I was recently asked if I would like to start my career over again today. My immediate reply was a resounding ‘no’. When asked why, I thought of the good old days and how easy it was then. Law enforcement’s front lines today are under extreme pressures that my generation was not subjected to at these levels. Now this requires extraordinary leadership on our part to lead and shore them up.
First and foremost are the trends regarding line of duty deaths, this continues to disturb me despite the advancements in officer safety and tactics. Add in medical advances both from emergency medics in the streets and the advanced care of our trauma centers, it is alarming we are still losing fine young officers. We have advanced trauma care which pulls our injured out of the jaws of death daily. It is easy to extrapolate that the assaultive deadly culture facing law enforcement continues to swell our injured and wounded numbers. One can surmise that if not for medical advances, our toll would skyrocket.
Add up the number of hours that our officers stay in a ‘ready condition’ to respond to threats. There are increasing reports of officers and their families being targeted while off-duty. I have carried off-duty over thirty years. I know many of my colleague warriors who do the same. One could surmise that the number of hours carrying and maintaining a heighten level of awareness wears on the mind and soul. Most do this without second thought but to me it is a cumulative stress placed on the person. Many local governments still push and pursue the idealism that you must reside in the jurisdiction. The courts have handed down several cop favorable cases but still you have to go there for court, business and so forth. If you are one who resides where you work, this heightens the security worries for family safety and home security. Can you enjoy an afternoon out in the park, if you have to scan the crowd for some thug on a revenge crusade? As leaders today we must be aware of these factors and even offer training and support to officers and families. I am in no way making the comparison to our military that have been in recent war zones. However, one officer made this comparison of his current law enforcement job to his past overseas military assignments, which is frightening to ponder.
The legal system and political pressures have streamlined frivolous complaints and litigations that are hurled at our officers. The old adage and belief of if you do your job you will eventually get sued is still true today. Add in every cell phone with a camera to film your every move, so it can be slapped on the internet, edited of course to protect the perp. Then count the number of starving lawyers out there who are waiting to make you their next paycheck. Add to this the budding cottage industry of police experts on the television and lecture circuits. Most are educated nomads who have never been a cop but read some book or were influenced by some college influencing them to right the wrongs of the world, starting with cops first. To me this is an ‘occupy the courtroom with cops’ movement. We, as leaders and trainers, must train our officers to a higher level to withstand this scrutiny that is being hurled at us. Legal survival is becoming just as important as street tactics.