Every Interaction as an Opportunity for Change

Last night I made a traffic stop for a fairly minor moving violation. As soon as I walked up to the passenger side of the vehicle, I saw that the driver’s cell phone was lying on the passenger seat, facing up towards the window, with the front-facing camera activated and recording. I was looking at myself through the screen of his phone, as it was recording our traffic stop. I quickly had to remind myself that this was not the objective of my stop and returned my focus to the driver.

The stop was completed with the issuance of a citation and a very cooperative subject. Nothing was out of the ordinary for this traffic stop; this is what truly sparked my curiosity and introspection.

This young man, who clearly respected my position as a police officer, and clearly understood why he was being issued a citation, even to the point of admitting he was wrong, still felt the need to record our interaction. Now, my employ has equipped us with body worn cameras that are, of course, recording any and every interaction that we have with the public. It is very possible that he was not aware of this; I wouldn’t necessarily expect anyone to be.

My concern and my curiosity are what incident, what interaction, or what skewed media representation made this individual feel as though he could not trust an interaction with the police to the point that he must film it? I certainly would never ask someone to turn their camera off, just as I would not expect them to ask me to turn mine off. On the same note, never have I felt the need to film an interaction with the police myself. This is to include any and every interaction I had with the police, prior to becoming a police officer myself.

Perhaps this gentleman had a negative interaction with a police officer before. Perhaps this young man decided that what he has seen on the news regarding police officers, sometimes locally, is absolute truth. It may even be the case that his mother or father has told him to always film interactions with the police as a precaution or a way to back his own defense. Whatever the cause, whatever the reason, I believe that we, as police officers, have an opportunity to take something away from these situations, despite how minor they may seem.

First, I always assume I am being recorded by a camera other than my department issued body worn camera. I have always operated this way and it tends to keep emotions in check, which always ends up better for everyone on both sides of the coin. This is especially important for officers who belong to departments who do not have body worn cameras in operation. I can guarantee, someone or something is recording you, no matter where you are.

Second, we need to realize that every interaction we have with the public is an opportunity to impress upon that person the importance of police in society and the trust that they can have in each and every one of us. There are, of course, some who have had contact with the less-than-desirable officer. It is then our responsibility to give that person a reason to trust the police again. Every interaction we have with someone from the public is a blessed opportunity to make a difference, regardless if that person is a victim or a suspect. I cannot tell you how many times I have had an arrestee thank me. They certainly aren’t thanking me for taking them to jail. Most often they are thanking me for treating them with respect, not talking down to them and accommodating their emotions in the moment. This is not inferring that I ever allow complacency into my interactions. I attempt to maintain my tactical advantage while treating the individual with respect. These two things can be done together. Where one is absent, the other becomes weaker.

It can be easy to let a long-tenured career or burnout affect our interactions with the public. I cannot say I have hit that point yet, as I am still well within my first decade of experience. It is our responsibility to each other to keep ourselves in check. Where someone’s emotions may be taking them towards a negative interaction with a subject, it is our responsibility to attempt, in the best way you see fit, to reel that person back in. By making every contact with the public a positive one we are doing ourselves and others in our profession a favor. We are setting the base for a positive interaction with another officer later. We are making our job safer. We are making each other safer.

Just remember that every interaction is the opportunity to make a difference, if not for you, if not for the subject, perhaps for your fellow officer.

The Mental Weight of Law Enforcement – 2019

It has been quite a while since I’ve submitted an entry to this page. In fact, it has been approximately two years since I’ve written. Yet, even after two years have passed in this profession, two years more experience gained and two years closer to my retirement, I am drawn back to writing. I am drawn to writing on OUR profession, on OUR lifestyle, because it is an outlet I, personally, have found and it also serves the general good in our tight knit community.

I apologize if this is long-drawn, but, simply put, it has been a while.

Two years later in the job….while my position as a patrol officer for a local Sheriff’s Office has not changed, much of my experience has. I still hold true to this job, I still go out and “get it” every shift; however, the things I have seen and have experienced have grown in the thousands. Not one shift is ever the same as the next or the one previous to it.

I’ve seen stabbings and shootings. I’ve seen car crashes and I’ve been involved in car crashes. One step to the right, one step to the left, 5 miles per hour faster or slower can mean the difference between safety and severe injury or, God forbid, death. This is the simple reality we live with in our jobs. This is a reality everyone, regardless of profession, must deal with in their lives; however, this is also the extreme reality law enforcement officers deal with in their daily jobs, apart from their personal lives. This is also the reality that our families deal with as well. We’ve all heard about the relief our spouses receive when they hear that tearing of Velcro after a shift.

The mind of a law enforcement officer is the proverbial flash drive to the horrors of life. If we could download it and place it onto a projector screen, it would serve as an hours’ long montage that would rate with the most horrific films. Yet, we cannot download what we see, we cannot delete it, we cannot forget it. It is in this fact that we see the increasing number of officers succumbing to their own demons, to the horrors they have seen, experienced and endured.

2019 has seen too many law enforcement deaths already, and it is only March 8. These deaths have taken the form of vehicle crashes, felonious assaults on peace officers and fatal self-inflicted injuries.

We all know what we can do to help prevent crashes and felonious assaults on ourselves and our co-workers. What isn’t as clear, is what we need to do to prevent, assist and curb the amount of suicides among police officers.

There is a stigma associated with mental health in the first responder community. Simply put, it needs to stop. The stigma is erased or minimized from all levels of each individual’s department. It can also be enhanced by the same.

First, we all, from chiefs to probationary officers, need to acknowledge that every member of law enforcement is vulnerable to succumbing to some degree of mental health “illness”. Once we acknowledge this, we will not deny its existence and we can recognize it when it appears.

Each of us, then, has a responsibility, individually, to recognize when we ourselves may be experiencing a symptom of mental illness. Mental illness is not permanent, it is not untreatable and it is PERFECTLY NORMAL. Would any of us expect our fellow officers not to feel anxiety, a degree of depression, great fatigue (which can exacerbate or lead into mental illness), burnout, pessimism or rumination on past events? Well, would you expect yourself to not feel that? No you wouldn’t.

If you can sit there and say that you have never, would never and will never experience any of these issues to some degree, no matter how small or large, then you are a liar and you don’t belong here with us.

What we need in this profession and in this lifestyle is each other. Without each other, we are often left feeling completely alone. We already experience a sense of isolation when we take this profession. Why isolate each other even more?

I love my partners, I love every single one of them. There have been multiple from my department who have succumbed to this prevalent evil in our lives.

We spend so much of ourselves in dedication to taking care of perfect strangers; why not start taking care of ourselves?

Perhaps it starts here. We take care of our equipment, our cruisers, our precision tools on a daily basis. Why not take care of the biggest and most important tool we have, our brains and ourselves?

I see a professional on a monthly basis, more so for preventative maintenance than anything else. Why not fine-tune our mental health like we do our physical equipment? I am currently, thank God, not experiencing any known symptoms of mental illness, depression or anxiety; however, that doesn’t mean that next week I won’t. I have set myself up with a support system and I have added tools to my belt, knowing that I am more susceptible to the evils of this world, both physical and mental, than others. I recognize the existence of this unnecessary evil and I address it head on, just as I would to someone squaring up with me on the side of the road, or pulling a gun from their waist.

In my mind, this is just as important.

Be the change in your department and let’s approach this issue with the pride and professionalism, the care, integrity and the passion that we do everything else in our jobs and lives.

God bless every single one of you.

-LEO USA

I am Scared, but in My Fear I will not Back Down

It has been a long, long time since I have written anything at all regarding law enforcement. The computer has been screaming at me to write something, anything! It’s taken me some time to figure out what it is I need to say. What can I write that will help? The truth of the matter is that there is honestly nothing I can write, nothing I can say that will solve today’s issues between a small minority of the public and law enforcement. I will never make overt attempts to sway public opinion. My solution to the problem is to simply DO MY JOB. As much as I want to make a difference in a person’s opinion by means of debate, I know it will be a futile attempt. I am relatively new to this lifestyle and this profession. I count that as a blessing because it gives me a fresh, unadulterated view on our current environment. It allows me to be honest with myself and with others. That being said, I hope a little bit of honesty will go a long way.

The night of the Dallas, Texas massacre on law enforcement, I was out on patrol. I have made it a habit that, while on duty, my phone is put to the side. This allows me to concentrate on my surroundings and maintain a level of safety that “eyes on the phone” cannot provide. The news of Dallas did not come from my phone, but from my fellow officers. The details were few. I cannot describe the feeling that overcame me that night, even with the minimal idea of what was truly going on down south. It was a feeling of true fear. As an officer, I was scared. There is no other way to put it. I did not like this feeling, I never will. Simply put, that night, the idea of law enforcement changed for me forever. I would be lying if I said it didn’t make me second guess my career choice. I was forced into an immediate period of self reflection and evaluation. I was out on the job, as fellow officers were being murdered. I was not a simple spectator to these events, I was a member of the profession that was, and currently is, being directly targeted. I had to make a decision right then and right there. Do I ride out my shift, doing the minimum and re-evaluate at home, with the family, or do I continue on as I had previously done, with a new sense of what it means to be a police officer?

The decision I made was quick and clear; but not in the absence of complete fear. I will continue on as I did in the beginning, there is no other option. Family will inevitably ask “why?” and they will not understand the answer. They know I am scared, they can see it on my face, hear it in my voice; my wife can feel it when I leave for the day and she can feel the weight lifted when the sound of velcro is being stripped off my chest after a 12 hour shift. She doesn’t need to know what happened during the previous 12 hours, there is nothing much to be said. She knows I am home and that is all that matters in that very moment. Ask me today why I do what I do and I will have a hard time putting an answer into words. Simply put, the fear of my own safety drives my motivation to be a better officer, if not for myself, for the men and women to my left and to my right. Knowing that I am scared allows me to know that everyone else in my job is scared. This is not an adverse relationship between variables; the stronger my fear, the stronger my drive, the more aware I am. Fear is what drives us in this job. If I feel fear, even as I wear a vest and carry a gun, how fearful must the public be? It is in this fear that I can associate with the public, that I can gain common ground, that I can create a positive contact in a negative situation.

I can remember being young, assuming and simply knowing that when a police officer was present, everything was OKAY. In my times of fear, I wanted the police there, they made everything safe.

I am not alone in my sentiments and in my feelings, which is the very reason I say that in my fear, because I am scared, I will not back down.

 

 

I’m Not Sorry for Becoming a Police Officer

I live it, I think about it, I dream about it, I often cannot stop thinking about it. I’m talking about our profession, law enforcement. The media downplays our good acts, gives too much credit to the criminals and makes assumptions that often go past reality and into untruth, bordering the ridiculous. Many people would shy away from ever taking this profession. You don’t owe me anything because I have chosen to become a police officer. I will never tell you that I am better than you or that you owe me some form of concrete gratitude because of something I have willingly chosen to do. Not only will I never tell you those things, but I will never think those things. We will silently go in to our workday, expecting nothing in return except cooperation. There is, however, one thing I will say, one thing I will always speak up about and one thing that no media outlet, no person, no politician, no friend, family or foe can ever change; I am not sorry for becoming a police officer. 

I am not sorry for pulling you over today because your brake light was out. I am not sorry for blocking the street, not allowing you through access. I am not sorry for demanding answers when you called the police for some unknown trouble or reason. I am not sorry I took you to jail. I am not sorry I simply love doing my job. 

Why?

Because pulling someone over for a dysfunctional brake light can lead to the apprehension of wanted persons, violent criminals, drug dealers, drunk drivers, the people we swear to protect you against. 

I am blocking the street because a child has just been hit by a car, a family’s home is burning, someone dangerous is barricaded inside your neighbor’s house and the last thing we want is to put you in eye-shot of a terrible scene or, god forbid, put you in any more danger than you would willingly put yourself. 

I am demanding answers from you because I know this may be your one and only chance to legitimately get out of a dangerous and abusive relationship. I can feel your anxiety, I know you’re in trouble; all you need is a little encouragement from someone who can actually do something about it. 

I took you to jail because you committed a crime. Yes, I could have cited you and, even perhaps, I could have looked the other way. However, I live a life of integrity, respect for the public and respect for you. Maybe I took you to jail because a citation would not serve as a lesson learned. It could very well be the wake up call that saves your life, removes you from the deadly grip of drug abuse, which inevitably leads to death. I did not take you to jail because I hate you; I took you to jail because I swore to protect you.

I am not sorry for backing my brothers and sisters in blue until the day I die. I am not sorry for loving my family, both blood and blue, to the point that I would willingly lay down my life for them, or you. I am not sorry that a minority of the public puts a target on my back, literally wishing someone would take a shot. I am surely not sorry that we will always win against this small radical group. I am not sorry that we are sometimes looked down upon and spit upon, for it is these people who will eventually feel the strong-arm of justice prevail against them. 

I am not sorry that I may fall, by your hand, because my brothers and sisters will grow stronger and hunt you with a fever you have never witnessed before. They do not crave revenge, they simply crave justice. 

I am not sorry that my real life heroes exist in the form of public servants. 

I am not sorry for becoming a police officer. 

#imnotsorry

Allowing Everyday Lessons to Stick – Fighting an Excess of Self Pride as a LEO

Pride is not always a bad thing. It is a downfall of many, a positive light in so many more. Too little pride in yourself can lead to self-doubt, a lack of confidence and a sign of weakness. Too much pride can be seen as arrogance, immaturity and, once again, a sign of weakness. 

In my short career, thus far, I have witnessed individuals with not enough pride and others who are overflowing with so much self-pride it can be distracting It is so easy to be on one side of the fence or the other when it concerns pride. I would allow pride in the job, pride in the profession, pride in your coworkers. However, I would throw caution at too much pride in one’s self. In no way am I encouraging those who have a lot of self-confidence and a feeling of self-worth to feel otherwise. What I am encouraging is an increased awareness of overt and transparent self-pride; that is, thinking that you are so good you are untouchable. Turn pride into an overt sense of humbleness and humility, for none of us, as LEO’s, are untouchable. 

This leads to my next discussion point. If we are able to sit down and take control of our pride and transform it into a humble understanding of ourselves, then we are going to be able to allow everyday lessons to “stick”. We will be able to learn. By allowing pride to lose out to our humble nature, we are inevitably opening ourselves up to numerous learning experiences we would previously have been closed off to. Having too much pride will close off opportunities to learn. We won’t be able to see things with the openness and understanding that our humble selves would be able to. By bringing our heads out of the clouds, we are able to take the smallest experiences from every single day and learn from them.

I encourage everyone in the profession of law enforcement to identify one area of their lives in which they think they have too much pride. Now, allow that pride to remain as a strong sense of self-worth and change from a sense of entitlement and superiority. If this change has been successfully made, not only are you allowing yourself to become open to an increased number of  everyday lessons, but you are allowing yourself to become a teaching point to others. You have now become a more useful and valuable professional. 

Too much pride will eventually lead to a professional downfall; potentially one that is extremely difficult to rebound from. We do not wish this on anyone at all. We all want to be successful in our own regard. I advise you to be cautious of your ambitions, follow them with a fevered passion but keep them in check. At the end of the day have pride, but have it in the sense that you have done things the right way, with integrity, with regard to safety, your coworkers, and a sense of humility that many find themselves without. 

On Digging Deeper and Doing Good at all Costs

The following article was submitted by a close friend and follower of LEO USA. Please enjoy as he recalls, what I believe to be, a lesson in his career he will never forget. 

Recently I was asked to investigate the discovery of a piece of evidence that indicated that a crime had been committed in the location of the piece of evidence.  On its face, the piece of evidence was intriguing enough.  What was later discovered made the first piece of evidence, while still significant, pale in comparison to the entire story the evidence told.  I do not intend to riddle you with obscurities through this whole article.  I am being intentionally vague.  Not because I wish to make you guess again and again until you get it, or because I enjoy knowing something that you don’t know.  On the contrary, after quite possibly the most exhilaratingly satisfying tour of duty in my young career that day, I wanted nothing more than to shout from the rooftop my excitement and also to shed light on the crime.  Instead, I found myself having to keep silence.  But the investigation is ongoing and, for the sake of the integrity thereof, confidence must be maintained.  

 
Such is the nature of our work.  Some of the most intriguing and rewarding aspects of our profession will go unnoticed and unacknowledged by the general public, the community we serve — our families, friends and neighbors for whom we would willingly lay down our lives.
 
If we wanted recognition for every good deed or accomplishment, we would go into almost any other line of work.  In our profession, we expect ourselves to do good and the same is expected of us by our communities.  There is a serenity to carrying out ones duty without the expectation of being recognized, or ever having small acts of compassion brought to light.  That is where a good law enforcement officer can find genuine altruism.  We are, by nature, selfless people. We get up at, or stay up until, odd hours and leave our wives, husbands, sons, daughters, boyfriends and girlfriends and pets behind to risk our lives, health and safety for complete strangers for little monetary compensation.  We have a career that demands much more of us than 40 hours a week.  In terms of our physical time commitment — those hours when we are not physically at home — we spend probably 50 hours per week on the job.  But that is the tip of the iceberg.  When we are at home, our profession is never far from mind.  It is a lifestyle that is all-encompassing.  The total weekly time commitment to the profession is  unquantifiable.  In a corporate setting, many would find this level of commitment unsustainable.  But we live and breathe this.  
 
The drive to do the right thing, to do good, is so deeply ingrained that we doggedly pursue justice at every turn.  Sometimes we are worn out and can be tempted to cut corners, but the best of us grin, bear it and do the right thing anyway — even if it means no sleep that night, or no meal during that tour, no time even for coffee.  When presented with a case as intriguing and critical as that which I have recently experienced, dogged pursuit is the mot juste.  There is a visceral drive to root out all the facts, to give no quarter to criminal activity, and to let the truth shine.  We are the sheepdog, but perhaps we are also the bloodhound.
 
The other night I dug deeper, and as a result, my brothers dug deeper and found that the case was exponentially more involved than it had appeared on the surface.  I can describe the evidence as none other than beautiful.  Each piece fits so perfectly.  And because we did good, there will be justice.
 
-A

 

“Accept Yesterday, Act Today, Anticipate Tomorrow” – Approaching Law Enforcement with the Triple “A” Mindset

I’ve been sitting on this idea of “Accept, Act and Anticipate” for quite some time now. It came to me when I was sitting on the job one night, experiencing a period of deep thought. I liked these three words together and knew I had to expand on them. The struggle came mostly with the word “anticipate”, but I will get to that in due time. I would like to take the chance to explain each in its own context, finishing with how they act together as one. Ultimately, I see the “Accept, Act and Anticipate” mindset to be an effective way of approaching our law enforcement lives. By learning to master “Accept”, we can then “Act”, and in turn, once we can “Act” we can “Anticipate”. 

I’d like to ask you to put yourself in the “present”. Approach this article in the mindset that you are in today, yesterday has passed and tomorrow has not come yet. Be aware of what your yesterday was, what your today has already been, what it can come to be, and that tomorrow has yet to arrive.

Now, we need to “accept yesterday”. This can be much easier said than done. It should be the last thing that we do before we go to sleep at night and the first thing that we do in the morning when we wake up. It needs to go no further than these two times in our day. We must consciously keep it from our minds and give it only the time it needs to set in. I have read before that we spend almost 50% of our self-thought in the past. This is entirely too much. Imagine if we were able to dedicate only 20% of our thought on the past and spend the remaining 30% on the present or positive future thoughts. I tend to be a bit of a realist; therefore, I believe it impossible to spend 0% of our thought on the past, it’s just not possible. In law enforcement we go through a lot in any given work day. We see things that many are spared from seeing. We deal with a group of people who many citizens are blind to. We feel a range of emotions in any given day that a normal person may feel over the span of weeks. We make mistakes, we fail, we prosper and we fall. It is especially important for us to accept all of this. Being in today, we need to accept yesterday. Yesterday has come, it has passed and it will never come back. The mistakes made yesterday have been made, there is no taking them back. The events of yesterday are over, they already happened, no event exactly the same will ever happen again. The words we used, the conversations we had, the altercations, the physical and verbal abuse, the dangers and the joys of yesterday are not here in their exact form today. We must reserve a special spot in our minds for all of this, a corner of our brain called acceptance. Once we can accept that yesterday has come and passed, we can begin to “Act today.”

Being able to “act today” is just another way of me advising all to live in the present. This is something everyone has heard so many times throughout our lives. It is even advice we give to other people that we find hard to follow ourselves. Why? Because we are weighed down by our past and we are burdened by our future. However, at this point, we are able to “accept yesterday”. Acceptance will open the door to the ability to act. We live in a career where we are not guaranteed a spot in our bed at night. We live in a world ever-changing and increasingly dangerous. This is the sole reason for dedicating most of our brain power to today. If we are unable to act today due to future and past burdens, we are less effective, we become unsafe. The ideal mindset is one where you even accept that 5 minutes ago is in the past and the only way to proceed is in the “now”. We must remain tactical, alert, aware, our situational awareness must be unmatched. This is simply our only option. Acting today has less to do with refusing to take things for granted and more about our unique requirement for physical and mental safety on the day-to-day job. Without the ability to “act today”, we will be unable to “anticipate tomorrow”. 

Once we have learned to “act today” we can begin to allow the anticipation of tomorrow to maturely enter its way into our daily thought process. This part of my “Accept, Act and Anticipate” (Triple “A”) mindset has been the most difficult to get a hold of. This is simply because I advocate living in the present. It almost seemed to me that anticipating tomorrow was allowing myself to exit the present and enter the future. I’ve struggled with future-dwelling in the past. I, on occasion, still struggle with it today. It became very important for me to properly identify and define the “anticipate tomorrow” portion of the Triple “A” Mindset. I strongly believe that by accepting yesterday and acting today we are setting ourselves up to properly anticipate tomorrow. Perhaps a more appropriate term for anticipate is to prepare. When we have woken up and accepted that yesterday is exactly that, yesterday, and we have begun to act on today, we are inevitably and subconsciously anticipating tomorrow. We are preparing ourselves and arming ourselves with the mindset that tomorrow will come and we will be equipped with the proper mental and emotional tools to take it on head-strong. By anticipating tomorrow, we do not necessarily have to dwell on or think of the coming tasks or burdens. Anticipating tomorrow is a multi-level cognitive and decision-making process. What we are simply doing is telling ourselves that tomorrow is not yesterday, tomorrow is not today, tomorrow does not exist in the present but tomorrow will eventually come. We can then accept that tomorrow will be our new “today”, and once it arrives we can begin to act on it, with the same tools we are using right now in the present. Despite routine calendar maintenance and time management, this is as much mental preparedness we need to dedicate towards tomorrow. If we can master this semi-conscious anticipation of tomorrow, we will only set ourselves up for success. 

The Triple “A” Mindset has been something that has been nagging at my mind for quite a while. It has taken me a couple of months to even begin to put it down in writing. I will revisit this idea of “Accept, Act and Anticipate” often. It is going to be an evolving and maturing concept for me. If we are able to put it all together, mold it to our law enforcement careers and family lives, I believe we will be of healthier mind and spirit. But, first things first, allow us to “accept” that we are wolfhunters, that we are a family of blue, one that can be scratched but not broken, a family of one blood, nationwide. Stand tall and act on today, doing the job we all know we are good at and anticipate that tomorrow you will do the same. 

Is the Current LEO Climate Signs of an Impending Storm?

Today’s LEO climate is indisputably changing. Many would say it changed long ago. There is no doubt to the fact that today’s operating environment as a LEO is much different than it was pre 9/11 or even some years after 9/11. I am using 9/11 as a benchmark for this conversation because it is a solid point in history that many of us, as LEO’s today, remember well. The question that needs to be asked is this: is today’s current law enforcement climate a sign of an impending, metaphorical, storm? In this, I am seeking to discuss whether or not we are hitting, or have already hit, a tipping point in our work environment. Has society hit an “all is lost” point, or are our surroundings and advances in media and technology making it appear different from what it really is?

A couple of factors will play into these questions. Last night, on the local news, an investigative reporter researched the “use of force” levels in police departments surrounding the tri-state area in which I live, and serve. The results of this investigation show that many departments are showing a decrease in the amount of force used in law enforcement encounters over the past five years. Many departments do not have an electronic way of tracking these statistics; however, they are still reporting a decrease in the amount of use of force encounters. Is this because of a more well-trained police force, or is this because of a more compliant public? I will submit to you that, while we are seeing a significant increase in the amount and quality of training in our police departments, we are also seeing an increase in the number of citizens willing to go to extreme lengths to “defeat” the police. It is a transverse relationship that will be discussed further as you read along. 

The first thing I would like to address regarding today’s law enforcement environment is technology. We are all familiar with the amount of cell phone footage that comes out when an officer is involved in an OIS. This, in turn, can lead to a view of an incident that is removed from the facts surrounding it. Subsequently, the media outlets will then report and see this footage and report the story, once again, removed from the actual facts surrounding it. With these knee-jerk and quick reporting techniques, we can be left with a community that is spun into an outrage, thrown into anger. It then falls on the police department to back-track, and report, sometimes too early, the facts surrounding an incident or investigation to calm the public. This can damage the investigation and can also enrage the public even more, for without an official, full-length investigation, the public has seen what potentially the pre-mature investigation is finding, preliminarily, hard to explain. Incidents outside the last 10-15 years have not had these advances in technology that make departments hard pressed for quick answers. While technology is an asset to many aspects of both society and our profession, it can also hinder the ability of the community and law enforcement to proceed with an incident absent outside and unnecessary influences. 

The second aspect of our current operating environment that must be discussed is the increase in the quality of law enforcement training that exists in our departments today. It appears that, with every incident garnering national headlines, we see a reactive training program placed into many of our departments; Active shooter training, riot training, Narcan training, additional and compounding use of force policies, etc. We are continually becoming, nationwide, a more competent and well-trained police force. We, as police officers and police departments, are also becoming more equipped and prepared to react and respond to ever-growing threats. An increase in well-equipped officer and departments has led to an impression, on the public, of militarization. What needs to be directly addressed is that we, as police officers, need to react and respond to the threats we may face every day. With an increase in the availability of firearms (very powerful firearms, at that) to the public, police officers must increase their available protective options against this threat. This comes in the form of increased body armor, increased armored personnel carriers for tactical teams, and greater firepower. This increase in firepower does NOT represent an increase in the desire or the requirement to use this firepower against the general public. What is represented is the potential increase in lone-wolf shooters, active shooter incidents, police related ambush attacks, etc. With the increase in these incidents, police officers must be more prepared to act to stop these incidents once they have started and must be prepared to act immediately. We have found ourselves in situations where we are not prepared to act, where departments find themselves at a loss of preparedness. The police force in America today is simply allowing itself to take advantage of advancements in equipment and training to keep the general public safe. 

In conclusion, what we are seeing today is a more aware police force and, definitely, a more aware public. The greatest thing about the United States is that we have the freedom to make our own choices and decisions. In this aspect of freedom, we also see the availability of evil individuals to carry out their evil acts. It is our responsibility to take control of society when these people choose to attack. No, we are not facing a metaphorical storm. What we are facing is a strained relationship between law enforcement and the public, a relationship that can most definitely be mended. Education of the public, and continued education of law enforcement is the only way to combat this. Whether or not the public wants to participate in this is ultimately their choice. As for the present, we, as officers, will continue to do our jobs, within the law, with the respect of our families, the public and all those who wish to stand behind us. 

Why Empathy Isn’t a Weakness

We work in a tough, rough and hard-driven profession, where weakness jeopardizes safety, and jeopardized safety can mean death. It’s true, there are no two ways around it. However, despite common belief, empathy in law enforcement is NOT a weakness. 

Empathy is made fun of, empathy is looked down upon, empathy is a rare overt trait in our profession. Please pay attention to the word overt. In saying this, I mean that many, many, scores of officers have empathy driving through their blood every minute of every day; not every officer allows it to become overt empathy. Overt empathy is when someone allows their empathy to manifest into action. Yes, you can have all the empathy in the world, but until you act upon that empathy, act upon that feeling of sorrow for someone else, then you have performed no better than an officer who is jaded and curse. 

I do not condone a change in policing to the point that we are looked upon as soft and forgiving. We need to maintain our appearance of toughness, willing to go to no known ends to pursue justice. This is what also runs through our blood. However, we find ourselves in situations every single day where empathy, manifested into a tangible action, can do just as much good as a successful drug take-down. Changing one person’s outlook on the police, or making one person walk away from the proverbial and literal ledge of life, just because we allowed our wall to break down for a simple minute, is accomplishing our professional goal. We are in this job to change lives. Some aren’t, I know I am, and I know if you’ve read this far into this article, you are too. 

Learn the delicate balance of breaking down your wall and building it right back up. We are able to be empathetic while remaining tactically sound. There are situations where empathy is not appropriate. there are situations where empathy has no place. I will never disagree with this point. If you never allow yourself to break down your barriers and become somewhat personal with a complete stranger, you will tire yourself from this profession faster than you got into it. 

I believe one of my strongest traits is empathy. I also believe and know that one of the traits I have tried to hide from others is my empathy. Why? Because at one point it was embarrassing for me to have other people see me emotionally effected by something they may be laughing at, or passing off as “nothing”. That, in and of itself, is a wall I had to break down and permanently discard. That wall will never be built back up. For I have experienced the personal gratification of allowing my own empathy to guide my interaction with an individual, when appropriate. 

There is a time and a place for empathy. It takes time to learn. It takes even more time to get through the stigma of being a “softy” because you feel as though you need to care. While I haven’t been in this profession for long, I do know that breaking down the wall that held back my empathy (once again, when appropriate) was, and will remain, one of my biggest professional accomplishments and lessons. If anything, it has taught me truly to feel it in my gut when something is wrong, making me more able and adept to rely on my tactics and prepare to use whatever force is necessary to make it home to my family. 

Never Let Failure Become an Option

I often find myself writing on the mindset we must have, as officers, to succeed in this job. A lot of what I say and what I write is the most solid advice I can come up with in my head, advice that I often find the most trouble in following myself. As I have said before and will always continue to say, we are individuals of type-A personalities who are used to success and victory. This is an extremely positive aspect of the people I work around. However, our strongest attribute can ultimately lead to our biggest downfall. You see, with the mindset of success, failure comes like a heavy wrecking ball. It is in our best interest to never let failure become an option. 

Much easier said than done. I am not such an optimist that I think you or I will never “fail”. It will happen, it has already happened. We fail in certain aspects of our job every single day. We may fail to check our magazines and ammo every day before going on duty; this, in the nature of our work, is a failure. We fail to buckle our seat belts, because of the perceived danger it can present when needing a quick exit of a vehicle; this is definitely a failure. We sometimes fail to meet the standards that our supervisors or administration put upon us. These can be considered failures in their very nature. However, it is our responsibility to turn failure into success, to orient the mind to see failures as lessons, to take failures as our own responsibility to correct. 

We work in an environment where self loathing and pity has no room to exist. We must have tough skin, take metaphorical and literal blows to the chin. I am not promoting a lack of empathy or emotion, as that can only lead to a catastrophic psychological situation in an officer. I am, however, promoting a mature and professional atmosphere, where taking responsibility for our very own failures outweighs dwelling on them and allowing them to weigh us down. There is not one single officer in this country that is perfect or that has gone through his or her profession without some degree of failure. We must realize this. If you fail, it is not the end of the world and, most likely, no one else thinks of your perceived or actual failure as the big deal you have made it out to be. We are naturally going to be harder on ourselves than anyone else. This is okay, it is our way of auto-correcting our own mistakes. It is one thing to evaluate your mistakes and failures. It is a completely different thing to dwell on these failures and mistakes to the point that it affects your job performance. While self-evaluation is effective, dwelling and circular-thinking will get us nowhere at all. The more time you allow your mind to remain stagnant on your failures, is the less amount of time you have to correct or amend your mistakes. Ultimately, the quicker you take responsibility for your failures, the quicker you can move on and continue to succeed. Allow failures to be small bumps in the road, not complete road blocks that you, yourself, have ultimately created, without just cause. 

Your coworkers’ reaction to your failures or mistakes lies in direct correlation to your reaction to the same. Allowing yourself to be visibly negative or stagnant upon your own actions will directly affect the way your coworkers and supervisors perceive them. You must fight past the urge to dwell and be a model of success as a result of failure. Positivity spreads, there is no point in denying that. On the flip side, negativity also spreads. The more negative your coworkers perceive your attitude toward a situation, the more negatively they will perceive it and project it back to you or others. We make our own mole hills into mountains. There comes a time when this is inappropriate and we must take those mountains and grind them back into mole hills, ultimately making them disappear. I do not mean to say that we should deny or lay completely quiet among our mistakes and failures. Acknowledge them as they are and continue on in an upward and progressive path to success. 

The responsibility to never accept failure as an option, as a long-term or short-term option, is completely in your hands.