Officer Down!

GUMSHOE-DANNY-PITOCCOThe one radio call that no police officer wants to hear but will drop everything to get to with “pedal to the metal” or “balls to the wall” is “Officer Down”.

Numerous lights and sirens converging on the dispatched location. Tires screeching on the pavement along with all of your physical senses peaking as the adrenaline pumps through your body faster than your speedometer needle stays buried in the red beyond the MPD markings.

I would pray for the officer while simultaneously I would silently curse at the traffic ahead of me who just seemed to purposely slow down or ignore my screaming siren to get “the hell out of my way!” Don’t they know that an officer was down in the dirt, fighting, bleeding, injured or worse? Don’t they care?

I over-steer during a turning maneuver on a tight curve and slightly fish tail and then regain control of the wheel.

officer-down-badge-policeThen my training kicks in and I remember to take deliberate and repeated survival breaths to slow down my heart rate and get blood to my brain to think, relax and proceed. A cop racing through traffic who crashes cannot help the officer down.

You have to get there to be of any use! Pick your line of travel and be smooth on the wheel with little or no braking; ease off on the gas pedal. You control the car – it does not control you!

You strain your ears to hear any radio dispatch up-dates for more information, more data, more details, there are never enough!

You focus and you plan on your anticipated actions once you arrive on the scene and you just know you will face unanticipated circumstances. You want to act – not react! No surprises, breathe, exhale, emotions in check, clear thinking!

You try to prevent tunnel vision to take in the entire scene for situational awareness – threats, hazards, officer safety, citizen safety?

You establish your priorities, the officer down, render medical aid needed, ID the suspect or suspects, lock down the crime scene, direct other arriving officers, establish perimeters, identify witnesses, evidence, command, control and communicate!

Finally, once the calvary arrives and everything is secured; you can pause and think about the officer and thank God it was not you!

You notice your hands shake a bit and maybe your eyes get misty and you quickly use your unsteady hand to wipe away a possible tear lest a citizen or God forbid another officer sees you. You got to be strong!

You then feel guilty about that passing thought of being a survivor; that moment of selfishness on your part. Damn it!

You then ask God to forgive you for your momentary lapse of weakness for being alive and well.

Then you feel God’s presence and know that it is okay to give yourself a break, you are human and not God.

This is Gumshoe signing off for now gentle readers. Remember to love the ones who love you and also love yourself a wee big also.


Danny Pitocco
Danny Pitocco
RETIRED (as a Detective with the Snohomish County Sherriff’s Department, Washington State), Danny has over forty years of law enforcement experience across city, county, state and federal levels of government, including service as a Special Agent for the DEA, US Department of Justice. He’s a decorated law enforcement veteran, and recipient of the "Detective of the Year" award for Snohomish County, Danny is a certified composite artist and has testified as an expert witness in the field of narcotics and modus operandi of particular crimes in state and federal courts in California, and has given testimony before federal grand juries. Danny served four years of active duty in the US Marine Corps and loves Jesus as his personal savior.

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  1. Danny, As I read this article every one of my muscles was tensed up. I can’t imagine the nightmare of knowing there was a tragedy and knowing you had to get there with no knowledge of what you’d find. I realize training prepares you for the tactical – “take deliberate and repeated survival breaths to slow down my heart rate and get blood to my brain to think, relax and proceed,” but the emotional side, even though you an numb it, you can never completely ignore it. I’ve heard survivor guilt is prevalent and I can understand why. I think the only way to accept that your life was spared when another was lost is believing that it’s God who numbers your days. Still – what you’ve described is something I wish nobody had to go through – ever. I’m glad you’re still here. God is not finished with you yet

  2. It takes a certain breed of men and women to enter into the battlefield, whether it is on homeland or on foreign soil, and I do believe it is in training and their mind set of helping people survive, that desires one of their own to never be abandoned. Great article, brings back memories of so many who have lost their lives, who are still here with us because of the call, and who do exactly as you describe.

  3. Danny: Police, firefighters, and military units have a cohesiveness and unity of covering each others’ backs that doesn’t exist in most other work environments. That relationship goes beyond the human emotions and reactions that most people have. Perhaps that is a combination of training and the existence of potential danger at all times.