FEATURED IN TRAINING
In many respects, I envy young police officers that are just starting their careers. The high performance patrol cars, light bars with intensity that rivals the rising sun, and today’s lightweight body armor are just three advantages over what I started with. But the biggest advancements have to be in training opportunities. Young officers have it made in today’s era. Not only in the quality of training programs, but the availability as well.
But long before the rise of most of today’s top police instructors, there was a wise trainer that expounded many concepts that you need as a professional law enforcement officer. His words are valuable lessons that are timeless in their applicability--not only to law enforcement, but daily living as well.
He is Yoda, the Jedi Master and trainer of the Jedi Knights in the Star Wars movies. Although some police trainers like to compare modern law enforcement officers to the Knights of the Paladin (and a noble analogy it is). I prefer the mythical Jedi Knight, and Yoda’s teachings, as a role model for myself and other officers. Although the character of Yoda is imaginary, many of his teachings are as rock solid as law enforcement lessons can be.
Yoda on the Combative Mindset
“Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.”
“A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.”
When you are facing an opponent, in a sport or when fighting for your life, your deepest commitment must be to always prevail. Think about your experiences in high school or college sports. Those that were indisputable champions always played with the idea that they were there to win. In their mind, there was no doubt about it when they stepped on the field. They were not there to “try” to win; they were there to win. Those that were occasional winners often played “trying not to lose.” Although it sounds like semantics on paper, the two attitudes are actually opposite.
When you have the deepest, most serious commitment to always prevail, your entire being has only one goal. That’s to win, and soundly defeat your opponent no matter what he throws at you. If you adopt the “try not to lose” attitude, you allow an element of doubt to enter the equation. You have in effect strengthened your opponent’s position in your mind, while simultaneously weakening your own.
Although Yoda shared his wisdom on the combative realities of the Jedi, he also preached the importance of ethical behavior throughout the Star Wars series.
Yoda on Ethics
“Beware the Dark Side.”
“The Dark Side is quicker, easier, more seductive.”
“Once you start down the dark path, forever it will dominate your destiny, consume you it will…”
IMHO, to be a top-notch law enforcement officer, you must hold yourself to a higher standard of morals, ethics and conduct, than what’s to be expected of the general public. Some will argue that we, as law enforcement officers, are no different than anyone else. To those with that view, I respectfully but wholeheartedly disagree.
Why should law enforcement officers be expected to behave any differently than anyone else? Because we are the Jedi Knights of our society (a cop, a police officer, a deputy), and these are positions and titles of trust that must be earned and constantly nurtured. They are not merely a job status.
For me, a law enforcement officer is a combination of trust, responsibility and power. These factors, combined within the thin blue line that you represent, is the thread that holds civilization together and prevents total anarchy. Society has to have someone trustworthy that they can turn to in times of crisis. Think about it. You are entrusted with citizen’s property and lives every day. How many times have you safeguarded people’s property at the scene of an accident or burglary or even a medical assist?
Even more important, you’ve been entrusted with the lives of those who reside within your jurisdiction. When it comes to pure power, you are the most powerful individual in the United States of America. It’s not judges or Congress or even the President. It’s you.
How so? As a law enforcement officer, you are the only peacetime occupation that is entrusted with the power and duty, within the limits and authority of the law, to instantly kill another human being. To quote the first Spiderman movie: “With great power, comes great responsibility.” No other occupation has that level of power and responsibility, and no one else has the amount of trust that society has bestowed upon us. We must always ensure that our conduct and ethics earn and uphold that trust.
Don’t fall for the trap of a phenomenon known as situational ethics, which is thinking that you can make small trips to the dark side of the force when the situation benefits you.
The best definition I’ve ever heard for ethics was to the effect of: what your behavior is when no one else is looking. If you hold yourself to the same professional behavior model when no one else is looking, as you would if surrounded by CNN cameras, you understand. As Yoda said, once you start down the dark path, it will consume you. If you cross the line to the dark side of the force, even for a short time, you can never come back unscathed.
It’s also a matter of personal control. There are so many aspects to the job that you have absolutely no control over. But three of the most important facets that you do have total control over, is your mindset, your integrity and ethical behavior. Ensure that you control them in the right direction. As Master Yoda would say: May the force be with you!