I’d like to start this article with a basic premise that can be encapsulated by one simple short statement, “You are responsible for you.” I’ve used that statement many times in my classes. The negative responses I’ve encountered probably wouldn’t surprise you, since many folks in today’s society are happy to assign their responsibility to anyone but themselves. What might surprise you is the fact that Americans have not always been so quick to delegate their responsibilities to others. Do a little research on your own and you might discover that the “American spirit” that was once held high included self-reliance and an eagerness to accept personal responsibility for one’s life and actions. Personal safety was included in that list of responsibilities. I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point in our history, the majority of American’s stopped relying upon themselves for their own safety and started relying upon government agents in the form of police officers. The problem with this thinking is twofold: First, police officers cannot keep you safe unless they are with you all the time, which they are not. Second, with the possible exception of high ranking government officials, it is neither the job nor the responsibility of police officers to ensure the safety of any specific individual.
So, now that we have established that police officers: a) cannot keep us safe, and b) aren’t actually required to do so, let me clear up a few more widely held misconceptions about self-defense and the role of law enforcement. Here we go… while police departments are a necessary part of a civilized society and while many individual police officers are a credit to their profession and to society as a whole, there are several things that, contrary to popular belief, police are not. For example:
- In actual practice, police are NOT “first responders.” They may be the first armed representatives of the government to arrive at the scene, but when someone is threatening you or actually engaged in the act of trying to hurt you, the police are the second responders at best. Sometimes an armed security guard or a Good Samaritan will come to your aid long before the police do. In that case, the police become the third responders. The “first responder” in every case is YOU. Therefore, if you are not prepared to respond, are poorly prepared to respond or fail to respond, you are forced to wait your turn, in an ever lengthening line of requests for police assistance, in order for the second/third responders (police) to help.
- While individual police officers may and often do have great compassion and care deeply about your individual well-being, the police department as an organization and your government as a whole could not possibly care less about you as an individual. Government policies and procedures (and that includes those established by your local police department) are set based upon metrics and statistics. Therefore, like it or not, you are simply a number in the eyes of your local government, of which your local police department is a small part. It would be incredibly naïve of citizens to think that limited budgets, fear of litigation resulting in financial liability, and concerns about officer safety don’t figure prominently in those calculations. Therefore, while police departments strive to achieve statistical improvements in the level of safety experienced by citizens on aggregate, if you (a specific individual) are caught in a dangerous situation which the police department concludes, as a matter of policy, is too dangerous for its officers to handle or may place the department at an increased risk of financial liability, you may be left to fend for yourself until such time as the police decide that it is safe enough for them to proceed. If you get killed in the meantime, the city or county will have the coroner clean up the mess and your loss of life will simply be added into the numbers the next time the department does a statistical analysis in order to analyze trends and establish future policies.
- Police officers do NOT carry guns to protect you. They carry guns to protect themselves. That is not to say that police officers won’t get between you and a bad guy if the opportunity presents itself. They most certainly will. However, such opportunities seldom present themselves. The overwhelming majority of the time, police arrive only after the damage is done. If you don’t believe that, I encourage you to do your own statistical analysis. If you do, you will find that police officers usually encounter criminals AFTER crimes have been committed and not during the commission of crimes. This is particularly true where deadly assaults are concerned and is precisely why the United States Supreme Court has stated that police officers have no responsibility to protect any specific civilian. That includes you.
- Contrary to what you may have been taught as a child, police officers are not always there to help you. This is especially true after you have been involved in a defensive shooting. Police are law enforcement officers employed and empowered by the government to ferret out law breakers and arrest or cite them, depending upon the severity of the offence. This means that they are constantly on the lookout for instances of illegal activity. Consequently, EVERYTHING you say to a police officer or do in the presence of a police officer is suspect in that officer’s mind and can and probably will be used against you, even when you consider yourself as having done the right thing.
- Police officers are not required to tell you the truth. They can lie to you and manipulate you in order to obtain information. The classic statement, “I can’t help you if you won’t talk to me” is a prime example. If a cop is asking you questions related to a criminal investigation, he is NOT trying to help you. He is trying to develop an iron clad criminal case against you so that he can present an easy conviction to the district or commonwealth attorney. Any promises to help you are probably a lie. EVERYTHING is recorded. NOTHING is off the record. EVERYTHING you say to a police officer or do in the presence of a police officer WILL be used against you, period!
Now that I’ve cleared all that up, let me take you back to my simple short sentence, “you are responsible for you.” Ultimately, nobody on the planet, with the possible exception of your loved ones, cares as much or as deeply about your personal safety and security as you. Likewise, the only person, other than God, who is always present and able to take immediate action in your personal defense, is you. Now, if you are willing to accept your responsibility for your own personal safety, there are several actions which I would suggest you take.
- Select a defensive weapon that you can use to defend yourself at home.
- I strongly suggest a gun.
- Select a defensive weapon that you can use to defend yourself when you are not at home.
- I strongly suggest a gun. However, if you are in a place that will not permit you to carry a gun, consider a knife or other weapon. For example: California makes carrying a gun in public very difficult. However, carrying a knife in most parts of California is perfectly legal. (There may be restrictions in some cities). Likewise, the carrying of a TASER or pepper spray requires no state license or training as of the date of this writing. At least, not as far as I am aware.
- Get professional training so that you can safely and effectively use the defensive weapon or weapons you’ve selected.
- Understand and accept the very real fact that you will probably be arrested and go to jail if you ever use a weapon of any kind in self-defense.
- Obtain some form of legal insurance or coverage. I use Legal Shield and Second Call Defense. I suggest that you check out both of those services.
- Prepare to get out of jail by doing the following:
- Write down the following information and seal it in an envelope:
- name and contact information of a large bail bonds company
- name, account number and contacting information for your legal insurance coverage (Legal Shield or whatever).
- credit card number, name on the card, expiration date and 3 digit security code.
- Write, “Bail me out” on the outside of the envelope.
- Give the sealed envelope to someone you know, love and trust and whose phone number you remember by heart. Instruct them to use this envelope ONLY to bail you out of jail, should you ever need.
- Write down the following information and seal it in an envelope:
- Check your medical insurance to make sure you have coverage for counseling. You may need it if you use deadly force against another human being.
- If you ever have to defend yourself with a deadly weapon, you must call the police. Once they arrive:
- Tell the police that you do not wish to answer any questions.
- Ask to speak to your attorney immediately.
- Contact your Legal Shield or Second Call Defense attorney immediately.
- Shut up! DO NOT TALK WITH THE POLICE OR ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS, PERIOD! EVERYTHING you say to the police WILL be used against you and NOTHING you say to the police can be used to help you.
Once you have taken these steps, you will have adequately prepared for the four levels of self-defense, which are:
- Defense against the actual attack.
- Defense against possible criminal charges.
- Defense against law suits.
- Defense against the emotional and psychological effects of being attacked, of having to defend yourself and of being dragged through the legal and justice system.
Remember, you are your own first responder. If you are going to respond effectively or at all, you must prepare in advance. If you follow the steps outlined above, you’ll be ready. If you don’t… well…