This year, we're challenging you to make and keep some law enforcement-specific resolutions, to improve yourself personally and professionally and, in the process, enhance the profession through your resolve. iStock Photo
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The dawning of a new year naturally brings with it reflection on the past, and expectation and hope for the future. For many of us, Jan. 1 is a time of renewal and fresh opportunity reflected in widespread declarations of optimistic New Year’s resolutions.
This year, I’m going to start eating right and exercising, and I’ll be back to my college waistline in no time! This year, I’m putting down the cancer sticks for good, and I mean it this time, too! This year, I’m going to stay on top of this house, once and for all. No more half-finished projects around here. In fact, I think I’m going to finally make some room in the garage for an actual car. And, this year, I’m really going to learn to play guitar. By next January, my longtime dream of founding that April Wine tribute band will be fully realized!
And for many of us, sometime in the following weeks reality will descend on our ever-hopeful, but ultimately-doomed best intentions. Weaving through the garage maze of a non-functioning grill, boxed-up Popular Mechanics (August ‘82 – April ‘04) and Amateur Photographer (November ’81 – February ’93) magazines, and a brand new but never out of the box guitar and amplifier (“Seulement entre toi et moi”). As we shuffle through the garage detritus, taking care to not drop our extra large, deep-dish, double-cheese and sausage pizza balanced in one hand (nor our cigarette, gripped in the other) in the coagulated pool of spilled 10W-30, the truth hits home: Next year, I’m going to …
Sadly, discarded and forgotten resolutions are an age-old punch line. Deep down, no one really expects to honor them—the good feelings created by the making of resolutions is in their making, not their actualization—so there’s little disappointment when results fall short of intentions. And that’s too bad because most resolutions we make really are the good habits we should be adopting.
So this year we are challenging you to make and keep some law enforcement-specific resolutions—we will be challenging ourselves, as well—to improve yourself personally and professionally and, in the process, enhance the profession through your resolve. The specific resolutions you come up with should be your own and reflect your individual style, but let us suggest some areas on which to focus.
Resolve to Improve Personal Morale
Law enforcement morale is a topic we’ve long been interested in and one that seems to touch a chord whenever we have written or taught on it. Lately, we’ve taken our research on the road, conducting training seminars on Police Morale for Supervisors: It IS Your Problem, and have had the opportunity to talk and correspond with cops and their bosses from a variety of agencies and backgrounds. These exchanges have only reinforced our conviction that low morale is a serious problem, with serious costs, for law enforcement and its practitioners.
How’s your morale? How’s the morale of your colleagues? Do you still come to work with the same passion as when the job was fresh and new, or are you just marking time? How about your buddies? When a cop’s morale is low the cop suffers, the profession suffers and, all too often, the cop’s family, friends, coworkers, bosses and community even suffer. Low morale is a poison that whittles away at physical and emotional health.
If your morale is suffering, resolve to fix it! Figure out where the poison is entering the system and do whatever it takes to root it out. Or maybe you’re a boss and you see low morale eating away at the effectiveness and well-being of your troops. Cut it off at the pass. Root it out of your sphere of influence, at least as much as you are able, and see how much productivity and effectiveness is improved—and how much easier your job becomes.
We know this seems a tall order, and it is. But for some people and agencies it’s absolutely crucial.
Resolve to Increase Your Knowledge & Improve Your Skills
Whether your time on the job is 30 days or 30 years, learning never stops. Embrace what you know while acknowledging what you don’t and then resolve to fill in the gaps. If you have 20 or 30 years on the job you certainly hold a vast store of knowledge accumulated over the years, and you’ve probably forgotten more about policing than most could imagine. But the explosive growth of technology and intelligence guarantees no one can ever know it all. It also guarantees that, even for the most worldly and experienced cop, new frontiers in policing will continue to open.
Stay curious. Stay current. Resolve to never fall into the trap of blindly sticking with “the way we used to do it.” Those ways were, and may still be, perfectly fine but there are a lot of smart people in the field researching, developing and testing new theories all the time—some good, some so-so, some that will soon be relegated to the scrap heap—but all worthy of at least consideration and that may be better that older ways of doing things.
And if you cannot get your agency to send you to new training, we understand: Training costs precious dollars and pulls officers away from regular duties. But consider that which you can teach yourself. There is excellent, and often free, online training available. There are excellent law enforcement websites (like, for instance, THIS one!) featuring columns by recognized trainers and LE professionals who share information on a wide variety of LE-related topics. And many trainings are reasonably priced and well worth opening your own wallet if it’s on a topic of particular interest to you.
Resolve to Improve the Profession Through What You Can Bring to the Table
That’s right, what do you know that, if you took the time to share it with others in your department or profession, would serve to improve the effectiveness of others in the field? Perhaps you’re an investigator with years of successful interrogations under your belt. Sure, you went to all the schools most other detectives go to and learned and applied all the same things, but over time you also compiled a collections of tricks and techniques all your own. What if you took the time to catalogue your bag of tricks and put together training for newer investigators? What if you developed training for patrol, informed by your experience as a detective, on how the “first on scene” can best respond to enhance the effectiveness of an investigation.
Law enforcement is filled with experts in not just the LE field proper, but in every subject from anthropology to zoology. What are you an expert in, and how can your knowledge be adapted to help your peers? Think creatively. Are you an expert in healthy cooking and yoga in your off-duty world? Imagine what you could teach a group of people whose diets consist largely of hastily scarfed fat and whose musculoskeletal system is wrenched about daily by gunbelts and uncomfortable car seats.
Resolve to Sharpen Officer Safety Skills
Law Officer’s Below 100 initiative is an important and ambitious undertaking, but very worthwhile. Its main goal is to reduce the annual number of law enforcement deaths to a number that is less than 100. It’s been more than 65 years since the annual number of line-of-duty police deaths was fewer than 100, and 2010 was a particularly sad year.
The five basic tenets of this initiative are simple, but often ignored with tragic results. They are:
- Wear your seatbelt.
- Watch your speed.
- Wear your vest.
- WIN: What’s Important Now?
- Remember: Complacency kills!
We can never reduce law enforcement deaths in the line of duty to zero. It would be wonderful but, we all know this, yours is a dangerous and unpredictable world. But too many of the deaths we are experiencing are completely preventable but for simple errors in judgment or allowing complacency to set in or losing sight of the big picture for even a moment.
Resolve to do what you can to be alive this time next year. Resolve to do what you can to make sure your colleagues, bosses, supervisees and partners are alive this time next year. Wear your vest every day. Assume someone is going to crash into you every day. Remember: When you’re running hot you cannot help who you never get to, so slow down. Always ask, “What’s important now?” And always stay vigilant, because no one wants to hear at your funeral how it was just a routine call.
Be safe, have fun, and stay resolved to being the best you can be in 2011!