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After the smoke clears, an officer reaches for a special “weapon”


Since Mike Vega was given a “Positive Self-Talk Card” at a Street Survival Seminar a couple of years ago, he’s made it part of his daily ritual of preparing for work. Printed on the front of this thin, wallet-size piece of plastic are 13 “affirmations” designed to help an officer psyche up for patrol:

I will survive on any high-risk call...I know the tactics I need...I am skilled with my firearms...I can use deadly force to save my life or the life of someone else, and so on.

Vega religiously reads the list before every shift and carries the card clipped to the visor of his unit. “You never know when your day will come,” he says.

But Vega patrols in Hatch, N.M., a sleepy village of 1,600 some 80 miles from the Mexican border. The P.D. has seven full-time officers and one part-timer, and the biggest event there normally is the annual chili festival. So Vega had never needed to use the card’s flip side, with its suggestions for getting through the first night after a critical incident.

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