Our Fight Against Compartmentalization – Finding an Outlet

Throughout our careers in law enforcement we are going to see some things we love and we are going to see some things we hate. In my short career so far, I have seen some things I wish I wouldn’t have ever had to see in my life. I am able to chalk it up as part of the job.

What we must be mindful of, is our unique ability to compartmentalize the things we find stressful or mentally taxing in our jobs.

Allow me to explain, for you may be doing this without even realizing it.

Men are far worse at this than women and we, as men, must make a conscious effort to combat it. When we see something stressful in our job (car wreck with fatalities, neglected children, rape, felonious assaults, murder, etc.) we have the unique ability to metaphorically pack it up and store it away, for no one to see. For the time frame immediately after a stressful event, compartmentalized emotions are okay. However, we should notcannot and must not allow that emotion or memory related to a stressful event remain compartmentalized and to ourselves. After a short period of time, we must make a conscious effort to allow ourselves an outlet for these emotions. After a while, too many emotions that have been packed up and stored away will cause a breakdown, a career burnout, aggression and can further lead to regret from decisions we made during a state of high emotional outlet.

We have always been told to separate work from home. I strongly agree with this notion. In no way am I endorsing, or encouraging you, as an officer, to use your family as a verbal outlet of your emotions. This can potentially cause undue stress in the home. I am also not endorsing that we keep our families in the dark about our jobs. It is a very fragile balancing act we must endure. Additionally, one mode of outlet that one officer uses may not be effective for another officer.

Outlet may not always be verbal.

Find something you enjoy. Find something that allows you to relax and think. Quiet contemplation is an effective way, for some, of relieving stress. Some find reading, hiking, physical fitness, social activities and numerous other hobbies effective at allowing the mind to empty its emotions effectively. In my case, writing allows me to express what is in my head to a wide audience, without placing my stress on any particular person directly. Those closest to me have the option of reading what I write, but I, in no way, am forcing them to bear the brunt of my experiences.

I have referenced in many articles that we, as police officers, are creatures of control. We are extremely skilled at controlling situations, especially stressful situations. Where our skills tend to lack is in taking care of ourselves, controlling our stress and taking advantage of opportunities to clear our minds. We must make every effort possible to take care of our own mental health, before it becomes an issue and effects our home life and the job.

We are not always aware that we have an overload of compartmentalized thoughts and emotions. Take time and try to bring those experiences to the forefront of your thoughts and allow them to exit your mind. While it may take time, find an effective outlet and begin, one experience at a time, coming to terms with your own stressors. Take yourself out of your comfort zone. If you have found yourself in a situation where you feel as though you may be on the verge of losing control of your emotions, do not hesitate to speak with a professional. If you see someone, a brother or sister in blue, who is clearly having a difficult time with something, encourage them to speak with you. We are here for each other. It is very hard to speak of our emotions, especially with the type-A personalities we all have. We live in a world of lowered stigmas concerning mental health. It is acceptable to be stressed and emotionally taxed. Become cognitive, be aware of your own thoughts, allow yourself some “me time”. In the end, it’s only going to allow you to become and remain an effective LEO.

Keep fighting the good fight, Wolf Hunter.

Perseverance – One Officer’s Story of Success When the Odds Were All But in His Favor

One of the greatest aspects of this job is that we have the opportunity, as police officers, to meet numerous different people, from what seems like every background imaginable. A few years back, I had the absolute blessing of meeting Constable David Geiger with the Oxford Township Police Department in Ohio. Ever since meeting him, David and I have kept on and off contact as I entered the police force. Not only is David full of useful information and encouraging words, but he has a story of perseverance unlike any I have encountered before. You see, David has a physical disability, something he refers to, politely, as a Dif-Ability, that he sustained during a motorcycle accident in 2003. According to David’s website, http://www.Dif-Ability.com, he always wanted to be a police officer as a young man. He states he had an insatiable desire to help people. If you take David’s story from start to end, you will see the true definition of a wolf hunter. David, despite the odds being stacked completely against him, followed his heart. He was created by God with the blood of a police officer, and a police officer he will forever be.

David allowed me the unique opportunity to ask him several questions relating to his Dif-Ability and his experiences in law enforcement since sustaining his injury. I suggest, to all, you read between the lines of his responses and see true grit and determination in this officer.

  • David, please briefly explain your injury and how you sustained it.
  • August 8, 2003 I was involved in motorcycle accident. I landed on top of a guard rail on my back, forcing my right arm behind me violently. This violent movement severed 3 of my brachial plexus nerves and stretched out the 4th in my right shoulder completely paralyzing the arm.
  • What were your biggest difficulties directly after your injury?
  • I was in a medically induced coma for approximately 4 weeks after the accident. When I awoke I had tubes and wires coming from every part of my body. All my muscles had weakened and I had to build them back up to even start walking again.
  • What was the typical response from departments, after your injury, regarding your employment as a police officer?
  • I was on medical leave from the department I was with and eventually moved to the auxiliary force. After years of surgeries, physical and occupational therapy I was ready to be reclaim my position with the police department. The administration along with human resources decided that since I was unable to shoot weak handed I would not be reinstated as a Police Corporal.
     
    When applying with new departments I found that I wasn’t being hired. I can only speculate as to why. Only one department of about 70 admitted it was due to my arm.  I would make it to an interview then stop hearing from them or get a letter simply stating that the position was filled.  
     
    During interviews I would openly talk about my dif-ability and my ability to perform every function of a police officer. However, simply telling them was not getting the results I wanted. That’s why I made the video, so they could see me in action and realize that I’m not a liability but an asset.
  • How did you overcome the difficulties that your injury caused?
  • Will, determination and gym memberships. I started slow. I never recovered a grip in my hand so I had to think of ways to work my right arm out. I started by lying on my back under the coffee table and pushing it up off the floor on one side. Once that got easy I added books on top of the table to add more resistance, then push-ups. I eventually starting going to the gym. I bought a Velcro D ring strap that is usually for wrapping around ankles and wrapped it around my right wrist and lifted cable weights with it. I spent 5 days a week at the gym without fail.
     
    In addition to the gym I start training in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). The reason was twofold, fitness and to prove to myself that I could defend myself or others in a physical confrontation if presented with one as a police officer. I was sparring with world-class athletes and I was holding my own!
     
    Any issue that I thought an administration would have with my dif-ability; handcuffing, firearms, first aid etc. I made sure I trained, and or, became an instructor in that particular aspect.  I had to be creative in finding effective ways to do complex tasks and I succeeded.
  • What is your biggest accomplishment since your injury?
  • Surviving my accident in the first place tops the list but without question it is being hired at Oxford Township Police Department. Convincing an administration wasn’t easy. I offered multiple times at interviews to perform demonstrations or to be given a functional capacity test, most declined. Explaining that I would be on probation if hired and could be let go if I failed any part of the field training officer’s assessment. I have since been promoted as a field training officer myself; so not only am I trusted to do police work, I’m trusted to train other officers.
  • What is the biggest obstacle you face in your every day job? How do overcome that obstacle?
  • I really don’t have any obstacles. Sure, there are some things that take me a little longer to complete like processing a crime scene but those are things that shouldn’t be rushed in the first place.
  • If you had one piece of advice to give to current and future police officers, what would it be?
  • Failing at something doesn’t make you a failure, quitting does. Excuses get you nowhere. Go after your goals with steadfast determination and with as much vigor as you would your next breath if you were drowning. 
Police work is one of the most technically demanding jobs out there. We must have fine motor skill, and the physical ability to ward off attack, radio for help, and draw a weapon, sometimes within what seems like a few seconds. With the ability to fully use only one of his arms, David has completely adapted his tactics and training to ensure he is able to do everything any other police officer can do, and arguably better. David refuses to use the term disability and has since coined the term Dif-Ability, stating that he can do everything you and I can do as an officer, just differently. David takes pride in our profession, he is a model every officer should follow, he is the definition of the Thin Blue Line. If I were in trouble and heard David over the radio, I would be more than comforted by the fact that I had a true wolf hunter backing me up. David is battle proven, has the heart of a lion and the determination unlike anyone I have ever encountered thus far. He is the definition of perseverance.
David, I thank you for your time, your dedication to this life style and, on behalf of police officers and the public alike, I thank you for your courage, commitment and bravery in the face of adversity. You were an inspiration to me in pursuing this career and I am sure you have been an inspiration to many others. Your story is one every officer should learn; I know I will never forget it.
Note: Please visit Constable David Geiger’s website at www.Dif-Ability.com to learn more about his story and his life since his injury. 

Comply, It’s Just That Easy – A Message to the Public

This topic has always bothered me to a certain extent, but more so recently after I found myself in an alley, gun drawn and on a suspect. The reason my gun came out that night was due to the fact that the suspect simply would not comply with my verbal commands. There were other circumstances that led to my gun being drawn such as the fact that there was a victim bleeding on the ground and the suspect was wearing loose-fitting clothing and I was unsure whether or not he had a weapon. However, that is beside the fact that he was not complying with my verbal commands.

I am baffled that, when approached by three officers who were giving loud, clear and authoritative commands to “get on the ground”, he refused three separate times to follow our direction, leading to us falling back on a lethal force option. What the public needs to understand is that this is NOT the time to ask questions of the police. It is not the time to refuse commands and it is not the time to plead your case. We will eventually get to that point with you. Innocent, guilty, or suspected of a crime, if we tell you to do something, you DO IT. For all you know, our suspect may not be you, but may be standing behind you. We may be ordering you to the ground for your safety. We may be ordering you to the ground because we are trying to see or advance past you to the person we really want. We may be ordering you to the ground because you fit the description of the suspect. Trust me when I say that we are trained, we know what we are doing, we are not telling you to do something because we have no cause for it. If you want to remain safe while interacting with police officers, all you simply need to do is comply. If your own personal safety is your main concern in these instances, then do the smart thing and do as we say. You are at a significantly lower risk of having force used against you if you simply comply.

Many will argue that police are infringing on 4th Amendment rights to a higher extent in today’s environment. I will submit to you that we are responding to a small percent of the public’s noted increase in aggression towards the police. We are ensuring your safety, along with ours. We do not know you, as you do not know us. However, you know more about us than we know about you. You know we are the police. You know that we have been trained. I ensure you that we have been trained. We do not wish harm upon you. We do not want to hit you, we do not want to tase you, we do not want to mace you, and we do NOT want to shoot you. That is why we simply ask for compliance.

I am not sure what is being taught in schools, society or by parents today that leads to individuals refusing to comply with commands of the police. I was always taught to listen to the police. I was always taught to treat everyone with respect. As a police officer, I still hold onto these virtues. I still make every attempt to treat everyone with respect and I still, even as a police officer, listen to the police when being told to do something. If you are guilty and you have been caught, “man up” and take responsibility for what you have done. You claim to be a man of integrity and honor; prove it.

The public is not our enemy, nor do we see it that way. The public is our ally. We wish to keep it this way. Compliance comes in many different forms. It may be in the form of cooperating as a witness and it may come in the form of doing as we ask in an emergency situation. It is understandable that you may be scared when approached by the police. I can remember when I was scared every time I saw a police car driving behind me. Yet, I never had a thought of non-compliance. Understand that we are scared too. We are human, just as well as you are. If you think it is fun to pull out a gun, think again. We are left with a range of emotions that we must deal with after a high intensity situation. A range of emotions that a normal person need not deal with. A range of emotions that often lead us into personal turmoil.

If you want to guarantee your safety during an interaction with the police, then simply comply, it’s just that easy.

We are Human Too

Today’s first entry is more geared towards the general public than it is members of law enforcement. I think it is very important that individuals of the general public remember, when interacting with the police, we are human just as much as they are.

I will always take that into consideration when dealing with an individual, so why can’t they? Police officers are held to a higher standard, we all know this. We all understand that we are held to a higher standard and we embrace it into our professional lives. However, being held to a higher standard does not mean that we are not human too.

What does being human mean?

Being human means that we have emotions, we feel sadness, anxiety, fear, loneliness, happiness, excitement, regret, hopelessness and fatigue. Being human means that we have bad days, we have good days, we have mediocre days, some days we feel sick, some days we feel healthy and strong, and some days we just wish we were at home with our family. Being human means that we fear the unknown, we have individual character traits, we aren’t all the same. Being human means that we are allowed to be mad, not necessarily at you (unless you have earned it). We are allowed to break down, and we are allowed to be built back up. Being human means that we make mistakes, but we will do our best to learn from and correct them.

You see, being a police officer does not restrict me from being human. My sadness, anger or fear may not be directed at you.  But just as you can claim to be human, we can too.

I Don’t Just Want This Job, I Need This Job

I use this form of media, this forum, to relieve stress, to give myself an outlet, but to also reach out to those officers who may be feeling the exact same way I do, but just don’t know how to express it.

I’ve come to a point where I have decided that I don’t just want this job, I need this job. This may sound extreme; I will ask you one question, if you were not a police officer what could you see yourself doing successfully? What would you want to do? Is that a realistic goal?

I think this is a unique characteristic of police officers. We find ourselves in a job that turns into such a lifestyle that we believe in. When we believe in something as strong as we believe in policing, we are unable to see ourselves in another profession, in another life-style. I often think to myself what I would do if I were laid off, if I lost my job, or if I made a mistake so great that I was given the all-feared “A or B plan”. It can actually cause tangible stress for me. I have become so mentally dedicated to this life style and this profession that I cannot possibly think of a life beyond policing.

I have come to realize that maybe, just maybe, this is okay. I guarantee some professionals would say that this is an unhealthy mindset. I can see how they would say that, but I will still disagree. What I have come to discover, is that this fear of failing, or the fear of being left out of this job allows me to perform this job to the utmost of my abilities. I have allowed my fear to turn into a positive aspect of my job and life. I do not allow my fear to draw me into a negative mindset, I allow it to aid in my success. If you fear that someday you may find yourself in a situation in which you will be out of your comfort zone of policing, you need to allow that fear to aid in your every single-day success. Ensure that you go into every day determined to succeed and perform. Make those conscious and correct decisions. Do not allow your emotions to get the best of you. Do not hesitate, but do not become too eager. Remain tactical, secure and safe. Use your training, you know you have it.

I know just as well as you do that we all fear losing our job as a police officer. What in the world would, or could, we possibly do without this job? You and I both know that we were born to be police officers. Go into every single work day ensuring that when you leave, you will still be a police officer tomorrow.

Blessed are the peace makers.

A Police Officer’s Stance on Gun Control

It seems that, in the United States, every single time a major event involving a gun occurs, numerous people come out of the wood work to take one side or the other on gun control. I have the unique blessing to sit back and watch this evolve as a police officer. I see valid points for both sides of the fence (although I will refrain from telling you which side I truly belong to; I am sure you can guess, as a fellow police officer).

What I can do is sit here and tell you my stance on gun control, solely through the eyes of a police officer. Now, I do not speak for all police officers, I do not speak for my department, I do not speak for my family. I speak for me and me only. My stance is not dependent on what legislation enacts, it is not dependent on how hard it is to buy a gun at a gun store, it is not dependent on the law. My stance on gun control is completely dependent on those that refuse to follow the law. In my opinion, it does not matter how much gun control exists. People who break the law, will continue to break the law. My stance on gun control lies in how much control I have over my own gun. As a police officer, I will always have the god-given privilege to carry a firearm. Gun control to me is how well I can aim, how well I can concentrate on trigger squeeze, following through, remaining on target until the target is neutralized, and keeping a sense of situational awareness all while ensuring the threat to myself and others is dealt with. Gun control to me is not a political issue. Gun control to me is ensuring that I am trained to the point that, when I need to rely on my gun, I am able to utilize it effectively.

It is an indisputable fact that guns will exist in this world until the day you and I die, despite what anyone in our city’s, state’s or country’s legislature does. It is our responsibility to make sure we have control over our guns as police officers. Train well, train often, train past the fight.

Why is the Thin Blue Line Such a Close Brotherhood?

If I gave you every single answer I have for this question, this article would take months to produce, it would be hundreds of thousands of words long and it would take you hours to read. That is the most beautiful thing about the Thin Blue Line. Everyone has their own opinions and their own reasons why they love being a part of the Thin Blue Line. I can only speak for myself, and will never try to assume I know what the masses are feeling. I do have a feeling, however, that what I think about the job, some others also feel.

I cannot remember a time growing up that I didn’t want to become a police officer. Even extending into my high school, college and Army days, I held on to that dream of becoming a police officer. That feeling never left me. I have a hypothesis about why this happened to me and it may even border the philosophical realm. I believe that true police officers were born with the drive to right wrongs and serve others. I don’t believe someone can be taught the drive to become a police officer. Those that think they can, often find themselves looking for new jobs; that’s if they were able to find a way into the profession to begin with (it happens). Something inside almost all of us just tells us that this is the profession, this is the life-style in which we belong. There’s not much more to that. So how does this play into why the Thin Blue Line is such a close brotherhood? As I stated before, I can only speak for myself. I enjoy knowing that the men and women serving with me, to my left and to my right, hold some of the same drive I know exists within myself. Just by this and this alone, I feel a unique closeness to them that I cannot describe to anyone else, nor can I compare it to any other relationship in my life. I am a strong believer in the “family comes first” motto. In no other profession (besides public service or military) do I believe you can include your co-workers into your true definition of family.

There is, arguably, no one closer to a person than their own family. Family has similar genetic makeup, similar blood, similar character traits.

I will argue until the day has come, that this bodes the same for men and women in law enforcement. We have the same genetic makeup. I am determined that this is the truth. I do not have scientific studies or educational research to prove this fact, but I do not believe, within our industry, this would go over with much argument against it. A police officer must be strong-willed and competitive, refusing to give up, and willing to put himself before others every single day. This is not taught, this is not learned, this is engrained in the body, in the mind and in the spirit of the law enforcement officer. There is something in every single one of us that is genetically the same. Whether it lies in our brains or in our hearts, I am not sure, but it is certainly there.

We bleed similar blood. This is more of a philosophical stand point than any. I do not mean physically that we are all O Positive blood type. What I mean is that our morals, our beliefs, the fuel that gets us out of bed every single day is made of similar content. When we literally bleed, all other LEO’s metaphorically bleed with us. When one of us literally falls, all LEO’s metaphorically fall with us. We feel each other’s pain, we cry with each other, we laugh with each other, we fight with each other, but never against. We have empathy, we refuse apathy and we will grind and toil until covered in mud and blood, with the objective completed. When we stand back up and I look at you, and you at me, we both know that each other is the reason we fight so hard for the finish line. What makes your blood boil, inevitably makes my blood boil. I would trade my blood for yours, and you would trade yours for mine. With a work environment like that, how could you not call us family?

Police officers within the Thin Blue Line have similar character traits, just as literal family has. We live our lives of honesty, duty, respect, loyalty, selfless service, integrity and personal courage all while expecting nothing in return but the cooperation of our society. Inevitably, and unfortunately this cooperation sometimes becomes lost in translation. Despite this fact, we will continue to serve, without prejudice but with justice. While dressed in plain clothes, I can spot an officer and he can spot me, but the public may not be able to do so as easily. It is in the way we walk, the way we talk, the way we sit, the way we converse, the way we keep our heads up and on a swivel and the way we treat people with respect, until respect has been lost. We are family oriented individuals, working long hours and holidays to provide for the people we love the most. We will step in for the Thin Blue Line when another officer is struggling with family issues. Inevitably, his/her family is also my family. My family is also their family.

So why is the Thin Blue Line such a close brotherhood? If presented in front of a court, with proper jurisdiction, the ruling would be that, with proof beyond a reasonable doubt, our Thin Blue Line is such a close brotherhood because we fall under the definition of family, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers and best friends.

You, Wolf Hunter, are in Ultimate Control

The headline of this article can be slightly misleading. I have written in articles past that we are creatures of control and ultimately cannot control every aspect of our profession or our lives. I still believe this holds true. I will still say to people that there are some things you cannot control. What we, as wolf hunters, have ultimate control over, is ourselves. In this lies the content and the heart of today’s entry.

There are so many different variables ¸in our day-to-day operation as police officers. We simply cannot control them all. Variables lie within our administrations, our supervisors, our department budget, the criminals on the street, the weather, our available equipment, etc. The only thing that we can be sure, on a consistent basis, we have control over is ourselves. If you take an honest look at yourself, as I have done with myself multiple times, it is easily seen that having complete and total control over yourself is much easier said than done. Let us look into a few different areas in which you, as a police officer, have ultimate control, or maybe a lack of control.

Health and fitness is something in our profession that we absolutely, positively, must have control over. It has more of an impact on the job than most officers choose to believe. Some officers have lost control of it to a point that they refuse to admit that they have become unhealthy. It has the obvious benefits that we all already know. If you’re fit, you can fight. But what about this…if you’re fit, the general public will look more positively on you. Your health and fitness may lead to de-escalation in some situations. I know I’d rather fight an unhealthy, unfit cop than one that is clearly in shape. The daily job is filled with times in which you are sitting, in a vehicle, for hours. This, just in the nature of what it is, can cause health problems. We need to work to reverse these negative health effects by keeping ourselves healthy and fit. Physical health is not the only aspect of our health we need to keep control over. We also need to have ultimate control over our mental health. In a past article, titled “Become Disconnected, to Stay Connected”, I mention that putting aside outside distractions will help you, as an officer, relax and decompress. We must make sure we are allowing ourselves an outlet for the stresses we have as officers day in and day out. If we do not allow this to happen, our mental health may be compromised. If our mental health is compromised, it can quickly spiral out of control, leading to anxiety, depression and post traumatic stress. We need to remain fully conscious of our health at all times. If we see it slipping, we must regain control of it. No one is more responsible for our own personal health than ourselves.

Slightly on par with our mental health is our attitude. We are in ultimate control of our own attitude. We are not entitled to proper treatment, we are not entitled to any certain position, we are not entitled to anything in this job. We entered this profession knowing very well that it is not the most glorious profession in the world. You came into the job with a good attitude, so where has that good attitude gone? I see a lot of disgruntled officers, placing blame for their woes on every single person or group BUT themselves. We work in an extremely competitive environment, where no officer is ever guaranteed to always succeed in doing what they want to do. You want K-9? Earn it, or someone else will. You want to be a detective? Earn it, because I guarantee someone else will. Nothing is owed in this profession. The only thing that is owed, that is expected, is for you, as the individual officer, to come into work every single day and do the best you can with the best attitude possible. You may not be the most skilled officer, but an average officer with an amazing attitude is worth much more to a department than an experienced and skilled officer with a terrible attitude. It should be the case with every officer that no other person besides yourself can improve or destroy your attitude. Own your attitude toward this profession and life-style and you will succeed. Perhaps you will set a trend.

You, officer, also have ultimate control over your decisions. Do what is right all of the time. In today’s operating environment we do not have room to consciously make wrong decisions. Mistakes will be made, there is absolutely no doubt about that. Mistakes are there for a reason, for us to learn. I am talking about conscious and thought out decisions. No one is responsible or under control of your decisions, but yourself. Go into every work day with the solid intention to make the right decisions and you will ultimately succeed.

Speaking of success, this is another area in which we have ultimate control. You have the opportunity to set yourself up for success every single day. In and out of the job, successes are made. Success is what you, as an individual, make it. Your successes may not be successes to anyone else, but they are to you. And that is most important. Disregard individuals who downplay your successes, no matter how minor they may seem to others. Allow yourself one success every day. Do you keep forgetting to approach a stopped vehicle from the “correct” side? Make it your point that day to do it correctly and succeed. Haven’t been taking care of your physical fitness? Make it a goal to get into the gym that day…you have just succeeded. What may be one person’s daily routine, is your ultimate success for that day. Make it so. The only person that needs to qualify something as a success is you.

The only person that is in ultimate control is you, wolf hunter.

Hunt on.

We Must Not Hesitate, We Cannot Hesitate – A Real Life Scenario

I’ll start off plain and simple; we cannot, we must not, we need not hesitate in our job. The environment in which we work today, with the massive amount of societal and media overlook, presents situations in which officers may second guess and question themselves, leading directly to hesitation. Hesitation can become deadly very quick. The most important thing (and we have heard this so many times in our job) is that we go home at night and that we complete our job to the best of our abilities at all times.

Last night I was presented with a situation that I can be sure many officers have found themselves in before (some maybe numerous times). I will give the brief version of events, for brevity’s sake. Radio traffic indicated that there was an active street robbery taking place in an alley close to my location. Both myself and my partners responded, via foot, to the location. As I turned the corner into the alley, I witnessed a female, on the ground, bleeding from the mouth. I then witnessed the suspect approximately 50 yards down the alley. I ordered this man to the ground three separate times, without successful compliance. The suspect was very irate, turned towards my partners and I, still refusing to get on the ground, and began very slowly approaching us. We had, at this time, progressed to within approximately 25 yards of the suspect. With the little information we went into this situation with, and with the presence of a victim with visible injuries, I decided to draw my service weapon for not only my safety but the safety of my partners and the victim. I could see the suspect’s hands, he was not holding a weapon. I had no way of knowing whether or not he had a weapon concealed on his person. I was out of range in which I could deploy any less lethal option. The suspect successfully complied with our orders once both my partner and I had drawn weapons, secured our position and taken directed aim at the suspect. I became cover officer as my partner(s) secured the suspect in handcuffs.

After the incident was resolved, it was determined that the suspect and victim are married to each other. This was a domestic dispute that, on the surface, took the face of a robbery and, even, a potential aggravated robbery.

It was at this time that I began to rewind the entire incident in my head. I began to ask myself why I went directly to a lethal force option after non-compliance to verbal commands. After monday morning quarterbacking myself, I was able to come to terms, fairly easily, with all the decisions I made. I went into this incident with the pretense that a robbery was in progress in an alley. I then witnessed an injured victim on the ground. I observed the non-compliant subject, who was clearly intoxicated and irate. While, yes, I was able to definitively say he did not have a weapon in his hands, I was completely unsure as to whether or not he had a weapon concealed on his person. The suspect was wearing loose, cold weather clothing. It was almost as if I wasn’t consciously processing this all at the time, but realized, after the incident, that I was making numerous, perhaps hundreds, of split-second decisions. It turns out the suspect was not armed with a weapon and had caused the injuries to the victim with his hands.

I was in a clear alley with no cover and concealment. I was far enough into the alley, where backing out would have been ineffective and tactically unsound. My partners and I had to proceed in a forward direction towards the subject. With all of the facts and circumstances surrounding this incident, known to us at the time, securing a lethal force option was absolutely necessary. Not only was securing a lethal force option necessary, it was extremely effective.

The simple fact is, we did not hesitate to escalate our force options in response to the totality of the circumstances. As well, we did not hesitate to de-escalate our force options as the situation dictated.

An additional fact to this incident is that I allowed training to completely take over, subconsciously.  I do not remember thinking to myself, “I remember this from training! I am now going to draw my weapon, bring it to the high ready and take aim.” The training, subconsciously, told me what to do and drove my actions. Our brains are capable of processing numerous amounts of information at one time. We, by nature of being human, have a fight, flight, posture or submit process to our operations. Once verbal contact was made with the suspect, he began to posture, turning towards us and refusing verbal commands. We, in a response, postured back by increasing the volume and authoritative nature of our commands. He then took to a fight response by slowly approaching our direction, in an aggressive state. We responded with a fight response by securing a lethal force option. It was at this time that the suspect submitted. The main difference between our actions and the suspect’s actions was that his were driven by nature and a chemical response in the brain; our actions were driven by training, training that has been programmed into our natural state. Training did not allow us to hesitate. We resolved this incident without any force used.

The moral of this story is to allow your training, the training you’ve been so graciously blessed with, to guide you. In some situations, training forces its way into your head and takes complete control (as was the case last night). Please do not allow societal, media or cultural influences to pull you away from your training. As Patrick McNamara said in a previous article, we must train past the fight.

We cannot hesitate, we must not hesitate. God bless you all.