I remember the first time I ever drew my gun and pointed it at another human being.
I was just out of the academy, and still riding with a Field Training Officer, or FTO.
We'd just initiated a traffic stop on a car for some minor violation and I was riding in the passenger seat. As we exited our cruiser to approach, my FTO on the driver's side talking on the radio to dispatch and me walking up on the right, I saw the driver of the stopped car suddenly reaching under his seat, making what we refer to as a "furtive movement". To me, it was obvious that he was reaching for something and I called it out to my FTO.
"He's going for something under the seat!"
I quickly ran up to the open passenger window, drawing my gun as I did so, and pointed it at the fact of the driver. I can still recall the shocked look on his face as he complied with my order to get his hands up where I could see them. At least that's what I thought I said. I kind of got caught up in the moment and went on autopilot for a few seconds, reacting as I'd been trained to do. I don't recall the exact words that I used, but I know that they brought instant compliance.
It turned out the the driver was not reaching for a weapon; he was only trying to hide a bag of marijuana under the seat. Because he obeyed immediately, he didn't get shot but he did go to jail for the weed.
Afterwards, my FTO critiqued me performance. He was particularly impressed because I had seen the suspicious actions of the driver before he did and reacted instantly and decisively.
"OK, first of all, good job on spotting that. I was answering dispatch and didn't see it."
I felt pretty good.
"Second of all, your reaction was quick and appropriate and you let me know what was going on. That was good too."
Now I really felt like I was on top of my game. This was a tough FTO and here he was complimenting me. But then he went on.
"However, the correct command to the suspect is 'Police, let me see your hands', not 'Motherfucker, I'll air you out'. Work on that."
And so concluded my first lesson in the effects of sudden stress on one's vocabulary.
It did work, though.
10 months ago