5 ways to ensure your safety as a police warrior
Think warriors don’t place a premium on safety? Tell that to a fighter pilot
You’ll never hear a fighter pilot argue against putting a premium on safety measures on a combat mission. Those fliers are about as aggressive a group of warriors as you might meet, but safety is wired into them as much as their lethality in battle.
Yet law enforcement officers — and I’m just as guilty as anyone — uniquely ignore basic safety principles. We do it daily. The argument — specifically to my most recent column but more broadly in common conversation among cops — is that talking about safety first is effectively “neutering our best warriors and demotivating them.”
Tell that to a fighter pilot. Yes, there are myriad differences between the fighter pilots and police officers, but no one can argue that both are not warriors. I contend that you can be both safe, and be a warrior. The good news is that no matter where you are in your organization — from patrol to brass — it’s never too late to begin. Here are five ways to get you started.
1.) Emphasize Driver Training
We would never give an officer a new or different gun without training, and statistically most of us will never shoot that gun in the line of duty.
We drive a car every day and rarely train in the dynamics of that car.
The newest squad cars are as different from any late-model-fill-in-the-blank cruiser as semi-automatic pistols are from revolvers. But because “it’s just a car” we just don’t treat the differences as being serious.
We must place an emphasis on training with the car we operate, just as we train with sidearm, cuffs, and every other tool we use on the job.
2.) Conduct Blended Training
We’ve thought for years that a blended training — combining skills and decision making — was the most effective. Thanks to California POST we now have research to prove it.
Training that does nothing but build skills will certainly do that but we have to integrate an equally important component: the brain.
No one reads a death notification and says to themselves, “If only the officer knew how to brake a little better.”
It’s not our hands and feet that gets us in trouble but what is between our ears. We must train and we must focus on both skills and decision-making.
3.) Learn the Physiological Effects of Stress
We have to know what to expect. Emergency response runs — or even the stress of a call you are going to — can cause tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, and a host of other issues.
We can mitigate the effects by doing our combat (autogenic) breathing but ultimately we must know the effects so we can expect them and deal with them.
4.) Study Emotional Survival
Poor health, corruption, and marital issues are a direct consequence of the failure of our profession to prepare our heroes behind the badge for life as cops.
Read Dr. Kevin Gilmartin's excellent book called Emotional Survival and take steps today to survive. This training is important in the basic academy but it is a must throughout our careers.
How about if every agency leader reading this decides to give all of their current officers a day of training a year on this subject? Everything from financial classes to family relation classes will help those behind the badge. Think that might make a difference? I do.
5.) Remember Your Family
That may be so, but what if tomorrow you aren’t? What if tomorrow your kids don’t have a dad or your husband doesn’t have a wife anymore?
While it’s true you could spend an entire career ignoring these basic safety principles and be fine, it is also true that many have not been fine. We are a profession that has many lessons taught to us in blood.
For the sake of our family and to honor those before us, please consider learning those lessons.
Many in our profession do all they can to be safe and they do not compromise what we are called to do — they are warriors.
If we pull up to a school and hear gun shots, we run in to stop the violence, giving very little thought to what could happen to us. No one will — or should question that — but if we run 90 mph to a call without wearing a seatbelt, we all should question that.
I submit that if we are going to put our lives at risk then it needs to be worth something. Unfortunately, we all too often ignore some basic principles that can help us be safer.
Pleases consider these tips that I believe can make you safer today. Please consider coming up with those that may directly apply to your agency. Post them around and discuss them.
Let us be as safe as possible so when we are called to be that warrior, we will be here and ready.
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