Police Week: What's important now?

Honor the fallen by investing in your training, your preparation, and your wellness

Police Week is a time when we pause to think about and honor the fallen officers and their families. Every year, there are more names added to the wall of the one memorial in Washington that will never be finished. We hear the sound of the piper playing “Amazing Grace,” we watch the images of the shattered lives of the spouses and children of the fallen officers. We shudder thinking, “It could have been me.” And we shed a tear.

We need to grieve the loss of our brother and sister officers, but grieving is not enough. If we mourn and remember for the week, then get on with our lives and nothing changes, we have done a grave disservice to the fallen.

When we ask life’s most powerful question — “What’s important now?” — the answer is twofold: honor and invest. We must honor the past and invest in the future.

Honor the Past
The best way to honor the fallen is to learn from them. Learn how they lived and how they died. Learn from their experiences and learn from their deaths. The first step to learning is to examine the situations in which they died. Some were murdered, some were struck by vehicles, others died in crashes, and some died of heart attacks.

You need to break down the circumstances, the information they knew, their tactics, the tactics of the offender – if there was one – and the decisions made by all parties.

This examination does not involve the greatest lie in law enforcement, which always starts with the same seven words – “If I was there I would have…” It involves a question: “When I find myself in that situation, or a similar situation, what would I most like to do?” This simple question stops you from pointing the finger of blame at the fallen officer and points the finger of responsibility directly at you.

What are you doing to ensure you will have a more desirable outcome? What are you doing to invest in your safety and well-being? What are you doing to train on your own?

Invest in the Future
You need to invest in your future and the future of the profession. How? Train, read, learn, apply what you learn, train more, learn more, share what you learned and accept the mantle of responsibility.

Every law enforcement officer in America is in a position to lead. The question to you is do you choose to do so? Leadership is never about rank, position or title. Rank puts you into a leadership position – it does not make you a leader.

Investing in the future means that you accept responsibility for your training, your fitness and your skills.

Abdicating the responsibility for training to your agency and only training when “it is on the company time and the company dime” means abdicating the responsibility for your safety and well-being, as well as the safety and well-being of your fellow officers and the public you have sworn to serve and protect. That is inappropriate.

Agencies don’t get killed or injured in the line of duty — officers do. There are no names of agencies on the memorial walls — just names of officers.

Honor those whose names are inscribed on the walls. Honor the families of the fallen. Honor your family and your fellow officers by investing in your training, your preparation, and your wellness. When you invest in yourself you become a role model for others to follow. Share, don’t flaunt, what you learn. Share so others will also benefit from your investment.

What’s important now? Honor the past. Invest in the future.

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