In last week’s post It’s Ok to Be Ok I mentioned the Suck Factor and the importance of telling the men and women coming into the law enforcement profession about it early in training and then arming them with strategies to allow them to Embrace the Suck, Look for the Good and Dare to Be Great.
So you may be wondering what I mean by The Suck Factor. There are a number of elements of working in law enforcement that “Suck”. They include but are not limited to:
- It sucks that there are a small group of very vocal people who get a lot of time on the 6 o’clock news who would like everyone to believe that the close to one million law enforcement professionals in North America are thugs, bullies, racists and murderers and nothing could be further from the truth.
- It sucks that because of the nature of shift work you will miss anniversaries, birthdays, and your son or daughters piano recitals, soccer games and school plays.
- It sucks that there will be times when most people are at home having Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family, or celebrating Christmas mornings with the kids, and you are out in the cold or wet dealing with a barricaded gunman or working the scene of a traffic fatality. Or you are dealing with family violence or doing a death notification to a family waiting for their loved one to arrive for Thanksgiving dinner.
- It sucks that you might have to work night shift for years until you get enough seniority to go to afternoon shift and when you get promoted you go back to night shift.
- It sucks that throughout your careers you will have to work for bad bosses.
- It sucks that you will work with and possibly supervise toxic employees.
- It sucks that shift work, court appearances after night shift, overtime and callout will all disrupt your sleep patterns.
- It sucks that there are 20 something year olds in the NHL, NBA, NFL and other professional sports leagues who will make more money in a single game than you will make in a year and they will make make more money in a year than you will make in your entire career.
- It sucks that there are people who hate you and people who want to hurt you simply because you wear a badge and a uniform and have chosen a career of service in law enforcement.
- It sucks that in many agencies training is seen as an expense, not an investment, and as a result when budgets are cut, training is often one of the first areas impacted.
- It sucks that most people do not understand the human factors, complexities and challenges faced by law enforcement professionals during high stress, tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving events and as a result expect super human performance from humans who serve as law enforcement professionals.
- It sucks that most people outside the law enforcement profession do not understand the reality of how rare it is for law enforcement professionals to use force and how exceptionally rare the use of deadly force is.
- It sucks that many people will judge the entire law enforcement profession by the inappropriate, unprofessional or unlawful actions of a few people within the profession that go viral on social media.
- It sucks that many people will judge an officer’s entire career, their character, their agency and the profession on one momentary lapse of judgement by an otherwise good officer with a long career of exceptional service.
- It sucks that you will be exposed to so much pain, suffering and trauma in your career.
- It sucks that there are still people in the profession that when you are struggling they will tell you, “Suck it up.” “Soldier on.” “Big boys and big girls don’t cry.” “If you are bothered by what you experience in this job then you are weak and there is no place here for the weak so get out if you can’t handle it.”
The Suck Factor is real. The key is to expect it, understand it, prepare for it and implement strategies to Embrace the Suck, Look for the Good and Dare to Be Great. If you do not, the Suck Factor will embrace you, and when it does you will become one of those whining, snivelling malcontents that every organization has.
The Suck Factor is real. How you respond to it is a choice. Choose well.
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