerous to the officer and his or her partner. On the other hand, constantly maintaining a high level of mental awareness – red – is considered to be unsustainable over the course of an officer’s eight- to 12-hour daily shift. Being in a red or high state of mental awareness is very similar to a combat situation.

Los Angeles in the 1990s was particularly deadly and the operating environment was extremely threatening to police officers. During that time, I worked in the most active, gang-invested and crime-ridden divisions in the city. Every day, my fellow officers and I had to be in a constant amber state due to the fact that all hell could break loose at any given time. Routinely, I experienced many moments where my awareness flared up to a red state when either I was being shot at, involved in a donnybrook or trying to escape the fatal funnel of an ambush. However, eventually, my situational awareness state dropped back down to amber, yellow or even green when I was off duty.

Having experienced combat environments in Afghanistan and extremely high-threat situations in Iraq, I understand the physical and mental demand those environments place on an individual. The problem with combat environments is that those who have to operate in a high state of awareness or red state find that this is very difficult to sustain over a long period of time. This is one of the reasons for deployment cycles and mandatory dwell times – non-combat assignments – for our military personnel.

I reference my personal experience in Los Angeles and overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq simply to offer the following point. Despite those experiences, I don't think I could operate in the high threat environments that police officers have to today. Due to the war being waged against cops and the outright disrespect for law enforcement nationwide, officers no longer have the relative luxury of operating in an amber state of readiness. They have to be in a constant red state of awareness while observing, interpreting and reacting to the actions of virtually anyone around them. This is very much like being in combat. Imagine having to operate in that type of environment day in and day out for 20 years or more.   

Unfortunately, there will be more attacks on police officers as our social order continues to decline and we move away from the rule of law in this country. Rest in peace deputies King and Rohrer and God bless all of our police officers, deputy sheriffs, agents and first responders.

Viper One Six – Out.

Visit Dave Shearman’s website, www.viperonesix.com, or email him at viperonesix@gmail.com