For most people, getting ready for summer means sprucing up the back yard, planning a family vacation, firing up the grill, and getting ready for some outdoor fun! But for the average crimefighter summer means so much more than fun in the sun. Right now is a great time for you to ask yourself: “Am I ready for summer?”
Winter often means “weight gain” for some, “couch potato syndrome” for others. Thanks to the holidays, colder weather, and the sheer boredom of the winter months we have a tendency to fall off the diet and exercise wagon. Start by assessing your level of fitness. Are you “fit for duty” as they say at the Cooper Institute? Are you ready for that foot pursuit? And once you catch the bad guy, are you confident that you’ll have enough steam left to get him safely and tactically into custody? If the answer is “no” or “I’m not sure” then it’s time to either reach out or do some research to figure out how to get in better shape. Keep in mind, getting and staying in shape doesn’t mean two hours a day in the gym, but it does mean understanding how to relate your workouts to your job performance. Basically, we need to be strong, we need to have a good level of endurance, and we need to be flexible. There are countless ways to achieve this, just make sure you’re getting good advice and information, and always remember that your level of fitness could be the difference between life and death for YOU or one of your fellow officers on the street!
You can’t truly achieve proper fitness without good nutrition. Does your summer uniform feel a little snug? Is there a muffin top spilling over your duty belt making your pistol hard to draw? Summer is the easiest time to change or reform your eating habits, so make it happen. There are numerous free apps for your Smartphone that will help you keep a food diary, or take the old-fashioned route and write down everything you eat in a notebook or journal. You may be in for a real shock. We do an awful lot of mindless eating in this profession - whether you’re pushing a patrol car or patrolling a desk - and keeping track of what you’re shoveling in is a great way to get control. Again, do your research; find out how what and how much you should be consuming each day and plan ahead. Prepare and bring your own food to work (hit the local farmer’s market in your beat for fresh options) or get a copy of the fast food edition of “Eat This Not That” and find out how many calories are really in that frozen mocha latte you suck down at the beginning of every shift. The goal is not to look like a supermodel, but rather to enhance your physical skills with the proper fuel for your body. The bonus to all of this? You’ll feel so much better.
Also make sure you wear sunscreen (it’s not just wrinkle prevention, it helps prevent cancer too), keep your hair out of your way (a ponytail might be cute, but it’s not safe, it’s a handle for a dirtbag who wants to hurt you; keep your hair up and tight against your head or cut it short), and drink tons of water (hydration is key to your survival as well as essential to your critical thinking skills)! Take care of your body as well as you maintain your other essential tools.
We have a lot going on this summer. The economy is bad, racial tensions are high, and government mistrust is rampant. People are more likely to shoot at us, yet our budgets and our staffing have been pared to the bone. The “occupiers” and their fellow anarchists are coming out of hibernation as are the gangs, burglars, thieves and terrorists who may have lain low during the winter. Add all that to the usual warm weather antics of our citizens, and it looks like we’re going to have a busy summer!
Keep up on local, national and international news and politics. Read those crime analysis reports and bulletins. Get out of your car and into your neighborhoods; talk to people. Cultivate informants, share information with your co-workers and other agencies. Recognize and accept that this summer may be like no other in our recent history, and cops are going to be right in the middle of it all. Prepare mentally to truly walk the warrior’s path.
Temperature fluctuations, sweat and humidity can negatively impact your gear. This is a good time to inspect ALL of your duty (and off duty) equipment. Make sure everything fits and replace anything that’s worn beyond repair. Pay special attention to your body armor; make sure you have good fit and coverage, and don’t be tempted to take out your trauma plate just because it’s hot outside. Remember that when you go from air conditioning to the outdoor heat not only do you sweat, but so does metal. Condensation can wreak havoc on your tools, especially on your firearms, so give them a little extra attention.
Your most important tactical skill is your mindset. Spend some time thinking about how your work day (or night) may change in the summer. You may be transitioning from a cruiser to a police bike; maybe you spent nine months as a school resource officer and now you’re back in a patrol car. Depending on where you live you may have tourists, part time officers, or staff shortages to deal with. Whatever changes await you during the summer, visualize and mentally rehearse for those changes; don’t be caught off guard.
Summer is a great time to be a crimefighter. Be prepared mentally, physically and tactical to enjoy the adventure, and stay safe!
About The Author:
Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith is a 29-year veteran of a large suburban Chicago police department. Recently retired as a patrol supervisor, she has held positions in patrol, investigations, narcotics, juvenile, crime prevention and field training. As a sergeant, she supervised her department's K-9 Unit, served as a field training sergeant, recruitment team sergeant, bike patrol coordinator, the Crowd Control Bike Team supervisor, and supervisor of the Community Education/Crime Prevention Unit.
As a patrol sergeant, Betsy served on the Elderly Services Team, the Crisis Intervention Team, and was a supervisory member of the Honor Guard Unit. From 1999 - 2003 Betsy hosted various programs for the Law Enforcement Television Network and served as a content expert.
A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command, Betsy writes for numerous law enforcement and government publications including and is a regular columnist for many police websites including Police Link. A content expert and instructor for the Calibre Press "Street Survival" seminar since 2003, Betsy also serves as an on-air commentator and advisor for Police One TV and was a featured character in the Biography Channel’s “Female Forces” reality show. Betsy has been a law enforcement trainer for over 20 years and is a popular keynote speaker at conferences throughout the United States and Canada and beyond.
Betsy is the lead instructor for the Calibre Press “Street Survival for Women” seminar and manages Dave Smith & Associates. Together, Betsy and Dave teach courses through “Winning Mind Seminars,” an Illinois based company. She can be reached through her website at www.femaleforces.com.