The State of Readiness

Oct. 25, 2011
Things can and do happen to us by dangerous people and only our preparation and state of readiness stands between us and them.

Darn it, things happen.  Sure as anything if you’re tired, have something to do after work, heck if you’re just “over it” for the day and want to head home – things happen.  Could be the drunk stopped at an intersection headed the wrong way on a one way street who doesn’t even recognize you as a police officer when you walk up to the driver’s door.  And all you were doing was trying to head in to the “barn” to park the car for the night…

Could be some goof on “bath salts” assaulting you while his drug rattled brain thinks you’re the purple people eater or some other whacked out hallucination he’s experiencing while using these dangerous (and now Thank God D.E.A. banned) substances.

Or it could be a fight for your life.  Bam, the call was innocuous in nature you’ve handled hundreds if not thousands of the same kind of call before but now there’s a: man or woman, young or old, armed with a knife, gun or maybe trying to take your gun and kill you.  Fight for you life is now on.

You never know when or where, but you had better be ready…

Ready All the Time? 

Man it’s tough to maintain that sense of readiness and preparedness on each and every call.  Busy cities and busy districts have a way of keeping you on your toes.  When I was a young Deputy assigned to patrol in suburban areas it was tough trying to maintain that sense of readiness.  But I worked with some great guys and we kept each other sharp and backed each other up.  There were enough drunks, domestics and crashes that you couldn’t allow yourself to relax.

So what do you do to maintain that readiness edge?

  • Be Ready – being physically and mentally prepared is the epicenter of readiness.  Your mental edge is heightened based on your physical skills.  I may not be as fast as I once was but on a recent rotation to night shift my DT and firearm skills were solid and my confidence in using them was there which helped my mental state of readiness.
  • Be present in the moment – to be ready to react or respond you must be aware and that comes from being present in the moment.  You must open your senses to your 360 degree world and resist tunneled and hyper-vigilant attention to a small area or only one subject/suspect.
  • Play When/Then head games – when the suspect does this, I’ll do that.  When I roll into the parking lot of that bank and it’s a real hold-up I’ll do this.  Pre-planning causes you to focus and reduces mental lag time.
  • Look for more – my ego is such that I don’t like missing dope evidence on a suspect and am darn near paranoid about missing weapons so, I look for more.  This has held me in good stead over years of street encounters with suspects.  Always believe that you’re missing something and if you look more, you’ll find it.
  • Get out of the car – every once in a while get out of the car and stretch, walk a little, do a park and walk patrol.  It helps clear your head and better prepares you physically.
  • Pay attention to police news on – staying abreast of the latest threats in law enforcement aids your gray matter in contemplating and addressing new and emerging threats.
  • Caffeine – as an ergogenic aid caffeine helps you focus and pep you up.  I prefer the old fashion java as those caffeine and sugar energy drinks are too much and you should be careful of overdoing it but late or in the middle of a shift a good cup of Joe?  Ahhhhh.
  • Training – you hear on a regular basis and will always hear from me that training is the key.  You will perform on the street as you have trained to do.  Additionally, if you’re burned out and lack focus which happens to the best of us, go to a training class or course.  I have attended no fewer than eight officer survival programs over the years as well as countless hands-on firearm and DT programs.  It’s a great way to “recharge your batteries” and put things in perspective.
  • If they had really wanted to, how many people could have gotten me today?  At the end of a tour ask yourself this question and reflect on mistakes you made and then vow to tighten your ship down and reduce the likelihood on the next tour of duty.

I’m not paranoid.  Paranoia is a false state or irrational fear that people are out to get you.  I know people are out to get me since enough people have tried.  It takes work even for someone who makes his living training and writing about officer survival related issues.  But I know, deep down in my soul, that it can happen to you or me at anytime one any call…

It was a sleepy Sunday late morn in Copley, Ohio when a suspect armed with a gun went on a rampage.  Officer Ben Campbell had little idea that he would soon be confronting and shooting the suspect who had just killed seven people and wounded an eighth.  But Ben was prepared and he was ready.  As a former member of the local university tactical team he had been trained in the use of the carbine he was armed with and effectively neutralized that deadly threat.  Ben, who I had the opportunity to train, is a hero and told me that he now has a new respect for training and that he was on auto-pilot the whole time.

Although the question is begged can you ever be ready for this type of incident, the answer must always be – you have to be.  If not us, who?  If not now, when?

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About The Author:

Kevin Davis is a full-time officer assigned to the training bureau where he specializes in use of force, firearms and tactical training. With over 23 years in law enforcement, his previous experience includes patrol, corrections, narcotics and he is a former team leader and lead instructor for his agency's SWAT team with over 500 call-outs in tactical operations.

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