In my first article of 2013 I asked each officer to adopt the quote, “I will not give up my life, not even at my own hand, without one hell of a fight” as their battle cry for the year. I stole the quote from my friend Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman when I heard him use it in his Bulletproof Mind seminar.
This mantra calls on the individual officer to say those words and then take the actions required to put it into effect. As I am sure you already know, 2013 ended with the lowest number of officers killed in the line of duty since 1959 — the very year I was born.
Incredibly, the statistics indicated that we have the lowest number of firearms death since 1887. Firearms deaths have had the greater drop of the two most common causes of deaths to cops — firearms and vehicle incidents. The disturbing fact is that the leading cause of firearms death is now ambush. The good news is that we are getting better at winning gunfights, and when bad guys win, it’s because they set us up. That planning also involves their use of long guns at a higher rate than “normal” firearms deaths.
Looking Back, Looking Ahead
We saw a small decrease in the number of traffic fatalities. That statistic is the one we have the most power over. Every officer who was not wearing their seatbelt potentially died at their own hand.
The same can be said of the officers who drove so fast they lost control of their squad. They drove themselves to their own deaths.
The same can be said of every cop who was shot in an area that a vest would have and should have covered. They had a hand in their own death.
Those are the statistics, but do not forget the invisible numbers, those officers who are injured but are still alive. Their injuries range from those that will heal to those in intensive care on life support. One thing that I do not want you to forget is that those injured officers vastly outnumber the dead ones.
Do not forget that those injured officers are exponentially outnumbered by those officers who had the “Oh, shit!” or “That was a close one” or “I’m lucky to be alive” incidents, and still go home and hug someone really tight afterward.
Never forget that those moments are warnings to your behavior — warnings to not test the laws of physics, fate, your guardian angel, or your God if you have one.
Heed those warnings and show maturity and professionalism — ignore them at your own peril.
“What’s important now” as we head into 2014 is to commit yourself to keep the number of officers killed “Below 100” to do the right things by saying “Not Today” through a “Conspiracy of Safety” — this is your Valor Project.
I just named every officer safety program/initiative and mantra that I can quickly think of. The one (or more) you follow makes no difference to me. They are all good, with the common goal of keeping cops safer by serving as a reminder of the dangers of the job and the actions that can be taken to make it safer.
The Year of ‘I’
In the Chinese calendar 2014 is the Year of the Horse. I would like you to make 2014 the Year of “I” on the Cop calendar.
The “I” stands for you, the Individual officer, because ultimately it all comes down to you. Great programs, slogans, and posters don’t keep cops alive — the individual officers’ actions and choices save lives.
On the other hand, it is the individual officer’s choice(s) that all too often results in those close calls, injuries, and death.
Take control of those things that are in your control — “I control me, I control my choices” — like your seatbelt, attitude, vest, emotions, speed, health, driving, fitness, and training.
• “I” will not give up my life, not even at my own hand, without one hell of a fight.
• “I” will have a long, productive, healthy career.
• “I” will have a long, productive, healthy retirement.
• “I” choose it.
• “I” will make it happen.
“I” is my battle cry for 2014.