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Letting Go of Law Enforcement's Ancient Thinking

Letting Go of Law Enforcement's Ancient Thinking

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“That’s the way we’ve always done it”

It’s an all too common answer to a rookie officer’s inquiries about policy, procedure, and unfortunately, even officer survival. An “artifact” is defined by Webster’s as “something in a biological specimen that is not present naturally but has been introduced or produced during a procedure,” and we have plenty of artifacts in police work that no longer do us any good. Here are a few of the ancient ways of thinking or doing things that need to be eradicated from this profession, ASAP!

“This is the Departmental Handgun.” I meet so many police officers, male and female, who are carrying a handgun that they don’t like, can’t shoot well, or doesn’t fit their hand. I also meet many frustrated firearms instructors who are trying to help their students with shooting issues but are stuck with archaic equipment limitations. My first chief believed that everyone should carry the same handgun so that we could exchange magazines if necessary in a firefight. That seemed practical until the department started hiring officers with smaller hands who could barely access the trigger. It took a new chief and significant policy change to implement a “list” of authorized handguns, including models of varying sizes and calibers. The department made available (at no cost to the officer) one of several pistols, and if we wanted to carry something else, as long as it was on the list and we paid for it ourselves, we could carry it. Eventually, “the list” included patrol rifles and backup handguns; we could even carry personal shotguns, as long as they were within policy. We are often being outgunned on the street, so having ready access to multiple firearms that we’re comfortable with is a real plus for officer survival.

“I Don’t Need My Vest.” Even as we seem to be seeing an increase in officer involved shootings, so many police officers are still not wearing soft body armor. I hear everything from “it’s too hot” to “it’s uncomfortable” to the absurdly illogical “it’s in my trunk if I need it.” Your body armor should be as essential as your handgun, and you should don it each and every time you’re on the street, in uniform or readily identifiable as a cop. Make sure you wear it to court, when you’re working the front desk (lets remember what recently happened in Detroit), and even when you’re giving that Cub Scout presentation to your son’s Scout group. Active shooters, officer ambush, and a convenience store robbery are just a few of the unexpected events we need to always be ready for when we’re wearing a gun and a badge.

“Why Should I Slow Down?” Hey, it’s fun to drive fast, I get that. And as “first responders” we’re supposed to get there quickly, but as the old saying goes, if you don’t make it to the call you’re not helping anyone. Slow down, drive the speed limit or below when you’re on “routine patrol” and when you’re dispatched to that hot call, engage in some tactical breathing exercises and slow yourself down. As police driving expert Captain Travis Yates often admonishes, intersections can be especially deadly. Never assume that other drivers, even other cops responding to the same call, are paying any attention to you, your overhead lights, or your siren; in fact, assume that they are not. And if you (or one of your officers if you’re the supervisor calling the shots) become involved in a high speed pursuit, ask yourself if the driver has committed a crime worth someone, maybe you, dying for.

“Seat Belts Aren’t Tactical.” This is probably the most difficult artifact in the police culture to get rid of. The guy or gal who hits the gym daily, spends extra time at the range, and has outstanding officer safety skills on the street often still believes that seatbelts somehow do more harm than good. I hear excuses like “it gets tangled up in my gear” or “I always need to be ready to get out fast” or even the ridiculous “I don’t want it to pin me in the car if I have an accident.” Seriously?! Go to the Officer Down Memorial Page and read about our many fallen heroes who died in otherwise survivable car crashes because they were ejected from the vehicle. And if you think your seat belt if going to keep you from exiting your vehicle quickly and tactically, then go to the local dealership, get a seat belt extender and practice getting out of the car quickly and safely. While you’re at it, practice drawing your pistol from a seated position inside the vehicle as well, this is a skill many of us don’t spend enough time on. Its not a cliché, seatbelts really do save lives.

“It’s the Department’s Job…” To train me, to make me happy, to provide me with everything I need, and to make my career a satisfying one. Time to grow up, gang. As Dave “JD Buck Savage” Smith has been teaching for 25 year in his signature course “The Winning Mind,” you need to enter into an adult relationship with your agency. You and the police department have a social contract, they pay you, and you work. They may provide you with some training and some equipment, depending on where you work, but it may be up to you to acquire all of the gear you really need to be safe and effective, and you may have to seek out (and pay for!) the training you’re really going to need to stay both safe and sane. As Dave says, “love your job, love your brothers and sisters in this profession, love your God, your family, your country, and your dog, but don’t love the agency, because it’s not the agency’s job to love you back.”

“My Personal Life is My Own Business.” Even off duty, cops are held to a higher standard. This may not seem fair, but how can you arrest a drunk driver on Saturday night when you drove home from the local pub on Friday night after one too many beers past the legal limit? Society, the agency, even our family and friends, expect a certain level of decorum from us. Don’t post stupid stuff on your social networking page, don’t drive like an idiot and expect endless professional courtesy from your local PD, don’t be “badge-heavy,” and remember, if you want to be treated like a professional, act like one.

I challenge all of you to come up with your own bad habits, your own negative or outdated thoughts, your own “artifacts,” and let them go so that you become a better, safer crimefighter, on and off duty.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 4 years ago


    31 years on the job and I am not to old to wear a vest or a seat belt. I have been wearing the belt for years. I got tired of trying to old onto the steering wheel and a mike while I was trying to stay in the seat during a pursuit. I started wearing a vest as soon as I got out of the academy. You wear the uniform, you become a target.

  • Fto_davidson_photo_max50


    over 4 years ago


    My agency is stuck on the everyone must carry the same gun mode. Actually, we recently went from a 15 shot 92, to a 13 shot sig! Nothing like taking more rounds from the cops to make it harder to walk away from a gun battle. The vest thing is a hard one especially with some that have been on the job for a really long time. Remeber, if you die or are crittically wounded, then I can't come home to my boys & be the father they need me to be. Alive! Stay safe, wear your vest & buckle up!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    Police aren’t just authority figures, we are expected to be moral exemplars, and be so 24/7. It is a lot to ask.
    Mistakes can be forgiven but there is also a price to be paid. And if the mistake reflects not only on yourself but on your profession or organization as well, if it undermines your moral authority or credibility or if it brings into question your ability to conduct yourself professionally and responsibly, then the consequences might be the end of a career.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    Letting Go of Law Enforcement's Ancient Thinking:
    Very interesting Post as I study trying to become a CSI Team Player.
    It is enough said there for a individual to think about how there life is going and how they can change it for the better.

  • Profile1_max50


    over 4 years ago


    As far as not acting like an asshat while off-duty, seems to me one would know that would be expected before they signed up.
    Being allowed to carry a firearm full-time dictates not walking about sloshing drunk with it for example.
    A position of power and influence naturally dictates a higher standard - society does not appreciate a do what I say not what I do attitude.

    I do feel society is all too often too hard on Officers when they make one small mistake. Let's not forget the human component.

  • Profile1_max50


    over 4 years ago


    It seems to me common sense each officer should be custom fitted for a handgun that they can be most comfortable with.

    This not only benefits the LEO but also the perp. Someone comfortable with their weapon is less likely to fire it 'unnecessarily'. Firing a weapon to defend oneself or others should come so naturally the LEOs brain need not waste cycles regarding the actual use of the handgun. Those brain cycles are used to properly access the situation and the force needed to control it.

    An an LEO who is comfortable with thier firearm can safely allow an unstable perp to approach x amount of feet more in response to a freeze command. Even 3 feet can mean the difference between life and death for the suspect.

    Everyone loses when a perp is killed, for starters no matter how justified the incident will take an emotional toll on the officer and the community loses a protector while that LEO is on admin leave.

    An LEO who does not trust their own firearm skill or firearm itself will be more likely to panic - Psych 101.

  • Jpd_new_max50


    over 4 years ago


    As LEOs of the past, present and future we all must adapt to the changes that occur in our profession. Things change for the better and for the worse sometimes. Like some have said, if you resist change you will make the rest of your career miserable.

    Uniforms. Ball cap or garrison cap, metal star/shield or sewn on, outside vest covers, gym shoe style boots and so on. Class A's look better, but newer style uniforms were created by LEOs who found flaws wearing the class A's.

    Weapons. My PD issues the same pistol (Glock 17) to everyone. The reason being was liability and financial issues. Having the same pistol standardizes firearm training. Department armorers can also inspect weapons easier because no outside modifications can be made. You know some Officers love to "trick" out their pistols which could give a lawyer a reason to draw some kind of problem to a civil liablity case. My PD also will store the firearm, when used in a shooting, in evidence until the date the statute of limitations of an lawsuit expires. Another Dept. pistol is issued to the Officer after the shooting. Holsters, ammo and other equipment can be bought in bulk at discounted cost. As for sharing magazines during shootouts??? I would favor the idea of using another Officers pistol if they went down and my pistol failed. Knowing how to shoot the same pistol would be a lot easier. I think we all can agree Colt 1911s, S&Ws, Sigs, and Glocks all function differently.

    Seat belts have saved more lives than have taken.

    As for being held to a "higher standard"..... I describe it like being a member the clergy, or a teacher, or a celebrity, or sports star. A lot of people, especially kids, look up to you to do the right thing (AKA roll model).

    I could go on and on. Betsy is right on a lot of things. Stay safe!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    I think the uniform makes the man (or woman). I always wore a sharp, dry cleaned and pressed uniform with a cowboy style hat. I think if a Police Officer looks sharp, he will be treated with respect. As far as my personal life, I tried to conduct myself in an exemplary fashion because I was PROUD to be a Police Officer and I tried to set an example to my family and my community. I started in 1980 and back then, we didn't have cops fired or arrested. That was unheard of. Now cops are getting jammed up all the time. Also, it appears as if a war on cops is taking place out there, the number of officers being killed is staggering, and frightening. We should be respected for doing the quintessential thankless job.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    Everyone says that we are held to a "higher standard". Well, what IS this standard? "That's the way it has always been..."

  • Different_mourning_badge_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I think this article doesn't even touch on where we should be going. For example, our booking process for most jurisdictions is antequated and a total waste of time. Secondly, I think we can do more with GPS as far as setting perimeters and allocating resources. Plus, we could use geo-fencing technology along with GPS to alert officers when they are in a high BFMV area, Robbery area, near a wanted parolee's residence or if a pursuit is coming their direction from another jurisdiction. We are so far behind! I was just looking at my cell phone and compared it to my in-car computer. I could do 1000 things on my phone that would help me much more than my in-car computer can and why? Because of the, "That's the way we have always doine it" attitude.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    Man, what a hornet's nest.

    Uniforms. Need to be changed to something that is; 1. functional; 2. breaths. A local PD went to a more functional uniform a couple years back and it makes sense.

    Leave the class A's for events like funerals, promotions, court testimony. I am issued a uniform made out of polyester, which does not breath and has the tendency to melt if exposed to flame or a hot object, like an MC exhaust pipe (I know, because I have a scar from melting fabric on my right leg), the darn thing shold have a warning lable inside. I would perfer a wool blend, which breaths and is washable. BUT it all comes down to $, the big dinero.

    Hats are another thing. It all depends on where you live East or West of the Mississippi, west coast or east coast. I retired once (agency from NE Ohio) and if we were caught without our hat on outside of our patrol vehicle, it was paper time. I am now with a PD of a Midwest metro area, and our hats are the Air Force style, RARELY do any of the officers were them or any cover when it is not raining.

    Firearms-one word is COST and try getting ammo (.223 or 9mm) with companies pushing government contracts. Bring back my Model 19 with 158 gr. Federal SN or WW Silver tips. I guess we can always buy Korean or ChiCom ammo, that is available.

    Vests? Laughable. My first vest was a Second Chance which I bought when I entered law enforcement back in the early 70's (Yeah, I guess I am one of those dinosaurs). I think it cost 50 bucks and the weave looked like burlap. My current agency gave me a vest from the supply room which was purchased for and worn by a previous officer, it looked like it fit. Upgrade? Again COST.

    When it comes down to it, I would be happy with a pair of jeans, uniform shirt, a model 10 or 19 in the holster, and in a good pair of hiking boots. But then again, I am one of those dinosaurs.

  • New_picture__1__max50


    over 4 years ago


    These are the same type of changes being talked about when I started in 1965. The day did not go by that I did not here "Thats the way it always been done". This is nothing new but they have changed. Sometime hard sometimes eazy.
    We are para-military and need to be identified as such. I did not like a uniform but it is needed. Thats why we have marked units. Law Enforcement is the only branch of government that is seen by everyone every day. The way we look and what we do is always judged. We take the hits for every mistake the government makes
    We have issues and this is a good place to exchange information. You don't have to agree but you should stay involved an express your ideas.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    My department has that PD issued firearm (Glock 21SF) rule, although I shoot it fine, I shoot my 1911's more accurately! In our policy it says we have to carry the issued firearm as our primary weapon, but we can carry our choice as a back up. I never leave home without my back up 1911! My point being sometimes we have to manipulate the system to work for us.

  • Air_show-201_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I agree, to a point, with the article, but many things are left out. The "That's the way we've always done it" could either be the Mission Statement, Department Motto, or Department Policy for my department. I see the uniforms we wear, watch a re-run of Adam-12 and think, "Goodness, we wearing the same uniform they did forty years ago! We had been switching over to the outer vest carriers, but a recently acquired, and newly promoted Capt. remarked to our Chief that he didn't like them and the vests were ordered to go. We have M-16 rifles, and are qualified on them, but where are they? Locked up in the gun locker in the Chief's office. Why? Well, "We've never needed them"...Uh-huh. Reserve officers, whom we depend on for shift coverage...Most will only work Mon-Fri- 8-5, not exactly the shifts we need them. Why? Because it's always been this way! Not only officers, but administrators need to realize it's not the 70's or 80's anymore.

  • Christmas_2010_038_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Excellent artical with many valid points. Aside from policy change which is required to update uniforms and equipment, the auto industry needs to get on board and develop something propietary for law enforcement. Seatbelts are an issue and can be corrected. For now, through training, in the future by design. Do you think that our military would feel safe flying a P-51 over Lybia, why should we feel safe using equipment and tactics that our Grandfathers used.

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