How Serious Are You About Your Officer Survival…Really?
Are you serious about your officer safety and survival? No really, are you? We all read the officer killed summaries, lament the tragic circumstances, vow “that will never happen to me” and then within a week or two we often go right back to work and engage in the same habits and tactics that have always allowed us to “get by.”
As we continue ahead into a year of increasing violence against law enforcers and general uncertainty in our society, please take more than a few minutes to examine your own work habits, attitude and mindset, and ask your self a few tough questions.
How Are my Driving Habits?
I used to love to drive fast; it was one of my favorite things about being a cop. It wasn’t until fairly late in my career that I realized how terribly dangerous and utterly unnecessary excessive speed can be, and yet we continue to die (or become gravely injured) in preventable traffic crashes.
I just received an email from an investigator friend of mine who asked “If we all slowed down by 10 mph and we all wore our seatbelts, how many lives could we save?” She raises a good point. How fast do you drive? Do you mistakenly think that the rest of the motoring public pays any attention to your marked car, your overheads and your siren? Do you wear your seatbelt or are you depending on the airbag and a bit of luck to save you in a crash?
The next time you plop yourself into the driver’s seat of your patrol car, the transport van, or your unmarked unit, tilt that rearview mirror toward you, look yourself right in the eye, and ask “Are there things I can do to make myself a better, safer driver?” The answer is undoubtedly going to be “yes there is!” Do them.
Have I Become Complacent?
There’s always lots of talk about “routine” in officer survival training; how bad it is, how dangerous. And yet cops are such creatures of habit; our lives are often so chaotic that certain routines actually comfort and calm us. This isn’t all bad.
I used to put my gunbelt on in the exact same manner every morning, making sure to check every tool in the same order; this ritual helped me transition from off duty to on. Ordering the exact same coffee and bagel every morning isn’t a bad thing either; but doing so at the same time and at the same place most defiantly is.
Making sure you shake every door and check every roof in your permanent nightshift patrol beat is a good thing, but you have to change up the time and order of your checks in order to be effective. In other words, you must always be “unpredictable” to the public and to the bad guys.
What About My Equipment?
When was the last time you conducted a full inspection of your gear; ALL of your gear. Not just your firearm, but your belt, your keepers, your knife, your handcuffs, all of it. Does anything look worn? Does it all fit properly? Are your ‘cuff hinges fast, is your knife blade sharp, are your extra magazines in good shape? Do you carry a back up gun? How about a tactical knife (one made to defend your life, not just to cut seatbelts and jimmy doors)? What about my body armor?
Do I wear it; ALL the time, EVERY time? Do I wear it properly, does it fit, have you checked the expiration date? (yes, body armor expires!) Without proper care, holsters can fail, belt keepers can break, and you could be decreasing your chances of winning a confrontation.
Do I Monitor My Health & Fitness?
We lose cops to heart attacks with some frequency (99.9 % of them are male by the way), but not all are fitness or age related. Additionally, some officers die because they aren’t fit enough to stay in a physical confrontation long enough to win or they don’t have enough stamina at the end of a foot pursuit to finish the fight.
Your body is one of your most important “tools” and you need to take care of it. Being “healthy” isn’t just about how far you can run or how much you can bench press, it also means being aware of your family medical history and making time for regular physicals. I know a number of police officers who discovered they had cancer, diabetes, or blocked arteries as a result of the department’s annual physical. Don’t avoid the doctor, watch your weight, learn about nutrition and hydration, and listen to your body!
How is My Attitude and Mindset?
It’s easy to get down in this job; we deal with the worst of society on the street or in the jail, and in the station we usually have to function within a life-sucking bureaucracy that is a necessary evil of government work.
Check your attitude. Do you let everything get to you? Are you easily frustrated, frequently angry? Pick up a copy of David Pollay’s new book The Law of the Garbage Truck. Learn to let things go and move on, learn to forgive others and especially to forgive yourself. Anger, frustration and what the kids call “drama” can be detrimental to your officer survival.
If you are distracted by a fight with your spouse, a negative comment by your sergeant, or your own poor performance during yesterday’s qualifications, you won’t be 100% ready to win when the unexpected occurs. Fix what needs to be fixed, get your game on, and make sure your mindset is where it needs to be. You must see yourself as a “winner” every time you hit the street.
There is no denying the “war on cops,” we’re getting shot at, run over, stabbed, and assaulted every single day, so you must commit to doing everything you can to increase your own chances of survival, and by doing so, you’ll be a role model to your brothers and sisters in blue, which will increase their chances of winning as well. Stay safe!