03/06/2013

Andrew HawkesHighway Drug Interdiction
with Andrew Hawkes

5 ways to keep your mind sharp

Our job is often tougher mentally than it is physically, so here’s a way to use a pre-tour patrol checklist to increase your mental preparedness

Whether you are dragging your rear or are bouncing off the walls, each day you enter the locker room to prepare for your tour of duty you must come prepared.

1.) Vest: Check.

2.) Duty weapon: Check.

3.) Flashlight: Check.

You’ve got a long list to “check” off the list. But don’t forget to check the most important tool you have: your head.

First of all, it’s got to be in the right place. It can’t be wandering around the golf course, thinking of that late car payment, new girlfriend, or any other bad or good thing going on in your life outside of work.

Your head has got to be screwed on tight, and fully focused on the next 8-12 hours of being a cop.

It’s now “go time.” It’s time to buck up, cowboy, because you’ve got to ride that steer named patrol.

Mentally Prepare
On spring and summer Sundays, NASCAR drivers visualize what they’d learned about the track during trials and practice runs, and they see themselves crossing the line beneath the checkered flag.

An NFL player focused on getting that one big hit or breakaway run on Sundays in the fall and through the winter mentally prepares all week before that game. If they don’t, their opponent may hit them so hard they will end up flat on their backs gasping for air.

We have to do the same — only we have to do it for 40 hours a week, day in and day out, because our (or someone else’s) life may depend on it. Our opponents are looking for the win, too, and we have to be focused on both our offense and defense because our opponent could take us out... permanently.

Switched On
When you get off duty, you can get back to the other things going on in your life. But not being focused mentally while on the job could be costly to you. Sometimes we have micro-seconds — not seconds — to make a decision. Any hesitation, no matter how slight, could be the difference in going home at the end of your shift.

If you’re having a tough day before you get to work, ask you partner or closest buddy on your beat to check on you every now and then, even if it’s just meeting you for a cup of Joe and giving you a mental slap in the face to keep you focused and alert.

Mental prep takes work off duty as well. Exercising, eating well, and having hobbies, friends and activities in your life that are not law enforcement related all contribute to your mental well-being when you are in uniform.

These five things will help you with your mental fitness:

1.) Exercises — You don’t have to be a workout guru for hours a day, but a good 30 minutes of getting your heart rate up will keep your cardio fitness level up, which in turn boosts your mental fitness.

2.) Sleep — Being tired not only fatigues your body but it clouds your judgment and reaction time, so get plenty of sleep and in a consistent pattern.

3.) Eat right — You’ve got to eat more than just hamburgers and pizza. Eat your fruits and vegetables!

4.) Non-LE hobbies — If you don’t have any, you need to get some.

5.) Reading and writing — It keeps your mind sharp, keeps you informed, and keeps your writing and spelling skills up to par.

When we are mentally prepared each day, not only are we the best asset to ourselves and to the citizens we serve, but also to our fellow co-workers and to our agency.

Let’s face it, when you are ready mentally each day, our job is fun. Heck, we have the best job in the world!

About the author

Lt. Hawkes is a 23-year police veteran. In addition to his years of highway drug interdiction, Lt. Hawkes has worked in patrol, K9, investigations, narcotics, and administration. He holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Dallas Baptist University and is a graduate of the Law Enforcement Management Institute of Texas. He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Justice Leadership and Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas.  He has been the recipient of both State and Local awards, including the Medal of Valor. His book, Secrets of Successful Highway Interdiction, which can be purchased here, contains eleven chapters on Highway Drug Interdiction.

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