Fired On Special Assignment

Police-involved shootings in the national news have sparked outrage, protests and many conversations.

As a news organization, it's our job to report on those incidents.

But tonight, we want to call attention to the stories that often don't get told. They're the stories of police in dangerous situations, when officers risk themselves to protect others -- and succeed.

NEWS9’s Jessica Haberley asked local law enforcement to bring us into their world and talk us through what happens when they have to face armed suspects.

This gives a new perspective on policing. It’s an example of restraint under fire.

A call to dispatch

Here’s a snippet of a call that sent Steubenville police racing to the Pleasant Food Mart on Maxwell Avenue on Oct. 27, 2014.

“He has a gun underneath his sweatshirt, he's intoxicated, and he's being a little belligerent with the patrons around there,” the caller said. “He kept staring in the car, and I have a young child in my car. He's wearing blue jeans a black hooded sweatshirt, (and) he has a gun.”

Immediately, the dispatcher takes control of the city's surveillance cameras.

There's a lot of activity. People are coming and going and others are lingering.

Who has the gun?

The dispatcher swings the camera across the street. There are more people gathered there. He's looking for a black hoodie with an image of a white gun. The dispatcher hones in on the group. No one matches the description. He directs the camera back to the parking lot.

He finds him, watches, and waits.

Steubenville officers approach from both sides.

Seconds later, the man's arms are held. The gun is removed. He is not harmed. The crowd is safe, and so are the police officers.

“Whoever called gave the most perfect description I could ask for,” patrolman Ryan Lulla said.

Lulla and fellow patrolman Wes Crawford were there that day. It was a call when everything went right.

But there's no way of knowing when things could turn.

“You try to think things through before you get there so you can go there with a plan,” Crawford said.

Both Lulla and Crawford have had close calls on the job.

A few years ago, Lulla wasn't hit or hurt when chasing a robbery suspect

“I grabbed the back of his sweatshirt, he turned around, had a gun in his hand and fired several rounds at me and another officer who had showed up during the foot pursuit,” Lulla said.

Crawford was face-to-face with a suspect who pulled out a gun, then attempted suicide.

“You've got to fall back on that training and remain tactical at all times in our job,” Crawford said.

Officers’ training

In 2017, the state required Ohio officers to have at least 26 hours of training on the topics of wellness, legal updates, defensive tactics, trauma, intermediate weapons, and firearm qualifications.

Here’s the breakdown:

4 hours of wellness

4 hours of legal updates

4 hours of defensive tactics

6 hours of trauma

2 hours of intermediate weapons

2 firearm qualifications

The training, while invaluable and potentially life-saving, cannot explicitly outline when and how officers are to respond to armed suspects, or when to shoot.

“I think the main thing that people need to understand is not one of us ever want to have to be forced into a lethal force encounter,” Crawford said.

Objectively reasonable manner

Under the Fourth Amendment, officers are expected to use force in an objectively reasonable manner.

More often than not, it never comes to that.

“We're always impressed with the restraint our officers show,” Jefferson County Prosecutor Jane Hanlin said.

Hanlin understands the dangers of police work, and says cooperation is essential.

“Even if you think you've been wronged, even if you think you shouldn't be in this position, when an officer orders you to stop and orders you to show your hands, it's essential that you do that because when people don't comply with the commands, the first response of the officer is to wonder, why not?” Hanlin said.

You never know

When officers get in their cruisers, they can only wonder what their day will hold.

Their families left to hope there are no surprises.

“I love you is the last thing is say before I leave and the first thing I say when I get home,” Lulla said.

They’re laying it all on the line for the city they love.

“I come to work every day and hope to make a difference,” Crawford said. “That's what makes me the most proud. I get to come and serve a community that I feel has our backs.”

You're being set up to fail


If your employer wants you out, there needs to be clear evidence that you’re no longer a productive worker. Cynthia Shapiro, former human resources executive and author of Corporate Confidential: 50 Secrets Your Company Doesn’t Want You to Know said, “If there was someone we no longer wanted at the company, we’d give him all the worst assignments on impossible deadlines, set him up to fail, and document that. After a few months, we could safely terminate him.” (Watch out for these 13 things HR won't tell you about keeping your job.)

Your company is going through a merger


Mergers usually lead to some sort of layoffs, even if it’s not a complete overhaul. You’re especially vulnerable if you’re in a staff position. Changes in leadership can also signal a change in your job status. A new boss may want to bring in new perspectives on the company or people that he’s already familiar with—and sometimes those mean the same thing.

You aren't a team player


If people are telling you to keep your attitude in check, or if your boss says you’re not fitting into the culture of the company, that’s a bad sign. You can ask what you can do to correct this, but it’s most likely too late. Avoid this situation by taking every opportunity you can to bond with your coworkers, build team spirit, and promote your company. “If we ask you to travel for your job or attend a conference, it’s not really a question. Say no, and it can be career-ending,” said Laurie Ruettimann, an HR consultant and speaker in Raleigh, North Carolina. (You probably didn't realize that these "innocent" things could get you fired.)

You're on a performance review


The higher-ups at your company needs a paper trail of issues in order to fire you. To them, a performance review is the perfect opportunity to document the problem. Multiple negative performance reviews is a sure sign you’re on your way out, if you’re kept around that long. Being put on a performance-improvement plan may seem like a second chance, but there’s no going back after that. One HR director at a financial services firm said, “If you’re put on a performance-improvement plan, you’re cooked. I might look you in the eye and say we’re going to do everything possible to make this work, but that’s just total BS.”

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Your relationship with your boss is tense


You used to enjoy working with your boss. Now it seems like nothing you do is good enough and everything annoys her. Likely won’t be as friendly with you. Also watch how she evaluates you work. If she’s monitoring you closely, she may be just looking for a slip-up that could get you ousted. (These are signs that you were fired from your job illegally.)

Your staff got downsized


You can’t be your most productive self without the help of your staff. When fewer and fewer people are reporting to you, your decreased performance hurts the company. Letting you go becomes the only option.

Your workload shrinks


“If you’re a high-level employee and they put you on a special assignment and take away other responsibilities so you can focus on that ‘special assignment,’ start fixing up your résumé, because you’re on your way out the door,” said Suzanne Lucas, a former HR executive and the Evil HR Lady on The less work you take on, the easier it is to give you the pink slip. (Use these tips to bounce back from a bad performance review.)

Your boss demands detailed expense reports


If this is out-of-the-ordinary for your boss, he or she could think you’re wasting time or have inflated expenses. It may not even matter if everything turns out normal—just more documentation that could be used as justification for firing you.

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You see HR managers behaving oddly


One HR professional at a midsize firm in North Carolina described the worst feeling in the world as “going into the ladies’ room and seeing nine people you know who won’t have a job in a week and having to act normal.” If what they perceive as “normal” comes off as strange to you, be on the lookout. (Here's how you can secretly look for a job while you still have one.)

Your coworkers start avoiding you


Rumors spread fast, and if people in your office expect you’re getting laid off, they’re bound to talk about it among themselves. They may purposely avoid running into you out of guilt—or fear of an awkward slip-up.

You feel under-valued in the office

iStock/Jacob Ammentorp Lund

You’re not invited to meetings you expected to attend. You don’t receive copies of sensitive documents that affect your department. You don’t get a straight answer whenever you ask someone what’s up. These could all be signs that your boss doesn’t trust you or is starting to doubt your abilities. If you bring up the situation and don’t get real feedback, your termination could be imminent.

You’re asked to take a leave of absence


Even if you’ve been told it’s in your best interest, this is a serious red flag. Take that time to check job listings in your field and inquire about interviews. (If you're not happy at your job, try these tips to help you quit.)

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Colleagues are working more than you


Feel like you suddenly have more free time while others in the office are taking on extra assignments? It could be because they’re (probably unknowingly) making up for the work that you’ll soon be leaving behind.

Your boss passes assignments down the rung


If work normally assigned to you is being given to junior staffers, it’s a sign that you’re no longer needed in the chain of command. To quote a popular TV show, you’ve become the weakest link. You’ll be saying goodbye soon. (These are productive ways you can make the most out of getting fired.)

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