30 Jun 2013

Situational Awareness, As Important for Citizens as for Police

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On June 17, 2013 in Midwest City, Oklahoma, a woman was grocery shopping with her 12 year old and two year old daughters. As the mother shopped with her younger daughter seated in the grocery cart, she was being stalked by a mentally ill predator on a mission. The predator circled the store, passing her once, within touching distance, and chose his prey. In policing, situational awareness, being aware of who is around and what they are doing, is drilled into every officer’s head.

Human Predators-What They Look For

Most predators, be they animal or human, look for that moment of looking away or distractedness and vulnerability to strike their prey. As the video unfolds, the stalking and taking advantage of the moment of distraction to snatch this mother’s toddler out of the cart provides an opportunity to watch step by step how human predators take advantage of lapses in situational awareness.
This could just as easily have been a purse snatching or had it occurred out in the parking lot, a car-jacking. Picture the number of people walking down the street texting; absorbed in conversation on the phone, or even listening to music through headphones. We have all seen people in a multitude of settings paying little attention to people around them, especially as strangers get within arm’s length.

An Opportunity to Learn

In this guided video presentation by Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes, police and citizens alike have a graphic demonstration of the value of situational awareness. Even after the hostage taking occurred, the situational awareness of another citizen prevented the situation from worsening by preventing the hostage taker from leaving the store with the child.

We can also listen to 911 calls by citizens providing a description of what is happening at the scene. In watching this video, the importance of citizens providing police with critical information while they are responding to the scene cannot be emphasized enough. Being able to provide clear descriptions, locations, number of people involved, whether anyone is injured or armed all help to enable officers respond more effectively and safely to often chaotic circumstances.

Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes deserves high marks for providing an excellent learning opportunity to citizens, not just in his community, but for all who take the time to watch his presentation. Emphasizing the importance of alert citizens in partnership with their police truly makes for a safer, stronger community. The Pastor, who prevented the hostage taker from leaving, also deserves high praise for his situational awareness and calmness in responding to such a desperate situation.

When viewing the video, can you see opportunities to prevent the situation from arising?
Once it did occur, what actions did you see from other citizens that either improved or degraded the situation? What are your thoughts about how the mother responded to the hostage taker and her awareness of her twelve year old daughter? How did her response compare with the Pastor and his child?

After viewing this presentation, are there things that you would change in your daily activities? I welcome your thoughts and comments below.

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