Reflecting on the recent incident in Paris, it reminds me that we must, as police officers, allow vigilance to be our savior. I know I have spoken on situational awareness and not becoming complacent in our job. However, I believe that vigilance goes above and beyond situational awareness and non-complacency. While vigilance encompasses both of these things, it goes above and beyond these two things as well. Remaining vigilant requires that we educate ourselves. We must strategically educate ourselves on topics and tactics that are pointed and directed at our area of operation. The Paris attacks have taught us one thing (among many others). What we have learned at the sad expense of many innocent lives is that individuals, terrorists, extremists, will always find a new way to infiltrate their target. In Paris, we saw a number of extremists, at least one of which, who was able to gain access to the country under the presumption of a refugee. We must learn that extremists and people hell-bent on committing evil acts will stop at nothing to get to their goal.
It is very hard to stay one step ahead of the opposition. There are so many different factors we must take into account. This is relevant to attacks on nations such as the Paris attack but is also relevant to our everyday operation as police officers. As I have stated in previous articles we must learn from every experience we have with people of criminal nature. If we allow those lessons to build on one another, we will be a more rounded and experienced officer.
We must always remain vigilant. This is not only a necessity to stay one step ahead of an an offender but it is also necessary for our every day survival. Allowing yourself to be situationally aware at all times, never allowing yourself to become complacent, learning from every experience and going out of your way to educate yourself on current criminal, terrorist or extremist MO’s, will build itself into what I think of as vigilance.
We all, as officers, have the basics down for vigilance. We know to never put our back to an access point, we know to keep our heads on a swivel, we know to “pie the corner” instead of rushing around it. But, could you in confidence say that you are up to date on how street gangs are concealing their weapons? Could you say that you are up to date on the different lethality factors present during a domestic violence situation? Are you aware of the different ways drug traffickers are using compartments within their vehicles to avoid detection? I am not innocent in this, I can say there is a lot I do not know. In fact, there are many officers out there, that I could confidently say, I don’t touch with a burning flame. However, that does not dissuade me in becoming more vigilant than I already am. There should never be a point in your career where you believe you are as vigilant as you’re “supposed to be”. There is no such thing. There isn’t an appropriate level of vigilance. There is an inappropriate level of vigilance, which often is disguised by recklessness. We see ourselves becoming complacent in the most basic tasks of our jobs, perhaps even cutting corners sometimes because we have “trust” in the individual we are dealing with or the individual doesn’t fit the mold of threatening or violent. This is the number one mistake I believe exists. Maintain the work practice that you treat every person as violent, despite their age, race, gender, or apparent social status. If you retain this method of operation, your safety will, inevitably, be bolstered. We fail ourselves in so many different ways. Do not allow a lack of vigilance be the failure that leads to a tragedy. If you see something out of the ordinary, trust yourself and realize there is a reason YOU, as a POLICE OFFICER, feel that it is out of the ordinary.
Stay away from assumptions. Assumptions will get us killed. Assumptions will lead to complacency or that false sense of trust in a situation. I will never tell someone to act in an impolite manner towards anyone. While politeness and professionalism in this job is what a lot of us take pride in, you must always have in the back of your head the readiness to arm yourself and take action accordingly.
Remaining vigilant should be a constant goal for every officer around this country and around this world. We must realize that, to some, we are the enemy, in a big, big way. We can’t control their hate, however we can become more vigilant towards it and control ourselves with our training and readiness in situations where we may meet the fine, thin and delicate line of life or death.