Vargas: Cops aren’t paranoid, just hyper-vigilant — and here’s why they need to be


It’s been a scary week for police officers, both locally and across the country. In the past week, a mentally disturbed individual with a knife attacked an Anaheim motorcycle officer on a traffic stop. Luckily, another officer was driving by and both officers engaged the suspect with the end result being an officer-involved shooting and a deceased suspect.

According to the family, the suspect had a history of mental illness. Still no explanation on what triggered the attack.

On Wednesday, a Houston motorcycle officer was shot in the lower back while on a traffic stop. The officer needed surgery but is expected to recover. No suspects have been arrested in that case.

To top it off, on Saturday a deranged and angry suspect decided to launch a one-man attack on the Dallas Police Department. Enclosed in an armor-plated van and armed with what appeared to be an automatic weapon and pipe bombs, the suspect peppered police headquarters with gunfire. According to news reports, it was sheer luck no one was injured or killed.

The Dallas suspect later rammed a police car and shot at responding units. He later was chased to a fast-food parking lot where a .50-caliber rifle was used to to disable the vehicle.

As a side note, this rifle is the same type of rifle the federal government decided last month local agencies have no use for and would therefore no longer provide surplus .50-caliber rifles to police departments.

The reasoning was based upon the premise that the rifle made local police appear to be too militarized. In this case it sure was nice to have one available.

Someone should call Washington and let them know.

The suspect is being described as an angry man with a purported history of mental illness. Apparently, the courts had recently awarded custody of his son to his mother.

These few incidents don’t really capture the full extent of assaults on police officers that occur every day across the country. Luckily, in most cases, due to good training or sheer luck, police officers are able to safely respond.

With all the disturbed individuals and weirdoes out there it’s no wonder police officers might be a little paranoid. I prefer the term hyper-vigilant. You have to be, because you just never know.

Whenever you walk around in uniform your head has to be on a swivel. You just don’t know when the worst could happen. It’s a very tough way to live, let alone make a living.

Going out to dinner means always taking the table in the corner and sitting in the chair facing toward the dining room — commonly referred to as the gunfighter’s chair.

You check out everyone around you and immediately make mental assessments as to the threat level anyone poses.

It’s not paranoia when the threats are real.

In case you’ve forgotten, it was exactly one year ago when a husband and wife shot and killed Las Vegas Metro officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo at a pizza restaurant while they ate dinner. In this case, both suspects later died in a shootout with responding officers.

News reports described both suspects as delusional with fantasies of starting a civil revolution. I would say that qualifies them as being deranged.

Getting attacked while having dinner is something the average person doesn’t have to worry about. Police officers have to think about things like that all the time.

And who can forget NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos who were shot and killed as they sat in a marked squad car on Dec. 20, 2014? Another deranged individual acting out his rage.

Most police officers understand that putting on a uniform and a badge means you are a potential target for someone’s rage. You just never know when or where. You just have to be very careful, all the time.

Your life depends on it.

Joe is a retired Anaheim Police Department captain. You can reach him at