December and January are traditionally very deadly months for American law enforcement. Gunfire and traffic crashes are the leading causes of line of duty deaths this time of year and we need to make sure we’re balancing our officer safety with our physical and mental well-being during this sometimes arduous season. Let’s take a look at both officer safety and officer wellness to make your holidays a little bit brighter and a whole lot safer.
We all know that family tensions run high this time of year. Domestic disputes can turn violent quickly, and so can custody battles, tense workplace situations, and more. Don’t allow the routine nature of our job and these kinds of calls de-train you. Visualize various scenarios and how you and your colleagues would react to and resolve them. Make sure you’ve got your go-bag ready and your mindset where it belongs.
The holiday season is also a time to be extra-vigilant when it comes to potential terrorist activities. There are terrorist groups who hate capitalism and therefore may strike out at busy retail establishments. Religious extremists may lash out, whether in an organized fashion or in a “lone wolf” attack. Racial and political tensions are also high; make sure you stay abreast of local, state and world politics and news events so that you can react to and maybe even prevent similar crimes from occurring in your area.
The winter months are also prime time for snow and ice related accidents and illnesses. We’ve lost a number of small-town cops in this county who’ve suffered fatal heart attacks shoveling snow at the police department. Many officers each year incur significant injuries slipping on the ice or suffering frostbite during foot pursuits. If you work in a cold climate, you also need to be mindful or the ever-changing winter driving conditions as well.
The holidays can also lead to a lot of distractions in our lives so it is important to get absolutely focused when you hit the streets. Don’t be in “Condition White” worrying about finances, presents, or that goofy uncle coming to visit while you are protecting your community; plenty of time to do that sitting on your “Magic Chair” when you get home.
‘Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry; which often leads to more eating, more drinking, and not so much merriment. While everyone else is winding down this time of year, if you’re a crimefighter you’ve got to ramp it up. It doesn’t seem fair unless you adjust your way of thinking. See yourself like a high level athlete who is about to enter the playoff season. Keep your “training table” piled high with protein and complex carbs, go easy on the sugar, fats, and junk food. Bring food to work with you so you’re not tempted by the goodies people bring to the station or the deep dish pizza they offer at your favorite neighborhood cop hangout. I know it’s difficult to be disciplined about your food and fitness this time of the year but your life or someone else’s may very well depend on it.
The holidays are a time for hosting visitors. This is a great time to re-evaluate your home firearms safety procedures. Maybe you live in a “kid-free” home but your four year old nephew is coming for Christmas or the kids next door stop by to say “hi” during the school holiday break. Make sure to be extra-vigilant about controlling and storing your firearms at home during this time of company coming and going.
Don’t let your personal holiday activities lead you to play a game of “you bet your badge” while you’re off duty. Whether it’s a shift Christmas party or your extended family’s holiday dinner party, if you’re going to drink DO NOT DRIVE; get a designated driver or take a cab. Forget urban legends about “professional courtesy;” in this day and age drinking and driving can lead to an immediate career change!