The Winning Mindset
The Ways of the Warrior
Attitude, not aptitude, will determine altitude.
There are countless examples about the critical role that our mindset and attitudes play in our ultimate success or failure. We have learned how an officer with a driving will to live will survive a critical shooting while others, lacking such mental determination, have died from gunshot wounds that would normally be considered non-life threatening.
It is all about our attitude and our will to win.
So What Is The Problem?
In my earlier days, I worked with a county sheriff where there were also small agencies in a few cities and towns. There was also a state police post. On countless occasions, while handling a situation, the state boys would ride up in a cloud of dust, emerge from their cruisers and act as though they were society's ultimate saviors.
Their attitudes were demeaning to other LEOs who were already on scene.
From our point of view, they looked real pretty in their spiffy, neatly-pressed, color-coordinated uniforms. But, if the media and cameras were not present, the state boys quickly evaporated, leaving the mop-up and report writing to us lesser road-toads.
The unfortunate part (if this was not already bad enough) was that the general public - and yes, the bad guys - picked up on this and used it to taunt us.
Yup, we had knuckleheads in our ranks, too. I remember one time when one of our deputies talked down to a city cop because our authority extended far beyond his. What nonsense. Worse, what a needless whack at the attitudes of two otherwise good officers.
Reserve and auxiliary officers were often treated with egregious disrespect. Too often, career officers treated members of the volunteer ranks as idiots. That often became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
As for security guards - too many cops view them as wannabes. They often get little or no respect. Some cops even treat them with a disdain similar to that handed out to bad guys under arrest.
Frequently, individual officers exude an attitude that says to cops in other agencies, You are OK, but you are not as good as me. Their attitudes about reserves, auxiliaries and security guards are so flagrantly bad that they cannot be printed here.
A scant two years ago, Nicholas Pekearo and Eugene Marshalik were hunted down on the streets of Manhattan and killed in cold blood by an animal whose soul should rot in hell. These two brave men were unarmed NYPD Auxiliary Officers. They were making their contribution to better their community and our country. While I seriously question the notion of wearing a uniform without a gun, that's an issue for another article.
Little more than a month ago, Stephen Johns was gunned down by an 88 year old man. He was providing security for the visitors to the national Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. A friend of mine (who will start the police academy shortly) was Johns' partner, standing just twenty feet away as this brave young man gave his life protecting others.
Law Enforcement Officers across our great land put their lives on the line every day to protect people they don’t even know.
A law enforcement officer is killed in the line of duty every 57 hours.
God bless them all.
When we diminish other law enforcement officers - no matter their capacity or assigned task - we empower and embolden those who want to hurt and kill us.
What do these officers have in common?
All of us share a willingness to put our own safety in jeopardy in the protection and defense of others. In most cases, we will be defending people whom we don’t even know.
Aahhh yes: labels. They permeate the world of law enforcement, e.g. chief, captain, lieutenant, sergeant, officer/deputy, reserve and others. Labels can be so very misleading giving status to those who don't deserve it and stealing respect from those who do.
While at Police Week, I ran into a lieutenant from Maine. In our conversation, he explained that in his agency, the rank of lieutenant fell just below chief. There was nothing in between. So, in his real life his job was quite comparable to that of a deputy chief. Clearly the role of this small town lieutenant is vastly different than a job of the same rank in a large metropolitan agency.
When I lived in Michigan, reserve officers were generally comprised of two types of individuals: young people who used it as a stepping-stone to full time police work or more mature people with established careers who simply wanted to contribute something to their community. The training varied from agency to agency, as it was not regulated by the state in any way.
When I moved to Florida, I learned that the ranks of reserve units (in my area) are largely comprised of retired career officers. They chose the reserve role to stay involved in the LE community and to keep their state certification active. In Florida, a reserve officer must be fully certified by FDLE, the sanctioning agency. When arriving at a scene, it is often the case that the reserve officer is the senior man on scene. His opinion is sought and his direction is welcomed. That's quite a difference from Michigan.
Labels should be used carefully and never in a way that reduces or demeans the role of another.
When labels are misused, the public picks up on it. When poor attitudes accompany those misused labels, it can encourage miscreants to feel emboldened about challenging an officer's authority or ability to control a situation.
Our diverse uniforms, multiple ranks, and differing agencies often make us look different. Those elements are all evidence of what covers a very common inside. We are all called to fight the good fight. We are all willing to put ourselves on the line for others. We all have an innate sense that separates good from bad.
I was at the graduation of an academy class a few years ago while the devastation of the attacks of 9/11/01 was fresh in everyone's heart and mind. The keynote speaker referenced the terrible loss of life on that day, with a special note about the law enforcement officers who had made the ultimate sacrifice.
The speaker said that they were all heroes. He quickly added this, "It was not their deaths that made them heroes. Rather, they became heroes on the day that they pinned on the badge and became willing to sacrifice their lives in the protection of others." Amen.
Each one of those graduates became a hero in their own right on that day.
I have a friend and brother who is very near and dear to me. His name is Earl. He is a reserve officer for a suburban community in metro Detroit. Earl is much closer in age to 70 than 20 (by a long shot). He is probably the most active and most supportive member of our F.O.P. Lodge. Earl represents the best of what a police officer can and should be.
A couple of weeks ago, early one morning, he suffered a minor stroke at home. First responders were there in a flash and medical care was excellent. The prognosis is that there will be no permanent loss of functionality. Thank God.
Earl is home now, recuperating. Yesterday, the police officer who had been first on scene that fateful day stopped by Earl's house to check on his wellbeing. As is Earl's style, he thanked the officer for his effort with all of the sincerity a human being can muster.
The officer's response: "No problem. You are one of the family. We take care of each other and that is what I did for you." You are one of the family.
What makes someone one of the family? Earl pondered. When someone in a crowd needs first aid, some stand and watch while others rush in to assist. When there is the sound of gunfire or a car crash, some hide or crane their necks to see the carnage while others race to stop the threat and rescue the injured.
It is the ones providing aid, stopping threats, and saving victims from certain death who are One of the Family.
No matter the label.
No matter the assigned task.
We share a common bond driven by the desire to do good things in our lives.
We put ourselves on the line for others.
We would take a bullet for a fellow officer without a moment's hesitation.
Our minds and our attitudes are the most powerful weapons we possess. I cannot count how many times I have heard a cop say that he can accomplish more with his pen (on a report) than he could ever get done with his gun.
We are warriors. We are driven to survive. We have decided in advance that we will win in every situation. However, when we allow demeaning attitudes, thoughts and words about fellow protectors to creep into our mind, we have surrendered part of that mental strength to our enemies.
In this game there are rarely any one-man teams.
Each one of us is but a thread that is woven into the larger fabric comprised of all of our brothers & sisters in arms. We are like links in a chain.
When we encourage and enable a fellow officer to become stronger, we have increased the combined strength that we all share.
Be careful in what you do. Do not weaken that strength with negative thoughts, deeds, or words.
Whether or not you go home at the end of your next shift could depend on it.