Program - Safety Begins With Awareness

Retired Marine Corp Vetereran and retired Escondido Police Lieutenant Al Owens recently received the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund "Officer of the Month Award". Lieutenant Al Owens has dedicated 20 years of his life to law enforcement, and also won the Escondido Police Department’s Police Officer of the Year award in 2003 and again in 2009. Lt. Owens has also been in charge of the EPD's Police Athletic League (PAL) for six years. The program is for children, ages 6 to 18, and relies on educational athletic activities to cement a bond between police officers and the youth in the community. In addition to being in charge of the program, he is also a coach and the primary fundraiser. Over the last six years, he has raised over $150,000 for PAL.  Lt. Owens developed the Child Safety Academy, a five-hour training session for children between the ages of 6 and 14. The training covers various topics that include learning to call 911 in the event of an emergency, drug awareness, gang avoidance, anti-bullying, gun safety and anti-kidnapping drills. In more than five years over 1,000 children have participated in the training.

Lt. Owens also instructs an Adult Safety Program. The program is a four-hour class which convers situational awareness and simple self-defense. He has taught more than 3,000 students in this program. On his first day as an Escondido officer, Owens responded to a shots-fired call. On arriving, officer Owens and his Training Officeer observed a scene that appeard to be under control. Suddenly, however, another officer on the scene was attacked by a subject who was trying to get his gun. Officer Owens helped subdue the subject and likely saved at least one life that day.

Lt. Owens believes that the number one method of self defense is not some form of martial arts, it is Situational Awareness, followed closely by Avoidance and listening to your "gut feelings" that come from situational awareness. For a crime to be committed, there has to be a victim, a suspect and an opportunity. Situational Awareness and Avoidance help remove the opportunity for a crime to occur. We are a distracted culture - heads buried in our cell phones, or focused on things like work or our relationships while we wander in the real world. Lt. Owens emphasized that when you are out in the world, you should focus on What's Important Now. When you enter a space - whether a shopping mall, a movie theater or a public street - observe where your exits are, who is in the space, and what their attitude is. Mentally preparing for a worst-case scenario can save your life. If you have never mentally prepared, you might freeze in a stressful situation.

If you find yourself in a confrontation, communication is critical. It takes at least two people to make an arguement, so if you are confronted:

  1. Stay calm and do not raise your voice. You can actually control the escalation by remaining calm
  2. >Do not go down to their level especially if they are impaired
  3. Do not insist on having the last word
  4. Look for danger cues for escalation, such as the "Thousand-Mile Stare"
  5. Listen to what is being said and take it seriously
  6. Don’t be stubborn or afraid to say sorry. Live to fight another day

If all else fails, remember that there are few things worth dying for. Not your wallet. Not your car. Not your ego. Lt. Owens adult class is four hours long, so this was not meant to be a comprehensive presentation. If your business or neighborhood group would like to have the full presentation, you can arrange that through his website.