Local News

Violent Confrontations Teach Officers To Expect Unexpected

Posted April 30, 2003 2:18 a.m. EDT

— Killings of the Rich Square police chief several years ago and a Randolph County deputy last week are powerful reminders that what often are called "routine calls" by officers can escalate into violent confrontations.

They also indicate the importance of officers being trained to expect the unexpected.

For most street cops, domestic disputes are part of their daily routine; they happen so often. But they also can be the most dangerous situation a cop faces on any given day.

Rich Square Police Chief Joe White was

gunned down

during a traffic stop in July 2000.

In Henderson last Thursday, a domestic dispute escalated into

a shootout

with police.

Three days later, a shooting in Randolph County

killed one deputy and injured another.

That, too, started as a domestic argument.

Until recently, the only training an officer recieved for dealing with such situations was a two-hour course. But as times have changed, so has the training.

Officers now take a 12-hour course that teaches them to read and react to different situations.

Instructor James Munn said an officer's most dangerous weapon can be his own words.

"You say the wrong thing," Munn said, "and a situation can deteriorate very quickly."

Wake County Sgt. C.R. Ridley said knowing as much as possible about a suspect before arriving at the scene helps. He added that, once there, quickly separating aggressors from victims can cool things down.

Ridley said most agencies try to send at least two officers to handle domestic disputes. They're told to stand away from doors and windows to avoid becoming targets.

But even then, he said, there's no foolproof way to prevent more violence.

"There's really no way to prepare for what the suspect is going to do or throw at us," Ridley said.

Being ready for the unexpected, though, can be as valuable as a bulletproof vest.