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May 15, 2014
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Betsy Brantner Smith Survival Insights
with Betsy Brantner Smith

8 'Mom-isms' that can make you a better cop

If you get hurt at work and have to go to the ER, do you really want the trauma nurses gossiping over their morning coffee about your tattered underwear?

In May we celebrate Mother’s Day and we honor the women in our lives who have nurtured us, influenced us and yes, told us what do.

I’m probably not the first person to tell you that your mom was right about most things, but did you know that much of what she told you can make you a better cop?

Check these out, and then call your mom and thank her.

1.) “Eat Your Vegetables, They’re Good for You.”

Mom was right about this. According to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, we don’t eat nearly enough fruits or vegetables. I’m guessing this is especially true for most cops. Eating healthy is time consuming; it’s so much easier to grab a burger and fries at the drive-through or order a pizza. However, if you live on takeout, fast food or a strictly “meat and potatoes” diet, you’ll be missing out on key nutrients that you need, including potassium, fiber, folic acid and vitamins A, E and C.  

Basics like lettuce, carrot and cucumbers are a good start, and options like broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, kale, and garlic provide additional benefits, making them “superfoods.” Don’t use your busy schedule or crazy hours as an excuse to eat poorly.

Prepare fruits and vegetables ahead of time, purchase them pre-packaged, or find a healthy juice bar or smoothie place in your beat. At the very least bring an apple, a banana and some baby carrots with you every day to work.

A few simple changes to your diet can impact your health in a big way!

2.) “Don’t Stay Up Too Late.”
In his book “Eat Sleep Move” author Tom Rath talks about the toll that fatigue takes on our bodies, our minds and our overall physical health. Most people don’t get enough sleep, but in addition to the rigors and stressors of daily adult life, police officers have to factor in night shift, call-ins, and long days in court.

No wonder we are a profession of tired cops. Lack of sleep isn’t just an officer safety issue, it’s also a serious health concern. Fatigue can put you at risk for major medical problems like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Work hard to make sure you get enough sleep. Among other advantages, a regular rest will boost your immunity and sharpen your awareness.

And by the way, a good night’s sleep can increase your sex drive. I bet your mom didn’t tell you THAT!

3.) “Are You Going Out Dressed Like That?!”
Mom was right, how you look is important. Take a look in the locker room mirror before you hit the streets. Creased pants, shiny shoes, and a polished duty belt aren’t just an “appearance” issue, they are an officer safety concern. Remember, the first level in your use of force continuum is “officer presence.”

You coming on scene with a professional bearing and a squared-away look can often be enough to stop a situation from escalating.

4.) “As Long as You Live Under My Roof, You’ll Live By My Rules”
Most of us at one time or another look at our agencies and think “if I was in charge, I’d sure do things differently around here!” That may be true, but just like when you were living in your parents’ house, you are obligated to follow the rules imposed on you by your agency.

Not a single one of us was drafted into law enforcement, we are all here (presumably) because we want to be. If you want things to change, then work toward becoming the chief, the sheriff or the director; but in the meantime, it’s their “house,” not yours.

On the bright side, remember you’re the one who gets to say to people:  “Hey, I don’t make the laws, I just enforce them.”

5.) “Wear Clean Underwear in Case You Get Into an Accident”
Seriously, if you get hurt at work and have to go to the ER, do you really want the trauma nurses gossiping over their morning coffee about your tattered underwear? Listen to what your mother told you. Enough said.

6.) “I’m Doing This for Your Own Good”
I remember the first time I was righteously disciplined by my agency. I was stunned! However, the captain who administered my punishment did me an incredible favor. He took the time to explain that he cared enough about me and my career to make sure I never made the same mistake again. He also added the ever popular mom phrase, “Someday you’ll thank me for this.”

He was right — there came a day that I was very grateful for the lesson I learned. True discipline is supposed to change behavior, not just punish. Remember that next time you’re on the giving or the receiving end of departmental discipline.

7.) “Life Isn’t Fair”
My mom’s mantra to me as a kid was “nobody ever said life was going to be fair.”

It was a good lesson that served me well in law enforcement as well as in life. Your agency is a bureaucracy; that’s how we get things done in government. But as in any bureaucratic organization, we can’t control the politics, the promotions, or how people view us. So not fair! However, we can control our own work product, our ethics, our outlook, and how we react to what happens to us. Some battles are worth fighting, others are not.

Instead of saying “that’s not fair,” take a good look at what you can effect and what you need to let go of. After all, life is also far too short.

8.) “If You Can’t Say Anything Nice, Don’t Say Anything At All”
In our “Winning Mind for Women” classes we often discuss how hard women can be on each other. In a recent workplace study, 40 percent of the women surveyed reported that they’d been bullied by other women in the workplace.

This is not acceptable by fellow woman warriors! We need to support each other, not sabotage one another. This is the “golden rule” of mom-isms, and she was right. If you can’t come up with something positive to say about your sister in blue, then keep it to yourself.

Before you gossip about or criticize another female, stop and think about all the terrific women who have influenced you positively over the years. Honor their legacy and do the same for someone else.


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





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