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Officer Survival and Winning

Detective Jared Reston of the Jacksonville, Fla. Sheriff’s Office was working extra duty at a shopping mall when he was called to a shoplifting situation involving two suspects. He became involved in a lengthy foot pursuit that ended in a deadly shootout. When it was over, Reston had been shot seven times and the suspect was dead. There are three reasons that Reston prevailed: 1) he was wearing body armor, 2) he was physically fit, and 3) he had the mental attitude to win.

It is critically important to have a winning mindset, not just one of survival. A seemingly ‘everyday’ shoplifting call turned into a challenging foot chase and ultimately a shootout in which 13 rounds were fired by the suspect and 14 rounds were fired by Reston in the course of a few seconds.

The first round was fired by the suspect. The bullet struck Reston squarely in the chin, causing his jaw to collapse before exiting out his neck. At first, Reston thought he had been physically struck, but that quickly changed as the suspect continued shooting at him. Reston returned fire while lying on his back and continued to fire as he struggled into an upright position. In the midst of the gunfight, Reston fired three close-range shots, ending the battle. Reston sustained gunshot wounds to his face, arm, thigh and buttocks. Three rounds to his chest were stopped by the body armor.

During our interview, he was asked, “In your mind, as this was going on, your training? A survival mindset? What kicked in?” His memorable answer was, “Not a survival mindset—a winning mindset! That’s what I always have. I’m a very competitive person. If you bring something to me like that I’m not going to just survive,” Reston said. “I probably could have laid there and hid and hoped he missed me, but that’s not how it’s going to go. I’ll take the fight to him.”

Here is the point: A will to win, not just survive, is absolutely key to officer safety. True officer survival means that officers must win deadly encounters, not just survive them. This concept must be made clear in training. Consider this: Would it have been an acceptable outcome for Jared Reston to have survived this encounter as a paraplegic who needed constant care for the rest of his life? Absolutely not. His will to win empowered him to engage and prevail.

There’s a lot of discussion right now about moving law enforcement culture from a warrior mentality to that of being a guardian, a concept more in line with the societal contract that communities have with those who police. However, make no mistake: When a guardian is engaged, he must win. This is not the time for a “fair” fight in which each side wins 50 percent of the time. Neither police nor those they protect can afford for law enforcement to win only half their battles.

It is important to note that Reston’s deadly encounter occurred during the course of working an extra job. It is these situations, that often leads to an officer becoming complacent because it’s not ‘real’ police work. According to Reston, that it is a real problem. His challenge to others: “If you are hired to work somewhere, there is a reason that you are there. There is always a threat that something can happen.” Keep those words in mind the next time you’re working that overtime or extra job. And remember, true officer survival means winning, not just surviving.


Dale Stockton is a 32-year-veteran of law enforcement, retiring as a police captain from Carlsbad, Calif. He is a founder of the Below 100 program. He may be reached at


Published in Law and Order, Oct 2015

Rating : Not Yet Rated

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