Make sure you educate the newest members of the law enforcement profession about the realities of the honourable profession they have chosen during the Academy phase of their careers.
What realities am I referring to? Below is a list of 15 that come to mind. Feel free to build on this list in your training.
- The research is very clear that most citizens support, trust and like the police. The best way to understand this is every day get out of your car at least 2 or 3 times and have non enforcement interactions with the people who live in your patrol area. Talk to the people sitting on their porch, the kids shooting hoops in the park, the small business owners and others. Introduce yourself, find out a little bit about them, ask if they have any concerns they feel you need to know about, give them your business card and tell them to call or e-mail if they ever have any concerns.
- While the majority of people in the communities you serve like and respect you there are people however, who hate the police and may try to hurt or kill you because of the profession you are in or because they do not want to go to, or go back to jail. That is why the academy training will provide the skills, tactics and mindset to enable you win a violent confrontation.
- You will encounter people throughout you career who will say some very vile, very offensive things to you. You will have people spit on you. It is not personal. Understand and remember, “It is not about you.” That person is trying to push the your buttons and piss you off because they know if they can piss off the cop they own you and can very likely get you to say or do something you will regret.
- During your career you will encounter suicidal people. Sometimes the application of the skills you have been taught will be effective in establishing rapport with the person in crisis and you will be able to defuse the situation and get the person to a mental health professional who can help them. Sometimes you will do everything you were trained to do, everything anyone could ever ask you to do, and the person will still take their own live. Sometimes the suicidal person you are dealing with will decide they want to die, but want the police to be the means to their death and will take action to force you or officers at the scene to shoot them.
- Statistically very few law enforcement professionals will ever use deadly force to protect their life or the life or someone else. The majority of law enforcement professionals will go through their entire careers and never shoot anyone. You may be one of those officers or you may be one of the ones who has to use deadly force to save a life. The action you use to take a life will save a life, or lives. Who will be in those situations as well as the when, where, with who and how many times is completely unknown. That is why the training staff will spend time in the academy teaching you the skills to win a violent confrontation, and to prepare you for the aftermath.
- It is ok to be ok. The profession you have chosen does not have to screw you up. It is also ok not to be ok. You will be exposed to a great deal of trauma in your career. If a call or event bothers you then get the help you need to work through it. It is a sign of strength and courage to get help when you need it.
- You are in a position to lead. Leadership is not about rank, position and title. It is about action, interaction, and influence. Lead the fundamentals of leadership and become a student of leadership throughout your career.
- You are the face of the agency. You represent everyone who is currently a member your agency, everyone who has gone before you and everyone who will come after you. You are also the face of the profession. People with judge your agency and the profession based on their interactions with individual officers, deputies, troopers, constables, call takers and dispatchers.
- You will not get rich being a law enforcement professional. If however, you commit to having money come off every pay check to go straight into a personal retirement fund you can be financially well off when you decide to retire. The key is to put that system in place before you get your first pay check and then increase the amount every time you get an increase in salary.
- Getting divorced does not “come with the job”. You will have struggles in your relationships, as will every married couple. There certainly are challenges to working shift and working in the law enforcement profession. If your marriage is important to you then you need to find a way to work through the issues and challenges.
- You really do have an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. It is not just a line on a recruiting poster or something you say in a selection interview. Law enforcement professionals make positive impacts on people lives every day. The vast majority of those incidents never make it to the six o’clock news or go viral on YouTube. The greatest opportunities to make the biggest impact come working uniform patrol.
- Despite the promises during the recruiting process that you can be a SWAT officer, a K-9 officers, a detective, or work in narcotics, you have to put in the time in uniform patrol working shiftwork. The great thing is that uniform patrol is one of the best jobs in the department. As a uniform patrol officer you will get to hone your people skills, interviews skills, investigative skills and observational skills. Uniform patrol officers are almost always the first ones out at all the big calls. Some of the biggest drug busts are made by uniform patrol officers. You will be in command and control of 95% of all the calls you will handle as a uniform patrol officer. They will be the face of the agency and the profession. You will have the greatest opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s lives working uniform patrol.
- If you watch the news and read the paper it will be easy to get disenchanted with the profession and develop an “us versus them” attitude. The small group of law enforcement haters and special interest groups who get a lot of time on the evening news do not speak for the general populations, despite their claims that they do. Limit the amount of news you watch. Your time is better spent reading, learning, working out and spending time with friends and family.
- If you want to excel in your skills, tactics, decision making, abilities and your career you need to make a commitment to train on your own. Ten minutes a day, four days a week, 48 weeks of the year equates to 32 hours of additional training every year. Bump int yo 20 minutes a day and that is 64 hours of training. You can make 10 to 20 minutes a day. Your life and your career depend on it.
- Wellness is critical to thrive in your career, your life and your retirement. Take responsibility for your own physical and mental wellness. Make the time to workout, meditate, walk, talk, listen, read and eat healthy. It sounds like a lot but if you make it part of your daily ritual you will be able to maintain a level of resilience and overall wellness throughout your career and beyond.
Make sure you teach new hires about the realities of the law enforcement profession during the Academy phase of their careers. Make sure you do it in a way to inspire them to embrace this profession as a career.
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