3 keys to improve your safety and success

You are responsible for your own officer safety as well as your own career satisfaction


I’m disappointed — but not surprised — to report that at least 25 percent of the women officers in my “Winning Mind for Women” class report that they are carrying handguns that don’t fit them.

In addition, female officers — and their male counterparts! — are still being injured and killed in vehicle incidents in which a seatbelt or a slower speed may have kept them safe.

And too many officers are filling their heads with negativity, which stifles their growth and endangers their lives.

Here are three keys to improve your career and enhance your officer safety.

Best of all, you can start doing each of these things right now!

1.) Make Sure Your Tools Fit You
Carrying a firearm that doesn’t fit you not only affects your scores on the range, but more importantly your confidence in your own ability to win a gunfight. 

The fix is seems to be an easy one (carry a firearm that fits!), but most women and many of their smaller male colleagues are working in agencies which have a “one-size-fits-all” policy when it comes to firearms. 

If the department won’t buy you a pistol that fits, ask permission to purchase your own. If that’s not an option, start documenting why you need a different handgun and provide several options for the agency to consider. 

Document — in writing, with photos, and in person if possible — how an ill-fitting pistol affects your ability to shoot. 

But remember to keep your demeanor positive and keep all emotion out of it. This is what Dave Smith calls “The Power of Positive Annoyance.” 

Don’t give up, be persistent, and carry a back up gun (which you should be doing anyway).

Also, make sure your shotgun and your patrol rifle (if you have them) fit as well. Youth stocks or collapsible stocks make long guns easier to handle for smaller people.

2.) Assess Your Driving
Driving and related activities are perishable skills which need to be practiced. Regularly assess your habits — good and bad — behind the wheel. 

Do you tend to drive too fast? Do you spend too much time with your head down, looking at your computer screen, your ticket printer, or your smartphone? 

Do you wear your seat belt each and every time you operate a vehicle, and do you practice taking it on and off? 

So many officers still claim that “seat belts aren’t tactical.”  If you’re having difficulty getting out of your seat belt, you need to properly configure your gear, get a hard practice seat belt extender and practice. 

There is never a reason for a cop to get hurt or killed because they refused to buckle up, on or off duty.

Slow down, wear your seat belt, and stay focused. 

3.) Look in the Mirror
What do you see on the outside? Does your uniform or your suit (or whatever you wear on duty) fit you properly? Do you look like a professional? Are you as comfortable as possible? Do you have good boots or shoes?

Does your body armor fit well and provide good coverage? 

After you assess the outside, take a look at the inside. What’s going on behind your eyes? 

Does your “self talk” help you or hurt you?

You should be your own best coach and motivator —don’t fill your head with negativity. If you make a mistake (who doesn’t?) fix it, learn from, and move on, but don’t shirk your responsibilities.

You are responsible for your own officer safety as well as your own career satisfaction.

Embrace “personal responsibility” in everything you do. 

Whatever your assignment is, law enforcement is an incredible challenge and a wonderful adventure, so make the most of it!

About the author

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy's website at www.femaleforces.com.

Contact Betsy Smith and Follow Betsy on Twitter

  1. Tags
  2. Officer Safety
  3. Women Officers
  4. Police Jobs and Careers
  5. Off Duty
  6. Patrol Issues
  7. Vehicle Incidents and Issues

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