During discussions around previous events with law enforcement officers it is all too common to hear the words “If I was there…” This is followed by the persons conjecture on what they would have done if they would have been in that particular events. I say conjecture because that is exactly what it is. Everything that comes after the words “If I was there I would have” is bullshit. The only people who know what they would have done are the ones who were there and know what they did do. The best any of the rest of us can do is speculate.
This is not to say however that we should not review past events. This can be a great way to learn from past experiences (ours and/or others) and prepare for the future. The difference starts with the language. Instead of stating “If I was there” ask yourself “When I find myself in a similar situation in the future how would I most like to respond?” Asking this question allows us to:
- take a step back and reflect on what did happen,
- reflect on how this relates to our training and experience,
- imagine our options,
- imagine what we would most like to do, and then
- imagine ourselves performing as we would most like to.
Instead of simply being critical of the performance of the officers involved in the original call and speculating what we would have done in the past, this process allows us to learn from the past and better prepare for the future. We know this has happened to others so it is easier to imagine ourselves in a similar event in the future. It allows to to use imagination and emotion to enhance future performance.
This can be done by ourselves or as part of a group When / Then training session.
Important Reminder: The latest book from Warrior Spirit Books If I Knew Then: Life Lessons From Cops on the Street is finally in print. This book is a collection of 37 essays from over 30 law enforcement professionals around North America who sought to answer the question: What is one thing you know now that you wish you had known at the start of your career? This book contains powerful insights and wisdom gained through over a half a century of law enforcement experience.
This book is a must read for every law enforcement, trainer, recruit and Field Training Officer.