All over the country, police budgets are being slashed. For some counties here in Oregon, tax revenues have declined so sharply that police patrols are no longer 24 hours per day. What would this mean if it happened in your town?
A recent story out of Dallas, OR — a small town west of Salem, our state capital — illustrates the issues facing many people who live in non-incorporated parts of the country: there isn’t enough money to go around to cover all of the social and public safety services we’ve come to expect from the government. Their Sheriff’s Office has been forced to cut their staffing, to the point that they no longer provide around-the-clock law enforcement services. That’s resulted in gaps in response that is only now becoming apparent to the residents.
In this particular case, a 24-year-old mentally disturbed man attacked his father. The family, who lives outside of the city limits and thus depends on the Sheriff for law enforcement, called 9-1-1 and were told that a Deputy was not available to respond to their call. A few minutes later they called back; the man had suddenly passed out and the family requested medical response. Because they had originally called in an assault, the EMTs do what they always do in dangerous situations: they staged a short distance away from the house and waited for law enforcement to clear the scene.
A police officer from the city finally arrived and gave the all-clear; the EMTs came in but the man had already died. The meth in his system, combined with excited delirium from his previously diagnosed schizophrenia, resulted in cardiac arrest. It’s a sad story.
The parents blame the lack of response from the Sheriff’s Office for their son’s death, but as the Sheriff pointed out even if they’d had a patrol that night it probably wouldn’t have made any difference. The parents were on their own, just like the other residents of that county that night.
Whether it’s a medical call stemming from a fight or a burglary, a mugging or a sexual assault, the reality is that you’re always on your own. It may be a little more obvious (or possibly stark) in a place like Polk County, OR, but ultimately your own protection is on you. If the law enforcement cavalry arrives in time to take the perpetrator into custody so much the better, but even the very fastest response of a couple of minutes still leaves time for a life-ending injury. The more minutes the response requires, the more vulnerable you are.
It shouldn’t take an event like this to get people to realize the reality, but there it is.
This is why I’m a firm proponent of you being able to protect you, and of you being able to protect your loved ones. Whether from fire or accident or criminal assault, being able to mount some sort of effective response to protect your life or the lives of innocents is a responsibility you shouldn’t shirk. There are lots of opportunities for you to learn to protect yourself, and not all of them involve guns and shooting.
For instance, prepare for disaster; put in the supplies you’ll need if you’re stuck in your house because of a natural or man-made disaster. You should have everything you require to live for at least 72 hours, and in the more rural parts of the country you should plan for at least a solid week without outside help or resupply.
Learn to deal with life threatening injury; I’m not talking about a first aid course — they’re useless when EMT response times are more than a few minutes. I’m talking about a course like this from my friend Caleb Causey. You need to know how to deal with accidental trauma, how to stop massive blood loss, and how to keep the patient alive in those critical minutes before fully equipped life support can get there. These kinds of injuries can occur anywhere at any time; you should have the knowledge and carry the gear necessary to do your part to save lives. It may even be your own.
Finally, you need to know how to protect yourself from criminal assault. That means learning how to defend yourself against both lethal and non-lethal threats. Not all assaults — not even most, in fact — reach the threshold of justifying a shooting response, so you need to know something other than firearms. Some empty hands skills will go a long way to helping you stay safe, and learning how to use a non-lethal tool such as a kubaton, chemical spray, or even a high-powered flashlight will expand the range of circumstances against which you can protect yourself.
Against a lethal threat, the most efficient response is the lawfully possessed firearm. Don’t neglect your training in defensive shooting; you need to know the legalities of the use of lethal force, along with the physical and mental skills of putting bullets where they need to go under the conditions you need to shoot.
It’s a long list, to be sure. That’s why it’s so easy for people to default to letting someone else do the job for them, and then are surprised when the “hired help” can’t make it to solve their problem. Instead of sitting in front of the television watching yet another sporting event, get out and start tackling one item on this list. Just one. Any progress you make will put you in a better position to take care of yourself than you were yesterday!
-=[ Grant Cunningham ]=-