My wife and I just returned from a police funeral. Fort Myers, Fla., Police Officer Adam Jobbers-Miller was shot on July 21 after responding to a call at local service station of a stolen cell phone. He pursued the suspect on foot and during the apprehension attempt, was knocked to the ground, allegedly disarmed, and shot in the head with his service pistol. He survived for a week on life support. His End of Watch was July 28, 2018.
His funeral was today, Monday, August 6, 2018. He was 29 years old, on the job less than three years and engaged to be married. His life was a life of service, initially as a volunteer firefighter before joining the FMPD. I won’t bother with info on the suspect; he doesn’t deserve the ink or the space on this page. The funeral for Adam was huge, more than one thousand officers from as far away as Ohio, Maine, and Massachusetts attended. The New Jersey State Police and the NYPD both sent a contingent. Officers from all across Florida attended. He was never alone from the moment he was shot to the moment he was laid to rest.
Adam’s marked FMPD patrol vehicle led the miles-long procession.
A quick review of the latest stats gleaned from the pages of the National Law Enforcement Officer Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) show that murders of police officers via firearms have gone down from 66 in 2016 to 46 for 2017. And while the specific data on KIA’s via disarming for 2018 is incomplete, what is known is that officer deaths overall are up 8% and firearms-related deaths are up 28%. My new home state, Florida, leads the way, with my former home state New York a close second.
A few years ago, I was asked to review the circumstances and testify at a trial of the murder of a municipal police officer from Melbourne, Australia. The officer was disarmed of his weapon, severely beaten, and fatally shot. The 37-year old officer left a wife and a small son. What started out as a traffic stop ended with the lone officer disarmed and murdered. The officer’s body was discovered by his father, also an officer with the same agency.
The suspect was eventually located and when confronted, committed suicide with the officer’s sidearm. There’s no parallel with the details of that case and that of Officer Jobbers-Miller, but obviously my thoughts over the past two weeks turned to the dangers of police disarmings.
Here in the U.S., the latest statistics from the FBI and the NLEOMF indicate that police deaths from disarmings continue to decline. Not so in Australia. However, even with the decline here at home, one death from a disarming is too many. You’d be hard pressed to find an agency here in the U.S. that doesn’t issue security holsters to their officers. Most are issuing (or requiring) Level-3 rigs.
But just issuing security holsters isn’t enough. Too often it becomes an equipment solution to a training problem. And that’s the second part of the solution equation. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is conducting the investigation into the circumstances surrounding Jobbers-Miller’s death and their full report is due soon. But in my opinion, neither the holster nor the training played any part in Jobbers-Miller’s death. Their equipment is top notch and I know from personal experience, the weapon retention training SW Florida’s law enforcement officers receive at the Southwest Florida Public Service Academy is unparalleled.
In the Australia case, the evidence found by the dead cop’s father suggests a “fight to the death” between the officer and his assailant. When someone puts their hands on your gun during a contact, that’s exactly what you have to be prepared for.
As I testified at that trial, a suspect who touches your gun during a street contact has already demonstrated intent. Weapon retention and ground fighting tactics do not include a measure of politeness. You must consider any disarming attempt as a “life-or-death” situation. Get in the mindset right now that “all bets are off” during this kind of confrontation.
You must be the last person standing when the fight is over.
When preparing to write this article, I was reluctant to include the murder of Officer Jobbers-Miller since all the details surrounding his death are still unknown. But I’m also a firm believer that real-life incidents make the best teaching points. So know this: Regardless of the declining stats here in the U.S., the threat from disarmings is real.