3 Non-Negotiables for Law Enforcement OfficersMar 19, 2023
Let's get right down to business. There are 3 non-negotiables as a Law Enforcement Officer. Here they are:
Poor time management primarily impacts an Officer’s work/life balance. Instead of connecting with family and friends, we become disconnected from life outside the job. This leads to burnout, low morale, and complacency. Compounding this issue, many of us stay tethered to the job, carrying multiple phones or devices to respond to relayed information promptly.
Tip: At the end of your shift, trim the fat. Turn off the unnecessary notifications and drop the second/third phone in a drawer desk if possible.
Secondly, poor time management impacts your ability to train and recover properly. For many of us, our gym sessions are more about clearing our minds and finding sanity than preparing our bodies for long-term careers in austere environments. So while gym therapy is a great tool, some days your body needs those 7-8 hours of sleep instead of attempting that new deadlift PR.
For our Officers with hyper-proactive tendencies: All of us have felt the urge to delay report writing and talk our way out of taking a report so that we could chase the second or third felony arrest on one shift. The motivation is great, and I have never been one to steer clear of proactivity. However, this mindset can often alienate us from our peers and lead to failed prosecution because of poorly written reports and affidavits.
Take the time to learn how to be a proactive Officer, then teach it to your Team members. They are your backup, so the time you invest in them may save your life and, at the very least, compound your success.
Lastly, stats mean nothing without successful prosecution. Understandably, we do not control the court system. But we can maintain the quality of work, reports, and affidavits associated with our name.
Time management is one of the most critically overlooked capabilities of a well-rounded LEO. Between staffing shortages, mandatory overtime, special details, and assignments, our schedules can quickly fill up. If you add time with family and friends, training, and vital rest, our plans become a seemingly impossible juggling act.
Remember, as soon as you take off the uniform, your agency will replace you. So, prioritize your health, your family, and your friends.
What is your mindset? In short, your mindset is a compilation of beliefs that enable you to interpret your environment and generate a response to your perceptions. It is important to note that your mindset can change regularly based on many factors. Your sleep, nutrition, physical ability, professional knowledge, and experience all drive your implicitly generated thoughts that guide you daily.
Well-rounded LEOs understand the value of a proper mindset and work excessively to travel down constructive paths. Think of it in this frame: “Where is my endpoint, and what do I need to do to get there?” Do not allow your mindset to keep you trapped in self-defeating cycles. Many Officers turn to these common negative outlets: alcohol abuse, recklessness, and complacency. Instead, set your goals and reverse engineer the process to accomplish them.
Coinciding with mindset is my long-time favorite: processing speed. Processing speed is the ability to quickly absorb, decipher, and react to the information the body receives. When we discuss the “moment being too big” for someone because they froze or had an emotional response to a tense situation, it was due to a failure to train process speed.
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Everyone can be taught tactics, enhance their skills, and develop fitness. But unfortunately, the ability to rapidly process critical information and decide on the subsequent action, then have the composure to employ said response properly, is not a capability everyone can learn. Why? Because everyone’s mindset does not drive them to the same endpoints. Their corresponding goals do not encourage them to engage with the velocity and repetitiveness required to develop a high degree of processing speed.
If you want to be effective, master your mindset.
It would not be an Effective Fitness blog with some discussion of physical fitness. I learned long ago that it is not enough to make it to the fight. You must also have the physical ability to then win the battle.
I have heard all the excuses for why one does not train, and they are all illegitimate. If you look bad in uniform, wear zip-up boots because you can not tie them or break a sweat getting in and out of your car, you must make some profound life changes.
At some point in your career, one of your Officers will get into a physical and need help. Or your agency may experience a mass casualty incident with an active shooter. You want the capacity to arrive on scene, mitigate the threat, then provide aid in a calm and composed manner. No amount of gear or knowledge will enable you to be successful in a physically demanding environment without adequate physical and mental fitness.
Physical fitness can also keep you away from unnecessary civil liability. If you do some research into arrest-related deaths, most of the unlawful deaths stem from an Officer losing the fight. Officers who unnecessarily use deadly force tend not to have the physical capacity or technical ability to successfully manage a direct life-or-death situation. Those officers found that their one physical fitness test and the department’s annual hour-long defensive tactics class were inadequate in those moments. If you swore an oath and are going to wear a uniform, it is your duty to pursue physical fitness and the technical capacity necessary to have a positive impact.
Physical fitness tip: Do not subject your body and mentality to the sedentary nature of staring through a windshield during those long shifts. Follow this link for mid-shift active stretching guidance to prepare for the call.
The metric for which you gauge the success of your career should not be time-bound.
Those who solely judge their success by the amount of time they spend on the job will instinctively prioritize those duties which remove them from active involvement in law enforcement operations. Instead, you should base your career success upon the impact you have. There are veterans with 30 years on the job who have accomplished nothing except for a meager retirement. However, there are Officers with less than five years on the job who have impacted countless lives through their heroic actions.