Make no mistake: the responsibility for these losses rests solely with the dirt bags who committed those heinous acts. The question remains: can we affect them and their decisions? If so, how?
What Can I Do As Just One Person?
Tactics, tactics and tactics. It's the equivalent of location in real estate. It is at the heart of everything.
I recently rode with a deputy in northern Michigan in preparation for a training class that I would be conducting. In our time together, he shared that he had spent much of his time over the previous two years assigned to a traffic unit on a stretch of freeway that crosses their county. One of his biggest challenges is to remind himself that no two traffic stops are alike.
If we examine many of the situations surrounding the losses of a brother/sister, we find that a contributing factor was the officer's attitude of been there, done that. It is truly tough to take a fresh, creative look at every situation and contact we have, but the reality is that our life depends on it.
Of equal frustration is that we often fail to recognize the real threat. In the past ten years, deaths in/around the patrol vehicle accounts for the majority of line-of-duty deaths. We spend countless hours on the range, cleaning our weapons, practicing DT, etc. How much time do we spend studying and practicing new techniques for handling of our vehicles and positioning them at various kinds of scenes? Yup, I suspected that you would answer, little or none.
In my class, I was explaining how the introduction of technology would affect the work processes used at a crash, i.e. the initial interview, collection of documents, etc. I offered some thoughts with options for a fresh approach to that part of the job but left it to each officer to decide which combination of methods would work best for them. I stressed that the worst thing an officer could do is: nothing. Failing to think about processes and methods that you will use to minimize risk is in itself the biggest risk of all.
We Win Them One At A Time
As a group, if we want the respect that we got in the old days, then we are obliged to behave in a manner that deserves it - as a group. One bad apple can spoil the whole barrel. A wayward cop may lose his job, be disciplined, even be convicted at trial, but no matter what the transgression, that cop dims the shine on the badge of every person who carries one. That one cop's mistake makes it just that much harder for a parent to extol our collective virtues to their kids.
Be An Ambassador
Think of the cop in the Norman Rockwell painting. He could have eaten his meal in quiet solitude. Instead, he chose to take the risk of reaching out. It was just a small action, but it was profound. You can do the very same things. Don't wait for an award. Don't stand on the sidelines until there is someone around who will give you recognition for what you are doing. Jump in and perform a random act of kindness today.
When on duty and stopped for lunch, look around. Are their kids present with their parents? If your agency has sticker-type badges for the young people, be sure to offer them. After getting the parents permission, it can be fun to give kids a quarter to use in the gum ball machine after their meal. I cannot count how many times that type of experience turned a kid's attitude from fear to excitement. We accomplish this one person at a time.
I got on a full flight a couple of days ago from Detroit to West Palm Beach. At the time of boarding, I very quietly indicated to the lead flight attendant that if there were any problems in flight, I would be happy to help them. As I disembarked from an uneventful trip, the attendant thanked me profusely for my offer. We accomplish this one person at a time.
It can be as simple as helping an older person get their bag into the overhead compartment on an airplane. After many thanks, that person asked if I am a Marine. No, I'm in law enforcement. We accomplish this one person at a time.