Whether you’re a first day police officer, veteran detective, or a 50-year married couple, the way that we express ourselves to people leaves them with the responsibility to act. In police work, that takes the form most times of reacting to stimulus presented on first contact. That could look like negotiating with an armed and barricaded suspect, talking with kids about the dangers of using drugs, or even how best to reach across the generational gap to train good behavior into great behavior in our officers. Regardless of the context, after over 20 years in different circumstances, I can affirm that it takes courage to know both when to speak and when not to speak. However, in our profession we rarely acknowledge the constant thorn of fear and how dramatically it impacts those choices.
Maybe you’re afraid to speak up because another officer will think that you’re weak. Maybe you know that what’s going on in front of you is both morally and ethically wrong, but you’re afraid if you say something you’ll be blacklisted out of any possible future promotions or opportunities. Or maybe you find yourself in a position where you recognize what you say could actually change lives and you are genuinely afraid of the responsibility that comes with people who will listen.
The opposite of fear is courage. Courage is not simply an emotional response to stimulus (which would be bravery), but rather it’s a committed response based on both emotion and intellect to act in a way that represents truth regardless of the circumstance. Courage comes from the Greek word that conveys “boldness and confidence.” It is the polar opposite of fear. And I know in my career I have talked with thousands of police officers who would tell you they desire to be bold and confident on the job each time they put on the badge, regardless if they are afraid or not.
Do you want to take the first step to conquering fear on the job and in your life? Then realize that fear is a natural part of every human experience. Gavin de Becker wrote fear is a “gift” in his book on the topic. But it’s only a gift when you recognize that it simultaneously exists as the shadow someone who both leads and speaks with boldness and confidence courageously on the job and in their life carries. It’s a gift to be vulnerable and transparent with your coworkers. It’s a gift to speak with convicted resolution with your supervisors on ways to add value to the organizational mission. And it most certainly is a gift to stand in the gap between good and evil, when everyone else can only see defeat as you represent victory.
Words matter. Don’t walk into this new year wasting any more time in the playground of self-doubt and fear. If you put on a badge and stand in the gap, do so with boldness and confidence carrying on in the tradition of courageous leadership that our profession was built on.
Sergeant Jeff Daukas has over 20 years in law-enforcement working through patrol, investigations, and special operations both at the line level and as a supervisor. Through the last 20 years, Jeff has embraced his passion instructing officers and civilians through the nobility of policing. He is a certified FranklinCovey Nobility of Policing instructor, as well as a certified instructor for the Blue Courage curriculum. Jeff holds a masters degree in criminal justice with a focus on terrorism and homeland security, and teaches in that discipline at the college level. He is a graduate of the FBI-LEEDA Supervisor Leadership Institute program consistently implementing servant-leadership into training the next generation of law-enforcement professionals in both courageous leadership and followership.