To do this we need to understand even more about habits, and recognize that they give us a result each time we do them. Winning an armed confrontation is a powerfully satisfying and emotional reward, but day to day diligence in an interaction with a “yes” person just leaves us tired. Searching an empty building like it is filled with deadly ninja killers keeps you safe but has a toll in the end. Thus, so many “good” habits are actually punished by stress and fatigue, while bad habits such as relaxing too soon or just letting a subject stand there with their hands in their pockets lower the intensity with “yes” people.
Remember freshman psychology. Operant behavior was one of the fun subjects you studied; it covered the effects of positive and negative reinforcement on rats and pigeons and even other students. But too often the power of the third feedback mechanism is not appreciated enough, the power of punishment…the zap of an electrical charge, for instance.
Punishment is a behavior extinguisher; it eliminates behavior altogether regardless of whether it is good or bad. All those really good habits we trained to have in the academy are constantly under assault by little micro-punishments, micro-zaps, while bad habits often have neutral or even positive reinforcements.
So fifteen years out of the academy how many bad habits do you have as opposed to good ones? Tragically, many of our key habits for survival aren’t tried until an actual battlefield test is administered by a dirt bag or other critical circumstance; so two things have to be constantly going on in our high risk culture, training and feedback. If we are going to overcome the effects of routine and “yes” people on our safety we need to both mentally and physically refresh our skills.
Practice makes permanent so make sure your reps rehearse what you want to do in a crisis; remember “perfect practice makes perfect.” The other element of long term success and good habit is feedback. It is the cheese at the end of the maze or the shock when the wrong switch is thrown. It is the sergeants and FTOs who are the essential keys here and it is vital that supervisors know that their job is ensuring organizational goals are met; this includes officer safety which requires extinguishing bad habits! If your folks are positioned between cars, letting subjects crowd them, or standing with their hands in their pockets…Zap!