During Police Week families, friends, and colleagues of fallen officers will gather in their homes, their towns and cities and in Washington, D.C. to remember those who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Line of duty deaths continue to devastate spouses, children, parents, siblings, friends, and partners of those who have died in the line of duty. As we pause to reflect and take time to honor those officers and families who have made the ultimate sacrifice we must ask ourselves life’s most powerful question: “What’s Important Now?”
As I ask myself this question, the quote, “Let no man or woman’s ghost say that my training failed him” immediately comes to mind. I am not sure of the origin of this quote, but I use it in my Excellence in Training program as an emotional challenge to trainers. As we pause to honor the fallen as well as those left behind let us examine three versions of this quote.
Let no man or woman’s ghost say that my training failed him.
What’s Important Now is to debrief and dissect incidents where officers die in the line of duty. This is not to criticize the officer, but to learn from their experience and honor them by using that incident to prevent similar line of duty deaths. Use what you learn from these debriefings to examine your own training programs. What are you doing in training that could potentially get an officer killed? Is your firearms program still focused on training officers to quality rather than training them to win a gunfight? Is your driving program still focused on speed instead of decision making?
Look for gaps in your training. What are you not doing in training that could potentially get an officer killed? Are you failing to teach close quarters fighting? Are you failing to teach failure drills and transitioning between weapons systems? Are you failing to teach the use of weapons of opportunity? Are you failing to teach decision making? Are you failing to teach passenger side approaches on traffic stops?
Are you on board with programs like Below 100 that are designed to reduce line of duty deaths?
Let no man or woman’s ghost say that my courage failed him.
We often think of courage in terms of physical acts of bravery. We rarely fall short in the realm of acts of bravery. This is about moral courage and courage of character. This is about caring enough about your brother and sister law enforcement professionals and their families to have courageous conversations. Courageous conversations with that officer on your shift who never wears their body armor, always drives too fast or never wears their seat belts.
When you look at how law enforcement officers die every year courageous conversations have the potential to save numerous officers lives every year. It is these courageous conversations which will have the greatest ability to get officers to slow down, to buckle up, to wear their armor every day and to drastically reduce preventable line of duty deaths.
Let no man or woman’s ghost say that my leadership failed him.
“What’s Important Now?” is to understand leadership is never about rank, position or title. Rank may place you in a leadership position but it does not make you a leader. Leadership is about action and human interaction. Leadership is about doing what’s right even when it is not what is popular or expedient. Leadership is about having a mandatory body armor policy not simply so you can get federal funding to buy armor, but because it is the right thing to do. Leadership is about modeling the behavior you want from your officers such as wearing your body armor every day.
Leadership is about training and educating your officers. Leadership is about implementing and supporting early intervention programs to ensure officers have access to the resources they need. Leadership is about understanding training is an investment in the safety and professionalism of your officers, the safety of your citizens and the professional culture of your agency. Leadership is about holding people accountable for poor performance and for dangerous behavior.
Leadership is about taking command and control of incidents. Leadership is about making tough decisions like calling off a pursuit that has gotten too dangerous or stopping officers from rushing in and conducting an entry without adequate resources or adequate intelligence. Leadership is about calling off unnecessary cars racing to a call that is already under control. Leadership is about courageous conversations.
Weak leadership gets officers killed. Lack of leadership gets officers killed. Strong leadership saves lives.
As you take time to remember the fallen also take time to ask yourself life’s most powerful question, “What’s Important Now?” and to reflect on your training, your courage and your leadership.