The Mental Edge: Resilience - Leadership -

The Mental Edge: Resilience

Tough times don't last—tough people do.



Kevin R. Davis | Thursday, June 2, 2011

Talk about mindset and the mental edge, and you’ll usually get references to the late Col. Jeff Cooper’s Awareness Color Code or his Principle of Personal Defense. These are sound concepts and recommendations that still hold true today, but there’s more to what’s required for today’s law enforcement street warriors.

Times are tough my brothers and sisters in blue. Whether you patrol urban or suburban streets, or in a large city or a small town, it makes no difference. Officer fatalities are up: Today’s numbers from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund indicate an increase of 20% in total fatalities from 2010 and a 57% increase in deaths due to gunfire this year.

When Life’s Unfair
Recently, I’ve been involved as an expert witness defending two officers charged with crimes in on-duty use of force incidents. Both were charged with crimes based on sloppy or poor investigations by their own agencies. The defense teams were successful in winning an acquittal at trial in the misdemeanor case and dismissal of charges in the felony case, but both officers had to go through hell in the interim.

Law enforcement and fire services, as well as other public employee union rights, are being attacked throughout the country by ignorant and ill-informed politicians. In Ohio, a newly elected governor called a police officer who stopped and ticketed him for a traffic violation an “idiot.” And as example of his lack of support for law enforcement, he’s spearheading an attempt to seriously reduce police and fire union rights and abilities. A nincompoop of an Ohio state senator, who’d been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, stabbed law enforcement in the back by introducing Senate Bill 5, which attempts to gut a process that’s worked for safety forces and other public employee unions in the Buckeye State for over thirty years. Reducing the bargaining rights of police and fire unions for anything other than wage negotiations shows an ignorance of safety forces so deep that it’s unfathomable.

In my neck of the woods, the City of Cleveland, who’s already operating well below effective levels in staffing, will be laying off all members of its current police academy class. That’s right. Walk across the stage, get your certificate and then file over at the unemployment office.

Resilience is a Learned Behavior
We’re doing more with less and are offered less life-saving training by our agencies as well. So what’s all this doom saying about? Resilience—that ability to take a hit and still get up off the canvas.

So goes the song lyrics: “I get knocked down, but I get up again…You’re never going to keep me down.”

Learning resilience or learning to take a hit and persevere is a learned behavior. My late parents were products of the Great Depression. They could have told you stories about tough times they went through. Heck, our country was founded by people that went through tough times just to arrive here, let alone carve out a homestead in harsh situations.

How does resilience work for you? In a job that exposes you to politics of the worst kind (far more stressful and damaging in my opinion than the stressors of the street), shotgun discipline (don’t discipline the culprit make a policy or rule that disciplines everyone) and turns you into a political football (every politician loves cops at election time, but won’t hesitate to lay-off or threaten lay-offs to make a political point), the best attribute you can have is the ability to “take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’” to paraphrase the old Timex commercial.

How to Build Resilience

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Kevin R. DavisKevin R. Davis is a full-time officer with more than 25 years in law enforcement.


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