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10 Must Do Actions Before Your Patrol Shift

10 Must Do Actions Before Your Patrol Shift

Lieutenant Raymond E. Foster, LAPD (ret.)

Your patrol shift can be rewarding, exciting and dangerous. There are a number of things you can do to make it more rewarding and significantly less dangerous. This article explores ten actions you can take before you begin your watch to make you effective, efficient, and safe.

Mentally Prepare

One of the most difficult aspects of police work is making the transition from an “armed civilian” to a working police officer. Like everyone else, you have a family, mortgage, a car payment, etc. These issues can follow you onto the job and even a slight distraction can lead to missed opportunities and unrecognized dangers.

You can make the transition by using your commute time as a personal briefing. As you drive from your home to the station, begin by mentally debriefing your previous shift. What did you do well? What could have done better? What was left undone? After debriefing that shift, move to the upcoming one. Make a mental checklist of what you want to accomplish during your shift. The idea is to focus on your job well before you get to the station. Once you are work, continue with this list and by the time you roll out of the station, you will your peak performance level.

Conversely, making the transition from a working police officer to a spouse, father or even an armed civilian is, perhaps, more difficult. Use the same technique as you drive home. Don’t concentrate on what happened during the shift you just completed – that is for the drive, next time. Think about what you need to accomplish as a “regular” human being. Make a mental checklist of the things you are going to accomplish between shifts and transition off the job in the same way you transitioned onto the job.


There are no high-speed, low-drag tactics that will save your life. Police work is just to complex and mundane at the same time for you to learn and become proficient at complex field tactics. It really is the simple stuff that will save your life – your gun leg back, not standing in front of doors, contact and cover, etc.; that will keep you safe. There are, however, three dangerous situations involving firearms for which you can prepare each day.

Unfortunately, many police officers are killed with their own firearms. As you are dressing in the locker room, visualize whatever gun retention technique you were taught. Visualizing is just as powerful a training tool as actually performing the tactic. In your mind, run through gun retention three or four times. After you do that, visualize a perfect site picture. Line the front and rear sites of your handgun up in your mind. You DO NOT need to use the actual firearm. Again, visualizing the front and rear site alignment three times is just as powerful as performing the task. Lastly, depending on the firearm you carry, in your mind, run through the likely failure drills. If your handgun is prone to stovepipes, in your mind clear it three times. Repeat the entire process three times, in the order – retention, site picture, failure drill. Now, in your upcoming shift, if you face a deadly force situation, you are mentally prepared to win.

Personal Equipment

The sharper you look, the less likely someone is to physically challenge you. You want to confirm this? Talk to any ex-con. They will tell you that they are less likely to challenge a cop who looks sharp than one that looks like an “armed duffle bag.” In addition to making sure all of your equipment and every piece of your uniform looks the best, make sure it is all functional.

What’s Hot

A pre-shift briefing and the latest crime maps are minimal preparation for the street, but, it is intel that has been digested and is usually days old. You wouldn’t go into battle with 96 hour old intel when less than 4 hour old intel is available. Every department has some type of records unit. Someone makes copies of crime reports, distributes them, updates computers and so on. And, every records unit I have been in has a stack of incoming as well as just processed reports. Go in and thumb through the new stuff. Develop your own method of picking up the latest and best crime information – recently stolen cars, robbery reports, etc.

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