From every tragedy come lessons learned. In public safety, this process is even more necessary; although we must first grieve for those who protect us, we must quickly recognize a second responsibility: to study what happened and identify steps to try to prevent it from happening again.

The tragic death of Whittier (Calif.) Police Officer Keith Boyer is a good example. 

First, a brief summary: On Feb. 20, 2017, Officers Keith Boyer and Patrick Hazell responded to the scene of a vehicle collision. There they encountered suspect, who had been recently paroled following a spate of sentences for drug crimes and violent acts. The officers didn’t know this when they approached the accident scene about 8 a.m., nor did they know he was driving a stolen car and was suspected of killing another man hours earlier in East Los Angeles.

While investigating the incident he pulled a gun and shot them both, killing Boyer and seriously wounding Hazell. The suspect was shot and wounded in the incident.


Who would have thought a routine traffic accident could result in one officer killed and another seriously injured? I’m certain they didn’t think so.

Why should this incident be of concern to you? As you know, the world has changed dramatically over the past years, and not much for the better. This could have easily been one of us as violent people perform violent acts on innocent people every day.

And though many people lack the training police officers do, as citizens it’s important to remain vigilant and remember the acronym SAM. Situational Awareness Matters! Stay alert of your surroundings at all times. Get off your phone and get on to being ‘present’ to what’s happening around you at all times. Situational Awareness!

Expect the unexpected. Because things happen “un-expectantly” and that’s when we become victims directly or indirectly. If you see something suspicious, say something. Be part of the solution and start being more kind and patient with others all the while keeping SAM (Situational Awareness Matters) in the forefront of your mind!

Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna