What do ethics have to do with officer survival?
Have you made a promise to your significant other, your family or yourself that you’d come home at the end of your shift? How about a promise that you would train like your life depended on it? *You know it does don’t you? To practice with your duty sidearm to the point of mastery? Did you take a self administered oath to perform your duties to the best of your abilities? To always be cautious? To never take the easy way or shortcut safety or suspect control methods? To always look good in your uniform or to keep yourself in shape and exercise?
If you’re a supervisor did you swear to take care of your troops? Even in spite of political pressure did you vow to look after the officers you supervise? *You should have you know?
If you’re a trainer or instructor did you make a promise to yourself to train officers to the upmost of your abilities? Or if they’re in the right, to defend them as best you can should they be accused of policy violations or criminally charged? I’ve made that solemn vow but if you’re a trainer have you?
Ethics in Action
You see my big bone of contention with “ethics” training is that it deals with a free donut or cup of coffee but is not applied to survival. Police officers may be disciplined for a free cup of Joe in today’s world but are being killed at astonishing levels while agencies are neglecting you hold officers to a solemn oath of safety and survival.
Officers take an oath to serve and defend the citizens of their city but don’t make a promise to defend themselves through the primary means – their own training. Or taking an oath that they will perform their duties to best of their abilities…”so help me” and then do whatever they can to avoid actually doing anything?
Many supervisors focus on holding officers accountable to policy and procedure but not to exercising due caution as well as operating safely in a tactically sound manner. Gig the troops for the slightest infraction but pay no never mind to reckless or unsafe street work. Acknowledge and document an officer’s deficits but don’t offer remedial training to help save an officer (or save the city in a civil rights lawsuit…can you say deliberate indifference?)
If you say you’re going to do something, do you follow through, act with integrity and do it? If you’ve reached an agreement or have a contract do you live up to your end of the deal and follow it or do you begin to look for ways around or out of it as soon as the ink dries?
Where is the honor or integrity in lying in wait to boom an officer for an insignificant infraction because of vindictiveness or to make it your life’s work to find something to bag an officer for because, truth told, you just don’t like him or her? For God’s sake where’s the honor or integrity in that?
Management laments poor police morale and attitudes but refuses to have the integrity to look after and take care of the troops under their charge.
Integrity and Honor are Not Popular
I’ve recently had some run-ins with members of law enforcement from academy directors to agency heads who have lost their way and lost their honor and integrity. From misstatements in sworn court proceedings to retaliation and intimidation these folks have forgotten what honor, integrity and ethics were all about. Shame on them, I wonder how they can shave the face in the mirror each day.
But if you promise, swear or take an oath to do whatever you can to do what’s right, train hard and continually prepare to meet and defeat a threat against you, whatever that threat may look like, and you follow your solemn vow, you live up to your creed – you’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror and sleep peacefully at night. What’s more, you’ll go home at the end of your shift to shave another day…
What You Didn’t Swear To
Nowhere in your oath of office did it say, “I will recklessly endanger myself and expose myself to unnecessary risk possibly getting myself killed or seriously injured for the citizens of my city.”
Or promising yourself – hey, Hey, HEY!, “Let’s me careful out there” as the old Sarge used to say in Hill Street Blues. Then leaving the safety of the station, letting your adrenalin fueled lizard brain make stupid tactical decisions, drive too fast, ignore danger signs, foolishly rush in to dangerous situations and expose your butt or other law enforcement officers to unnecessary risk.
Promise Me and Yourself
That you’ll train hard, equip the best you can, operate tactically, drive safely and go home at the end of your shift. Promise me if you’re knocked down you’ll fight your way back up. If you see the danger signs – you’ll act decisively and aggressively to control the suspect. If you’re shot you’ll keep fighting. That you’ll always fight back and never, ever give in.
If you’re a supervisor promise me you’ll look out for your troops, hold them to a high standard to ensure their safety and survival, support and defend them when they’re in the right. Show them the way. Lead by example by being tactically sound and proficient in your skills.
Don’t be like millions of dieters who make a promise to themselves to lose weight and lack the discipline to maintain. Knuckle down and do it, I know you can!
Oaths, promises or vows are only words if the person saying them has no honor and integrity. Officer survival oaths and promises must be made and maintained through a lifetime in law enforcement. You must promise and keep your word; your life depends on it.
Here’s my promise to you if you take such an oath you’ll immediately benefit and if your officer survival oath leads to saving your life and we meet in person, let me know and I’ll buy you a cup of coffee and a donut – that’s a promise I’ll gladly make.
About The Author:
Kevin Davis is a full-time officer assigned to the training bureau where he specializes in use of force, firearms and tactical training. With over 23 years in law enforcement, his previous experience includes patrol, corrections, narcotics and he is a former team leader and lead instructor for his agency's SWAT team with over 500 call-outs in tactical operations.