The law enforcement profession is bombarded with distractions today. Whether it’s the media blaming the entire profession for the actions of a few, the social media experts pointing their fingers, or the presence of video cameras on every call, there is plenty for those behind the badge to be worried about and that is exactly why we all need a reminder that these distractions can be deadly if we don’t take proper precautions.
The most basic task a law enforcement professional does is driving and if what I described earlier doesn’t concern you, the inside of any modern day police car should. The only distraction a few decades ago was the radio and that pesky notebook attached to the window but as police work has evolved, so has the distractions present inside the car.
The constant chatter from the police radio, information transmitted by the mobile data terminal, license plate readers, radars, cell phones, and other technologies are supposed to make the job easier and if we aren’t careful, that ease can turn into tragic consequences.
The space ship they now call a police car reminds me of what a senior police officer once told me in a seminar:
Son, let me tell you something, being a police officer is not about what you have, it is what you know.
Police officers are motivated by a sense of duty and responsibility, but those are emotional motivations. Rather than this generic motivation, we should focus on rational motivation when responding to calls for service and dangerous situations. When a call is placed, someone is in trouble and is in need of police intervention to protect or defend them in their situation. Responding emotionally will cause a police officer to take risks that are not necessary. There have been countless situations over the years where police officers were injurred or worse because they did not respond rationally. The distractions of the call, the response, the emergency equipment, the heightened sense of duty, overrode the rational brain and the officers took unnecessary chances that resulted in a crash and the officer never made it to the call. They delayed the response to the call by creating a call. The mantra we often hear remains true today:
If you can’t get there, you can’t help.
In conducting seminars across the country I use “FOCUS” as my mantra. I provide, each officer in attendance a poker chip and a set of small translucent stickers with the word “FOCUS”. I encourage officers to carry the poker chip with them as a constant reminder that they are betting their life on their ability or inability to remain focused. The stickers are for the rearview mirror, the MDT and the instrument cluster. A police officer should glance at one of those locations in the patrol unit every 3-5 seconds. Seeing the FOCUS sticker has helped many police officers over the years to recenter and make rational decisions.
Regardless of the call, make sure you are thinking rationally. Someone is in need of your assistance and to provide that assistance, the response must be as quick and as safe as possible.
Regardless of the outside (or inside) distractions, we must focus on the basics of safety.
Until next time keep the dirty side down and stay focused.