The year 2011 has already been a tough one for law enforcement fatalities — after a horrible 2010 I had hoped we would have some respite. We still may, but as I drove back from giving a talk at a leadership conference in Wisconsin I had an inspiration that may help us all be safer the rest of this year and beyond.
Safety is Everybody’s Responsibility
I had just pulled into a rest stop and quickly read my phone texts before going in. One of the first had been a text advising me of the tragedy in Miami. “Two officers killed!” This was a wet blanket on my fiery enthusiasm following my talk and as I walked into the building I saw a small sign that read: Safety is Everybody’s Responsibility. In my head, I cynically remembered an old saying that is a response to the sign: “if it’s everybody’s responsibility then it’s nobody’s responsibility!” The word “everybody” seems to unconsciously relieve us of any responsibility and the simple truth is that only you are responsible for your safety. Period!
That thought hit me like a brick, and I made the decision right there to propose that you and I start a conspiracy, a conspiracy of safety in the truest sense of the word. We tend to think of ‘conspiring’ as plotting an act of evil in secret, and that is one of the meanings of the word. But the root of the word “conspire” means literally “to breathe together.”
Just you and me, breathing safety together — you taking care of you, me taking care of me. We will do this day-to-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute, consciously thinking of the risks we face and overcoming them one at time, each time they appear.
Perhaps as much as any profession we know death and injury stalk us in multitudes of forms, many springing at us unexpectedly and with terrible malice and while we cannot keep that from happening many times, we can harden the target... and that’s us!
We Have a Lot of Work Ahead
For decades from the stage of the Street Survival Seminar we have hammered home the idea of “When/Then” thinking and staying in “Condition Yellow.”
Your feedback over the years has been remarkable — the next step is joining us at PoliceOne in this new conspiracy. Breathe safety together with us.
We will continue to post articles, news, and videos to help you as our part of the conspiracy. You will actively think when you read or watch these posts, “What would I do?” mentally rehearsing YOU resolving this or that crisis successfully. On the street, think to yourself, “Not today, not on this shift, not on this call, not on this stop — I will not be caught unaware!”
All of us conspirators have a lot of work to do this year. We have to keep researching and interviewing and training and writing and you need to keep researching and learning and growing and training and at the same time dealing with the deadly detraining effect of “routine” on your mindset. When you make a traffic stop and everyone involved are “yes-people” and smiley faces, before you make your next stop, visualize the last stop, and mentally rehearse overcoming a variety of threats from subjects or vehicles that might have occurred on that stop.
Remember: always see yourself win or you are just worrying, which is negative visualization. Negative visualization is practicing to lose!
On every building search, field interview, alarm call, domestic, accident with injuries on a busy roadway, whatever you’re doing, you must think, “Not today, not now, I will not be caught unawares!”
Remember, this is a conspiracy — we are going to breathe this together, plan together, bring in others, and let it grow. You get a hot call and it’s icy, and you think, “Not today! I will drive within my capability, it’s a risk right now, right this second and I will overcome it!” That is your responsibility, your obligation in this conspiracy and when you get there another risk will arise and another and another, and each one you will greet with the thought, “Not today!”
One way to grow this conspiracy is to take a sticky note and put on your dash with the simple words, “Not today!”
When others inquire, simply tell them, “Injury and death haunts our profession, and I have decided that they cannot have me today!”
By making our personal safety an immediate issue it is no longer some abstract, some statistic, or some trite saying; it is a manageable concrete situation we can pay attention to right now!
How fast you drive, whether you wear your seat belt and body armor, maintain your equipment and skills, and keep you mind in the game is up to you, it really is your and only your responsibility. Making it a minute-to-minute thought gives it force and weight. Put all your keepers on? You bet! I will need my equipment to be stable if I am fighting for my life. Treat this stupid building alarm like the real thing even though I’m sure it this crazy windstorm that triggered it? Yep, your choice, your decision, your immediate situation and as you set up on the building and prepare for the search think, “Not today, I am ready.”
You see, your part in this conspiracy is tough, requires lots of effort, lots of awareness, constant thought, but if you do your part the likelihood we will be coconspirators at the start of next year is very very good! Grow the conspiracy.