“Us” versus “Them” Part II

An open letter to myself on the precipice of moving from “us” to “them”

This blog took a back seat in my life for a long time as life caught up with me.  A lot of good has come into my life during that period of time, while my agency rode a shit-show of a rollercoaster.

As I compare my department to others, we have an extremely solid group of men and women donning the uniform and responding to calls on a daily basis.  Sure, some are better than others, but by and large I’d gladly take most into the worst the world has to offer.  Traditionally, we differ from most agencies in that our patrol officers don’t create a ton of drama of any variety aside from the occasional citizen complaint of rudeness that ends up getting unsubstantiated after a review of body camera video.

Our drama, the truest form of shit-shows, usually flows from the top of our chain of command.  Most of the time it’s some old grudge between administrators that comes to a head.  Usually those are kept in house, sometimes they spill out into the public eye.  They are always a source of irritation and embarrassment for those of us who actually interact with the public.  I liken it to a long-standing family feud that never effectively gets resolved, like grown brothers who get along ok-ish until the entire family is around and old scabs start getting picked until a full blown, childish argument takes place.

There’s a new hope anytime the administration changes over.  “It has to get better” is usually the mantra as a new chief comes into office.  After the honeymoon period it always seem to circle back to the old ways, the comfort zone of passive-aggressive pissing matches between those who remain in the administration.   At times this subversive behavior is an active opposition to new policies and practices issued by the new chief, stifling any real change.

Grandiose plans that are shared during the “hey, I’m the new chief” department-wide meeting never get off the ground.  Status quo creeps in.  Then we usually experience a rapid downward slide into “us” versus “them” in every corner of the building.

For the most part the administration of my department hasn’t changed a great deal, they’ve only shuffled positions as an outgoing chief retires.  Most haven’t placed handcuffs on anyone outside of a training environment since I began my career here.  Those new additions have followed the same pattern of promising grand changes and support only to revert to position-protection and throwing blame like monkeys in the zoo throw shit.  It doesn’t take long for the newcomers to seemingly forget where they came from.  They are the proverbial “them”.

These thoughts have always lurked just below my consciousness.  Once in a while they get shared with others over a midnight coffee break at the trunk of a police car, but they’re usually someone else’s problem, not mine.  Policing the Donut at night gives me separation from the “them”.  My ship sails just fine, the squad works well together, and we’re almost always drama-free.  The distance allows me to see the folly in the processes and actions of the “them”, and I can see every tree in that forest from my perch.

I’ve been responding to calls for service with a uniform, vest, and marked patrol car for nearly 16 years.  I’ve been in some form of supervision for about 8 of those 16 years.  The more I get pulled into those closed door meetings and old axe-grinding sessions the more I despise them.  They’re counterproductive, a drain on resources and morale, and simply a waste of time.  I can now identify the weaknesses and faults of every person I have been forced to report to, and I have resolved to never become one of “them”.

I’ve grown very comfortable in my role as a representative of “us”, that group that asks and receives little more from the agency than a bi-weekly insult directly deposited into the bank.  “Us” is my comfort zone.

My comfort zone was demolished about two months ago while an active process to replace our retiring chief was underway.  At first it was nothing more than an offer of an appointment should this particular candidate become our next chief.  As the process ground on it became more evident that it was more of a matter of when, rather than if, this one would become our chief.  My role in the world of “us” was in jeopardy, and I’ve lost more sleep than any other point in my life trying to reconcile how in the hell I could retain “us” while being in the “them” club.

My assumptions regarding the process proved true and now my membership in the “us” side of the house officially has an expiration date.  I will have to struggle against my own preconceptions of “them” although I’ll soon outrank most of the previous members of the “them” club.  I’ll also be trying to maintain my status in the “us” group, while being essentially forced into the “them” category by most of “us” just by the nature of the promotion in and of itself.  I understand it.  I’ve done the same myself.

The old tried-and-true administrative rollercoaster has ruined the reputation of many before me in spite of great hopes from “us”.  The only way to break that cycle is to remain true to “us” while living on the “them” side until those lines are so blurred that they are non-existent.

I’ve been around long enough to understand that everyone isn’t going to be thrilled with every decision.  It’s simply impossible to make everyone happy all of the time.  I can only hope that improving the lives of “us” is the path followed by the new chief, as I’ll surely be guilty by association just like those who have come before me.

As a member of “us”, I like to think that I’ll be different.  I’m fully comfortable in my own skin, no promotion or movement in the department has changed me to this point.  My self-worth is not dependent upon the rank on my collar.  It’s much more dependent on whether I can look myself in the eye in the mirror and like the man I am.

I’m a husband, a father, a coach, and I earn a paycheck as a cop.  This promotion will generally mean that I’ll be more available to my loved ones, with a more regular schedule and most holidays scheduled off.  That is by far the biggest draw for me as I enter this new world.

The other draw is to continue to hold true to “us” in spite of the easier, more comfortable “them” lifestyle until there is only “us” at my agency.  The rollercoaster has to eventually stop somewhere, I may as well be the brake that grinds it to a halt.

I’ve done all manner of things as a uniformed member of “us” without hesitation because it’s what “we” do.  This is just a new, exciting, and slightly terrifying challenge in what has been a career that I have loved and hated all at the same time.

It’s time to go patrol the Donut before I’m confined to an office…dcc-dot-com-logo-2


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The Many Hats of a Patrolman…

There are a lot of misconceptions about what it is to be a police officer on the streets of the United States.  Of course it varies by jurisdiction, as local citizens have become accustomed to services that are not otherwise available elsewhere and each agency has its own available resources to meet those needs and demands which impact the role of the individual officer on the street.  In comparison to other career fields, the regular patrol officer is expected to perform far more roles in a proficient fashion with extreme consequences at stake on a regular basis.

While medical doctors are exposed to a wide variety of practices and problems in medical school, the vast majority take on a role that is streamlined and specialized to a very specific area.  Nurses follow in the same path, and typically find themselves in a specific niche that is a small scope when compared with the entire human body.

Attorneys are given instruction on a myriad of legal concepts and laws, but most specialize in either civil or criminal law, further limiting their expertise into business law, family law, tax law, criminal defense, and criminal prosecution.  Oftentimes, these specialties then get reduced even more as an attorney practicing business law begins to focus solely on human resource law, contracts, and the like.  Prosecuting attorneys and defense attorneys may specialize in DUI prosecution or defense, crimes against persons, etc.

Shrinking specialized interests into a specific and more streamlined role allows these folks to become extremely well-versed in those areas, as the other aspects fade from memory because they aren’t as important to the regular task at hand.

There are plenty of specialties in law enforcement, and depending on the size of the agency, there will be several that fall into a subject-matter specific role like SWAT, crash investigations, traffic enforcement, homicide investigations, robbery investigations, and the like.  Narrowing the wide scope of law enforcement allows these specialists to focus their efforts into a very specific, reoccurring set of skills that are honed during these investigations.

The uniformed officer who works the beat will typically have a comfort area in which he or she performs best.  Some are great traffic officers, some do well in domestic violence incidents, and others seem to be at their best during the chaotic, tip-of-the-spear type of critical incidents. These innate abilities shine when the officer is placed in those circumstances, but they are only utilized fully during those call types.  The reality is that the uniformed officer working a beat will be exposed to such a wide variety of complaints and situations that the officer must stay current in a wide array of skills and tactics.

A patrol officer that rolls up on a disabled vehicle may assist the motorist with mechanical skill or a muscular shove to get the vehicle out of the roadway.  After the vehicle is removed from harm’s way, that patrol officer may be summoned to another location to serve as a marriage counselor at a domestic disturbance while functioning as a social worker by attending to the needs of the small children in the residence.  During the same shift, the officer may be called upon to perform CPR, deploy an AED, or deliver a lifesaving dose of Narcan in the same manner as an EMT before the actual medical professionals have an opportunity to lay hands on the patient.  After the patient is transported by ambulance elsewhere, the officer may be called to a civil disagreement that is in no way a criminal matter, but he or she will be expected to provide proper guidance to the involved parties without over-extending into the realm of the JD.

None of the prior examples are roles that seem to fit the title of “law enforcement”, as no actual law is being enforced while the officer performs in that arena.  During actual enforcement situations, officers must sort through physical facts and statements of those involved to arrive at a conclusion as to whether or not it would be appropriate to make a physical arrest, issue a summons or citation, or walk away with no enforcement action.  These decisions must be based on the letter of the law and case law that bends and contorts written laws into practices that may not reflect the actual law on which the opinions are based.

Officers are often called upon to complete case reports that are second-guessed and scrutinized by victims, suspects, prosecuting attorneys, defense attorneys, and investigators.  In order to complete a concise and accurate report the officer must have a great deal of skill in pulling the necessary information from victims, witnesses, and/or suspects.  Oftentimes these skills are difficult to master as the officer wades through irrelevant information that is offered in an effort to narrow it down into something that is logical, truthful, and relevant.

Obtaining the information to complete a case report is only part of the puzzle when it comes to the skills needed to create effective case reports.  The officer is then expected to put that information into a case report that records all of the pertinent information in a chronological and concise fashion that is absent any typographical errors.  Case reports related to arrests may then result in depositions and testimony in a court house where the officer is expected to recall information from incidents that may have happened more than a year before depending on the filing practices of the court.

Highlighting the aforementioned skills practiced by the patrol officer skirts the skills required to manipulate an emergency vehicle with racecar driver-like precision while the motoring public seems to totally disregard the sirens and lights that are urging them out of the path of the police car.  When the weather dumps snow and ice on the roadways, the patrol officer is still pushed out on the street to drive from call to call, because that is the expectation of the public.

These tasks are completed while the officer attempts to maintain a measure of physical safety.  Every year, officers are killed on the roadways in vehicular crashes, after being hit by motorists while directing traffic or working crashes, and by felonious assaults that may even result from a totally unprovoked ambush carried out for simply wearing a police uniform.  Officers are expected to meet these threats with measured action, and especially of late, these officers are second-guessed by a growing crowd of use of force “experts” who watch a snippet of a video online and feel compelled to offer opinions of ignorance.

Those outside of law enforcement would assume that officers are consistently trained in use of force skills, but by and large they would be wrong.  A few times a year an officer may be subjected to the physical tactics needed to effectively restrain a combative person in a training environment.  Some agencies offer up only one annual firearms training event while others may hit the range more frequently.  The one thing that remains the same across the board is that each officer will be expected to be a master of these techniques when the chips are down.  Even when everything is executed to the letter of the law, the officer can expect to receive some criticism for failing to deescalate the situation although the suspect dictated the officer’s reaction.

The world of the patrol officer is ever-changing.  Each shift is different.  We ask our officers to hit the streets and perform in a wide variety of roles to better our communities.  They must recall information rapidly, even if the human experience creates a situation never before encountered by the officer, in order to arrive at a socially acceptable solution.

I can think of no other career field that expects so much from an individual with such high stakes on the line.  Medical professionals in the emergency room and EMT’s in the field may have a variety of encounters that are similar to ours, but they are not typically asked to perform the myriad of tasks which a patrol officer must routinely show mastery.

While we certainly have room for improvement on the individual and agency-wide levels, our nation’s patrol officers consistently rise to the task and provide critical services to our communities.  I am exceedingly proud to be one of the uniformed jack-of-all trades.  Patrol officers come from a wide-range of places and backgrounds and police a wide-variety of jurisdictions, but we all toe the same line.

It’s time to go patrol the Donut…

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Wrapping Up 2016

It’s been 360 days since we rang in 2016.  I’d like to say that it was a great year, and in some ways it was, but as a cop 2016 was horrible.

As of today, 138 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty in 2016.  We all know that our lives may be put on the line when we suit up and head out, but this year made that painfully clear more so than any other in my 13 year career.  I explained my outlook on these painful events in detail in “The Band I Hate” and “Suiting Up”, so I won’t wade too deeply into the woods now.

The media and election season brought about a ton of attention on law enforcement during the year.  Suddenly everyone with access to the internet was an expert on the daily operations of a law enforcement officer, especially use of force policies and practices.  “It Takes Two”  and “The Reality of Perception” examine the differences between actual law enforcement training and experience versus the bridge-burning behavior of the politicians and opposition groups that denounce the police.  Athlete and celeb activists weren’t immune, and I shared my take on two specifically in “Sports and Politics”  and “I’ve Got 99 Problems, but Beyonce’ ain’t One”.

2016 wasn’t all doom and gloom, strife and heartache.  In the first year of my blog’s existence I did my best to share a view from behind the badge to the public, and I’ve heard plenty of feedback from other law enforcement officers to help me understand that my experiences here in the Donut are pretty similar to ones they encounter.  There’s something to be said about belonging to a group, and those shared experiences help us stay unified against all fronts.

“Us versus Them” lays out the process by which cops slowly lose any desire to interact with non-cops, while “A Cast of Characters”  pokes fun at exactly who you’ll find on that thin blue line.  “13 Things I can Count On”, “One of ‘Those’ Nights”, and “9 Phrases You’ll Only Hear from a Cop” are real-world examples of what it’s like to be a cop today.

This year in review post will make the 58th post of the year for my blog.  It began as a simple way to voice my frustrations and gave me an electronic soap box to vent to anyone that would hear it.  I never dreamed that someone would actually start paying me to write, or that I would have articles posted on PoliceOne  in less than a year’s time.  I’ve quickly learned that I’m no web designer, and that computer-machines can be cruel creatures, but it’s been a process that I’ve enjoyed a great deal.

I’m very thankful for those of you that take time out of your day to read what I’ve typed, especially when you give me feedback and share the posts with others.  I hope that 2016 comes to a happy close for you all, and that 2017 brings you peace and joy.  Happy New Year, be safe out there!

It’s time to go patrol the Donut…

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Being a Cop in the Winter Sucks…

Policing the Midwest has its charms.  In the Donut, we get to experience the changes of the seasons that bring about some wild temperature swings. It may be 100 degrees in September, and two months later we may be dipping below zero on a regular basis. 

In that same period, daylight savings hits and suddenly we lose even more sunlight as the sun begins to set around 5 PM. The day shift officers literally work from sun up to sun down while the night shift folks never actually see sunlight at all.

When it’s actually able to cut through the gray of the wintertime day, the sunlight reflects off the ice and snow serving as a blinding rays of squint-inducing whitewash.  Battling the blinding sunlight with sunglasses is great until they immediately fog up as soon as you exit the car.

The first snowfall brings us a bevy of drivers who somehow totally forgot how to drive with snow on the ground. These humans with the attention span of a goldfish act with surprise that they suddenly need to gently apply brakes well in advance of an intended stopping location. 

Adding a few minutes to get from point A and point B to adjust for slower travel seems like a simple concept, but it may as well be quantum physics to the motoring public during the first week of snow. 

The cold weather sucks for everyone, but it brings about some unique challenges to those of us who are in law enforcement.  Our administration sits in warm offices, so no snow pants are approved for wear by patrol officers. Instead, we have to decide if the cold is bad enough to layer up underneath the uniform. 

Toss on thermal pants and a thermal shirt under the uniform to battle the weather and you have pretty much guaranteed that you will get stuck inside a building like the police department, a hospital, or elsewhere until you sweat through the under-layers. 

Wearing the extra layers is nice if you don’t get held hostage inside to overheat, but during a long shift it can start to induce claustrophobic feelings as they bunch up and squeeze all of the wrong places.  Policing can be tough enough on a typical shift, but it becomes infinitely more difficult when the beans are being squeezed above the frank. 

Heavy layers leave you looking and feeling like the Stay-Puft marshmallow man with the mobility of Randy from “A Christmas Story” after mom bundled him up.  And somehow these layers seem to conspire to create an unreachable itch while inducing sweat and constriction in a suck-fest triumvirate.

If the patrol officer decides to pass on the layers, it pretty much guarantees that he or she will be forced to direct traffic in the elements for over an hour because some non-driving numb skull took out an electric pole and killed the power to a stoplight at a major intersection. 

Selecting a warm hat, coat, and gloves for work becomes an exercise in choosing between practicality and comfort. A bulky hat or coat can be pulled over the eyes ala hockey-fight by suspects who decide to resist arrest. Warm but bulky gloves make it nearly impossible to handcuff or manipulate important things like a Taser or pistol. Damned if you do, freeze your ass off if you don’t. 

If it’s actually working, the heater inside the patrol car becomes too hot far too fast, but shutting it down invites the cold to creep into the car. A lot of us balance it out by rolling down a window just enough to regulate the temperature. Having the window down a bit helps…until snow starts to blow inside the car or your ear freezes solid. 

Every surface seems to leave some sort of road salt grime on your uniform, and the floor board of the patrol car morphs into a catch all of slush and nasty.  Windshield wipers just spread grime and streak nastiness everywhere. 

Keeping a patrol car clean is an impossible waste of effort. A normally super-organized vehicle interior becomes chaos pretty quickly when it’s too damn cold to return things to their actual home inside the car. 

Juxtapose the hassles of cold-weather policing with the “festive” holiday season which typically brings joy to the public but throws cops into all to commonly occurring calls that are inherent to this time. The holidays can be a cheerful experience when you aren’t working crashes, chasing down shoplifters, dealing with suicides, and domestic disputes that are far too common holiday experiences for cops. 

I’m a fair-weather creature at best, and my current climate doesn’t suit me well at all. I’ve lived nearly my entire life in this environment and I always question my life’s decisions this time of year around the Donut. 

In the end I am where I am, so I set out with the knowledge that eventually things will thaw and return to the way they should be. Until then, I’ll spend my off duty time bundled up and burning through aerosol cans trying to expedite the whole global warming thing. 

Time to go patrol the Donut…

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Ode to ODE…

Police vernacular varies from region to region, but around our Donut County we refer to the plethora of part time employment for law enforcement as “off duty employment” which gets shortened to ODE for the purposes of advising dispatch that an officer will be beginning a shift at one of these locations.  I’m terribly sorry to those of you who are looking for some sort of poetic post, any rhyming that follows is truly accidental as I play loose with literary terms such as an ode.

While a career in law enforcement offers a steady paycheck for the most part, none of us who strap on a ballistic vest and duty belt to head to work do so with the expectation they we will get wealthy.  At the end of a pay period we await the direct deposit of our bi-weekly insult into our checking accounts and make do with what we have.  Off duty employment jobs help us supplement our income, and there is typically no shortage of opportunities to make somewhere between $20 and $50 an hour while performing some sort of security detail at a local business, warehouse, sporting event, or school.

Some of these details only entail wearing something that has “POLICE” across the chest with a pistol and portable radio at hand.  Most of these non-uniform jobs consist of sitting in a marked police car in a parking lot watching the exterior of a closed business while entertaining oneself with Netflix or some other distraction to pass the time.  Maintaining any sort of level of comfort long term in the drivers seat of a police car that resembles an airplane cockpit becomes a challenge, especially if one continuously is oriented to view a screen in the middle of the car.  These are the “easy money” jobs, and they rarely entail any sort of human interaction, sparing the random visits by on duty officers.

Other details that require a uniformed officer inside a facility vary greatly.  I have worked these kinds of details in the protection of presidential candidates or other celebrity types, and I have completed the more regularly occurring security details at drinking establishments, movie theaters, recreation centers, sporting events, and schools.  Some are far better than others.

Due to agency policy, our officers are not allowed to function as bouncers at drinking establishments, however for a short period of time we did provide outside security at a particularly rowdy establishment.  Those hours went by fairly quickly as the drunks did not wish to engage in any sort of banter with us.  Many a stumbling, zombie-like partier was discouraged from driving away as a result of our presence, so there was a minimalistic feeling of accomplishment that accompanied that work.  The cash in hand payout at the end of the night wasn’t bad either.

Other locations offer different challenges, especially in the instances of providing security at a business where I have to stand inside for long hours.  The regular occurrence of awkward attempts at humor by patrons could fill a book.  Pointing to a friend and stating “here’s the guy you’re looking for, officer” or “hey, I didn’t do it” aren’t funny.  They just aren’t.  Please stop.  Especially after the 10th guy does so in the shift.  I eventually get to the point of barely offering a response in the form of an insincere smile, if anything at all.

My personal favorite are those that have young offspring in tow and point my way while stating “if you don’t behave, he’ll arrest you” to the child.  I always take the time to approach the poor child and inform them that “I don’t arrest children for not listening to parents who would do something so stupid as to make their children afraid of police officers” without addressing the adults directly.  I’m not sure if it helps, but it makes me feel better.  To those of you that have the ability to reproduce, please think before you do so; just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  Folks that work in Kleenex factories need jobs, too.  If you don’t have children and think that such a phrase would leak from your lips at some point in the future, invest in the future of the Kleenex employee.

Awkward banter doesn’t only come in forms of the attempted comedian.  I really don’t care if your second cousin Jim’s stepson works for a law enforcement agency somewhere, and if it’s not my agency I probably don’t know him.  It’s not my fault the news told you it was a good idea to issue a hollow “thank you for your service” to anyone you see in uniform.  If I haven’t done anything personally for you, there is no need to thank me.  I get paid to do my job.  The business is paying me to be here.  That’s thanks enough.  No really, I get it.  The popcorn butter is right over there, please go away.  Oh, well I’m glad you didn’t do it.  Oh, he did it?  Hilarious.  Never heard that one before.  Do you write your own material?

Then “that guy” enters.  This isn’t the loveable idiot or the purse string controlling “I pay your salary” version.  It’s the sub-genus of the “that guy” who asks THE question.  “Have you ever killed anyone?”  If you ask that question and are under the age of 12, you open the door, now you have to take whatever comes next.  I’ve asked them if they work for Internal Affairs and are now wearing a wire before quickly walking away.  I’ve answered with the simple “not today” and a maniacal smile.  I’ve tossed my hands up and put a thousand yard stare on my face as I move fingers up and down as though I was counting before asking “does size matter?”  The reality is, I haven’t killed anyone that I am aware of, at least not in the United States.  If I had, are you somehow self-important enough to believe that I should have to relive what was likely the worst event in my life for your own personal pleasure or curiosity?  Buy Kleenex.  Now.  Seriously, like the economy sized box.

This is not to say that I am above mingling with the public and engaging in an actual conversation.  I’ll answer your questions and play show and tell with adults and children alike who ask questions about my equipment.  I’ll debate the weather, talk guns and sports, or just engage in general conversation.  You really don’t need to craft a clever line to break the ice.  I’m just a dude passing time and providing a service to whoever is paying for it.  If you want to talk, just do it.  Just choke back the stupid before you make me envision doing it for you.

Aside from the physical pain that typically accompanies a long shift in uniform with the weight of a small child wrapped around your hips and the mental anguish from restraining a Pandora’s box of deliciously crafted smart ass quips to dumb ass comments; off duty employment is a nasty mistress that pads my pockets while taking me from time with my family.  The reality is that most of us have come to depend on this extra money.  It supports all of the events the sugar donuts enjoy and it helps pay for vacations away from the Donut County.

It’s the mental picture of Mrs. Donut in a swimsuit at the beach with some rum-flavored concoction in hand while the sugar donuts get sand in places God never intended that help me suit up and work the extra hours.  I’m a fan of that, so it can’t be that bad to work another shift, right?

Time to go patrol the Donut…



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Breaking Down the Ambush

Twenty law enforcement officers have lost their lives in ambush attacks in the US so far in 2016.  Some of these ambushes have been utterly unprovoked and others have been somewhat more predictable as suspects have violently lashed out in a last ditch effort to stay out of prison.

The media would lead you to believe that this is a new occurrence; that ambushes against us are somehow a “new” phenomenon.  According to data from the International Chiefs of Police, from 1990-2000 about 12% of the officers killed in that time period were killed in ambush attacks.  From 2001-2012 police deaths classified as ambushes rose to 21%.  This year the rate is tracking at 33%, a stark increase but a trend that continues to be on the rise over the past 30 years.

This increasing rate would lead those outside of law enforcement to believe that we would be training heavily to counter the threat posed by ambushes.  The unfortunate reality is that counter-ambush training is few and far between for law enforcement.

The fact of the matter is that outside of quick and effective firearms techniques that make an officer move from position to position, and/or scenario-based Simunition training, there’s not a lot of physical training needed for most officers.  It is our thought processes and habits that need to change.

Larger agencies with enough available manpower to do so have begun implementing two-officer cars in the theory that having a contact and cover officer at the ready on every call would increase the officers’ safety.  Most law enforcement agencies do not have plentiful manpower at their disposal and many agencies may only have a single officer on duty at a time.  Double-officer cars are not an option for the vast majority.

At my own agency the only counter-ambush training that has been made available has come from me during roll call training with my officers.  I’ve done what I can to share some insights with other shifts and I’ll share a little with you today.

While this is in no way intended to slight the officers who have fallen to ambush attacks, we must learn from those incidents and evolve to prevent them in the future.

Counter-ambush tactics at the most basic level simply boil down to maintaining constant situational awareness and being decisive when faced with stimuli that would prompt action.

Situational awareness is one of the first things that we try to instill in our new officers during field training.  There is not an appropriate time for an on-duty officer to let situational awareness slip into complacency.  Officers banging away at the keys of the MDT keyboard are especially vulnerable.  I’ve yet to encounter a case report, traffic ticket, or e-mail that was so vital that it was worth my life, but I’ve been guilty of being too involved in what I was doing that I didn’t see the citizen walking up to my car on multiple occasions during my career.

I’ve since countered my own tendencies by doing all the paperwork I can inside the police department rather than trying to do it inside my car.  In those situations where I cannot do the paperwork behind closed doors, I’ll summons one of the other officers to sit next to me and serve as an over-watch when available.

During calls for service, it is absolutely important to maintain a level of vigilance regardless of the call at hand.  Finding and keeping a position of advantage that provides unrestricted views with an appropriate stand-off distance between the officer and involved parties gives the officer the ability to be in-tune with the surroundings while answering the WIN (what’s important now/what’s important next) questions.

The same is true during the approach to calls for service, be it at an intersection, residence, or business.  Personal security is an ever-evolving thing, and dedicated attention must be paid to it to maintain situational awareness.  If a potential threat arises, it is much easier to combat it if the officer was already tuned in mentally and physically.

We all have to understand that we are potential targets for violence simply because of the uniform we wear.  Failing to pay attention to our surroundings can have irreversible consequences.

While the occupants of a vehicle stopped for speeding warrant attention from the officer who initiates a traffic stop, the officer’s attention must be divided between the car, the citations, and the entire environment in the area.  The WIN questions must be asked and answered before the situation presents itself.  What would you do if someone approaches your vehicle on foot while you are on the traffic stop?  How do you react if shots begin to be fired outside of your line of sight while you are on the traffic stop?  Where is the closet position of cover, and how will you fight your way to it?

Answering these questions and many more in advance allows the officer to expedite the decision-making process to enter the action phase.  Simply remaining in place until the situation is fully involved may be the last decision you make otherwise.

Expect the unexpected and mentally prepare responses in advance.  Recent history illustrates that there is no safe haven for police officers.  Officers have been killed while pumping fuel, drinking coffee, eating lunch, maintaining security at protests, and other innocuous activities where gunfire would not have been anticipated.  Mental preparation, measured caution, and situational awareness are vital to survival.  Unprovoked ambushes can arise any time and any place.  Adhering to basic officer safety practices at all times helps keep complacency at bay.

An officer who sets out on patrol in a crisp, professional appearing uniform with a mind prepared to overcome any obstacle and counter any threat is headed in the right direction.  We are not afforded any “off” days while at work.  Tune in and be ready to roll, because this trend toward ambushes is not stopping any time soon.  Make yourself a hard target that is prepared to meet lethal force with effective lethal force should the situation present itself.

If you would like access to an hour long counter-ambush training in PowerPoint format, please send an e-mail to donutcountycop@gmail.com from a law enforcement e-mail address.  Due to the sensitive nature of the material, it will not be made available to those with private e-mail addresses without additional verification.

It’s time to go patrol the Donut…



Posted in Cops, Law Enforcement, Police, Police Leadership | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Confronting an Unexpected Fear

The time and dedication involved in a career in public service has many unintended consequences.  With any luck, our children learn that serving the community or country is an honorable endeavor while mom or dad are unable to attend special events and holidays.  Police, fire, EMS, and military families know far too well the impact that these careers can have on family life.

I personally know several police officers that come from generations of law enforcement officers, and those in the fire service, EMS, and military seem to have a similar path.  Children who see parents in uniform tend to hold the service mom or dad provide in high esteem.  It’s easy to understand why these children admire a mother or father in uniform in spite of the hardships the uniform brings.  I can understand how that mother or father would then be extremely proud of a child who matures into the uniform and follows the same path.

Since my own children are years away from making any sort of career-oriented decisions, I haven’t put much time or effort into thinking about the potential career choice of my sugar donuts.  With one in middle school, one in elementary school, and another that has yet to enter preschool I’ve been focused on trying to lead them down the path of developing into a good person rather than being a career counselor.

My kids have never known their father as a US Marine.  My oldest was in diapers before I hung up my dress blues for the final time.  They’ve seen some photos and have asked some questions, but I certainly haven’t encouraged them to join the military.

None of them remember a time before dad was a policeman.  They are accustomed to the odd hours and the random non-shift tasks that draw me away from them like court, training, meetings, and SWAT call-outs.  They’ve overheard conversations between Mrs. Donut and me as I ranted and vented about various stressors and idiots inside and out of the agency.

They’ve seen dad lowering the American flag in our front yard to half-mast and stepping out of the house in uniform with a black band across my badge when another officer has senselessly lost his or her life in my area.  They’ve asked questions about both and have received assurances that dad is very careful while at work, and as intelligent little creatures they’ve surely understood that sometimes circumstances can be beyond my control.

In spite of our better efforts they’ve seen media coverage that is unfavorable to law enforcement.  They’ve had other kids parrot stupid comments about cops that they overheard from their own parents and bring those comments home to see dad’s reaction.

They try to understand why other kids are allowed to roam free while they are confined to a fenced-in backyard because dad is fully aware of the dangers that lurk, even in our suburban Donut County neighborhood.  They know that the random and unexpected knock at the door prompts dad to recover a pistol before answering the door while they retreat deeper into the house because a marked police car inhabits space in the driveway.

In spite of all of these things, when faced with a middle school project on potential career fields my oldest sugar donut wanted to pick law enforcement.  I was not prepared for this scenario.  As a straight “A” student in advanced coursework, I expected any number of careers to be in her crosshairs.  The thought had never crossed my mind that one of my children would entertain the idea of being a cop.

Mrs. Donut and I have always told our kids that they can be whatever they want to be as an adult.  Faced with a prospect that one of my sugar donuts would want to follow in my footsteps, my pulse quickened and my vision narrowed.  How in the hell could this be possible?  Has she been sleepwalking through life?

With no forethought I was left unprepared.  I’m a trained observer, but I missed any sort of clue that one of my kids would entertain the idea of being a cop.

I’d like to say that I handled it diplomatically while expressing gratitude that she would feel that my way of life would suit her.  I wish my first response was of appreciation that she could see the nobility in sacrificing for others followed by a helpful suggestion that she take a look at other careers before considering law enforcement.  I’d be lying if that was actually what happened.

I’ve always been the one who created the worry.  I’ve never been the one who was left behind during a military deployment, regularly scheduled police shift work, or zero-dark-thirty barricaded person SWAT call-out.  The prospect of sitting on the other side of the worry-creation paradigm elicited a response that was quick and direct rather than measured and considerate.

I immediately pointed out that my eldest sugar donut possesses a weak stomach at the sight of blood.  I told her that she’s always teared up during conflict of any kind.  I told her about the constant scrutiny and lack of respect that we face.  I added that I have served our country and community so she would not have to do so.  I suggested that she was far too intelligent to not see these things for herself, and demanded that she pick another career to focus on for her project.

The sudden barrage was not well received and I immediately regretted my position.  I did not relent on my demand for her to check out other more suitable career fields, but I couldn’t help but to feel like I had failed her by pushing her away.

We were able to reach a compromise, and I put her in touch with an evidence technician so she could learn about a potential career field as a crime scene investigator/forensic analyst.  While I fully understand that her middle school career project will not likely be the path she decides to walk as an adult, I was blindsided and unprepared to even consider that one of my children would want to be a police officer.

My eldest and I have had follow-up conversations about the topic.  I’ve expressed my own feelings about the nobility of police work with a blend of other options for her to pursue should she continue to feel as though she should contribute to society as a public servant.

In a few short years I’ll be faced with the middle school project again with the middle sugar donut.  Hopefully my response will be more measured should he decide to lean toward law enforcement.

As they mature and complete their educations I may have to confront my own reservations about one of my kids doing what I do for a living.  I’ll continue to push for them to expand their horizons, but ultimately if they have the drive and desire to walk my path either in the military or law enforcement, I’ll have no choice but to support them.

Overall I have truly enjoyed my career and have no desire to pursue a life outside of a police uniform until I can draw my pension.  At times it is hard work, dangerous work, and a stressful life.  On the other hand, it is rewarding and fulfilling in a way that I don’t believe I could find elsewhere.

I am now a month or more removed from the unwitting ambush laid by my eldest child and her career project.  With that distance, I can now appreciate that she would even consider pursuing police work and take pride in the idea I have been a positive role model in spite of the bullshit tornado that can be my life.

I have reflected on the pride I’ve seen as veteran cops have stood by as their children graduated from the police academy.  I’ve also thought about the anguish on the face of the veteran cops who have stood by a flag-draped coffin containing their child whose career in law enforcement was cut short.  The law of averages tells me that my own children would likely survive as a cop, but I know fully that not all scars are visible.  In my life as a father I’ve done my best to keep my kids safe.

My kneejerk reaction was regrettable but I have always done my best to shield my sugar donuts from my own reality.  I gave her a glimpse on that day at the dinner table, but I think I tore the band-aid off a little too quickly when faced with the possibility of my own child wearing a badge.

I’ll have to reconcile my feelings about one of my children running toward the sound of gunfire as I have done myself numerous times without considering the possibility that one of those fired rounds may find its way to me.  The prospect of one of my own children doing the same places me in unfamiliar territory on the other side of the worry-paradigm.  Luckily, Mrs. Donut has a vast amount of experience on that side, and I’ll have to lean on her for guidance (and bourbon) should one of the sugar donuts decide that donning a ballistic vest and duty belt is a great way to earn a paycheck.

It’s time to go patrol the Donut…

Posted in Cops, Law Enforcement, Life, Police | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

State Troopers, Badge Bunnies, and Cheshire Cats…

When I first started my career in law enforcement I had an old state trooper who befriended me and would provide me with some sage advice when the opportunity presented itself.  Back then I was working at an agency that had only one officer on duty at a time, so I always welcomed our conversations.  Not only did I get something out of it, but it also meant that there was another cop nearby if I needed some help.

His wisdom mainly came from personal experiences, and for the most part he was set in his old ways with very little time or patience for treading lightly.  He gave me such gems as “a badge can get you a lot of women, but it only takes one woman to take your badge” as a warning against falling prey to what he referred to as “holster sniffers”.  He also boiled police work and the problems we respond to into the three B’s, booze (alcohol), bitches (infidelity), and bucks (financial problems).

My old trooper friend surely did not coin these phrases by himself, especially since I’ve heard them from others through the years.  I’ve encountered a few officers along the way that would have benefited from the “holster sniffer” warning.  I’ve been happily married to Mrs. Donut since I started this line of work and she’s yet to figure out that she married down, so the “badge bunnies” have been of absolutely no concern to me.  Yes ma’am, I heard you say that you love a man in uniform.  So does my wife.  Now go away.

The three B’s do certainly play a major role in a lot of our calls for service.  Sometimes they get combined into a domestic dispute involving all three B’s when both parties are drunk, someone is accusing a significant other of cheating, and they are experiencing the stresses related to financial problems.  Each scenario is unique, and I won’t downplay the dangers associated with responding to domestic disputes, but the three B’s obviously aren’t the only sources of problems that we deal with on a regular basis.

Add in drug use and greed and we’re a little closer to summarizing the majority of the things that create the problems that we confront on a regular basis.  However, we’re missing one major factor, and it’s one that is increasingly more difficult to deal with because there are so few resources available to combat it.  Mental illness.

While mental illness can manifest itself in the form of addiction, I’m not talking about the garden variety drunk or drug addict.  The spectrum is huge, and if you’ve ever looked at a copy of the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, more commonly known as the DSM-5, you’ll understand.

I can vividly remember taking a school field trip to a state-run mental institution back in my formative years.  I guess my school wanted to be sure we understood that we didn’t have it so rough or something, but it made a lasting impact on me.  As a teen, it was difficult to see humans who didn’t function.  I felt bad for the patients and their families.  I empathized about how difficult it would be in either of their places.  I wondered how the staff members were able to deal with these struggles on a daily basis.  I worried that some of the patients had been forgotten by their families.

When institutions like the one I visited were shuttered after mental illness was “decriminalized”, the folks who once had a place where they could receive constant treatment no longer had it available.  Private institutions cost a lot of money, and many folks cannot afford to pay those kinds of prices to house loved ones who suffer from extreme mental illness.  When the state removed itself from the mental institution realm, it also became very difficult to have an adult committed to a private institution against his or her will.

Instead, a lot of these people ended up on the street because they couldn’t make it with family members or on their own.  I encounter them regularly now, and I do my best to determine if a person who is acting “out of their mind” is drunk, high, or mentally ill.  Sometimes it’s extremely difficult, especially if they are lashing out violently and causing a disturbance in a public place.  If that’s the case, unfortunately we often end up in a physical struggle only to find that the reason the individual isn’t complying with our commands is simply because he or she does not have the ability to do so.

Other times, we find an individual with a zombie-like gait in the middle of the street at zero dark thirty in a downpour having an argument with himself, seemingly  unaware of the headlights and spotlight that are now fixated on him.  Our laws don’t provide a remedy for this kind of person who is under the influence of nothing more than a psychosis.  We can only do the best with what we have and try to find a better place for him to go.  If he is unwilling, he is free to leave and remain in the rain as long as he stays out of the street.

Encountering an extremely depressed person who has decided that there is nothing worth living for is an unfortunately frequent occurrence for those of us in law enforcement.  The manner in which they make their attempts, or reach out for help varies.  Sometimes we can help, other times it’s too late.  Some force us to take their lives for them by placing us in jeopardy with a deadly weapon.

After over a decade of war, we now deal with veterans who are experiencing complications with PTSD as well.  Sometimes we are able to deescalate situations fairly quickly without a physical scuffle.  It’s hard to be a type A personality military veteran who suddenly has an onset of emotion that can’t be controlled.  I struggled with unexpected loud noises and had issues with certain smells when I first got home from my time in a combat zone, but luckily I was able to move past it.  Some aren’t so lucky.

Aside from the potential for physical danger posed by the extremely mentally ill, there is a fear that lurks beneath the surface that one day I’ll grow old and begin the horrible mental transition into a life with dementia.  In my dealings with these folks, I always walk away feeling helpless because I have nothing to offer them.  I may be able to return them home, or to provide some manner of comfort, but I do not have a fix for what really ails them.

I cannot imagine the frustration in not being able to remember the people I hold dear.  I know how frustrated I get when I walk into a room on task only to arrive at my destination without any idea what I set out to do.  Thankfully it only happens once in a great while now.  If it was my way of life, I don’t know how I would be able to do it.

When I went on the field trip to the state-run mental institution I had no idea that I would end up in a career that deals so closely with the mentally ill on a regular basis.  I still feel empathetic to those who are experiencing these problems, but I’ve learned to compartmentalize them with the other sights and sounds that I do not enjoy.  I have learned that I can only help to a small extent by trying to find some resources for them that may be able to help in the long run.

While medication helps some of these folks, it often makes them feel ill or off kilter.  Depending on their own particular psychosis, they may have no intention of ever taking the drugs they were prescribed after they leave a doctor’s care.  If the prescriptions aren’t taken on time and in the correct order, they may have no effect at all.  Then the spiral commences and leads them back to us in some form or another to perpetuate the cycle.

It may seem crass to say it, but many of these folks would benefit from being housed against their will in a state-run mental institution.  It’s not “criminalizing” mental illness.  It’s providing a safe environment for them amongst people with proper training available to assist them.  I’m no psychiatrist or psychologist.  I’ll continue to do what I can, as will my brothers and sisters in blue.  Unfortunately we aren’t geared toward it, nor are we properly supported with available resources.

It’s an issue that isn’t addressed very often.  We only hear about it after some cop somewhere has to shoot a mentally ill individual because they imposed a lethal threat or injures a mentally ill person in a physical confrontation.  The family may have called for assistance with the person to bring the officer there because they couldn’t handle the situation, but they’ll surely be on the news calling for “justice” after the fact.

We dedicate training time every year toward dealing with individuals with mental illness who are in crisis.  It barely scratches the surface and only serves as a reminder that there is a lot more work to be done.

If you know and love someone with an extreme mental illness, I feel for you.  It’s a difficult journey and a tough life to dedicate so much time and effort to another person who doesn’t seem to be making any improvement.  I’ve spoken to many a family member who is at wits end while serving as a caretaker to a relative with mental illness and I know it can be very rough at times.

I’m sure my old state trooper friend is retired now, and while I don’t miss working shifts as the sole officer on duty in my jurisdiction, I do miss his laid back, matter of fact way of dealing with the world.  I have no doubt that his input on our dealings with the mentally ill would be entertaining and thought provoking.  And vulgar.

As Lewis Carroll wrote in Alice in Wonderland, “We’re all mad here.  I’m mad.  You’re mad.”  When Alice responded, “How do you know I’m mad?”  The Cat said, “You must be, or you wouldn’t have come here.”  Maybe we’re all just a little mad after all.

It’s time to go patrol the Donut…




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10 Consistent Callers…

Cops don’t get to pick and choose the calls we respond to on a daily basis.  Sure, we have a lot of freedom to self-initiate activity when we see things that are illegal or potentially dangerous, but by and large our shifts get dictated by the public.  In most places this results in a love/hate relationship.

Most of us enter this line of work to serve something greater than ourselves and our own personal interests.  We do have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of others, or we wouldn’t put up with the bullshit that accompanies being a cop.  Long hours, generally low pay, spineless administrators, high expectations, and media scrutiny are only a few of the things that would make a person who really didn’t have the proper motivations quickly seek other gainful employment.

In spite of wanting to be able to help them, police officers experience frustration with the public we serve just like parents who get frustrated with their children.

It doesn’t matter what size the agency is or how populated the jurisdiction may be, the folks that call the police consistently fall into some basic general categories.  What follows is my list of the 10 most prevalent and annoying “customers” we encounter in the Donut.  If you’re a cop you’ll likely recognize them.  If you’re a citizen you might be one of them.

  1. The Chicken Little: This particular reporting party views the world through a particularly paranoid lens.  These are the folks that will call about a seemingly innocuous activity and report it as though it was the crime of the century.  As the dispatcher relays the information from the caller over the airways to responding officers, the call sounds legitimately dangerous or serious.  The first officer cautiously approaching the scene only to find that the “burglary in progress” at a vacant house is a realtor showing a home to a potential buyer with a magnetic real estate company logo plastered on the side of the realtor’s car.  Chicken Little complainants often have more official sounding titles like “crime watch captain” or “HOA president”.
  2. The Speed-dialer: Similar to our Chicken Little friend but without the general seriousness of the reported calls, the speed-dialer calls the police department for absolutely everything.  Over charged by the cable company?  The speed-dialer calls to let us know.  Get a mean message on Facebook?  Better let the police know.  Every time the speed-dialer gets an e-mail saying he or she may have just won a Nigerian lottery we’ll get a call.
  3. The Professional Victim: This reporting party will always be surprised that he or she could not leave every high dollar electronic item owned in plain sight inside an unlocked vehicle, even if it’s in a busy retail area or overnight at home.  The professional victim has no problem sharing any manner of personal information with anyone  who calls to ask for it and is always shocked that their bank account is suddenly overdrawn.
  4. The Tit-for-Tat: This isn’t referencing faded prison-style tattoos on mammaries, instead the tit-for-tat occurs when two parties have a disagreement and then race to call the police to provide their own account of the incident.  Generally neither one provides a story that is anywhere close to being similar to the other, and oftentimes without an independent third-party witness to help clarify matters.
  5. The Passerby: We receive a lot of good information from our citizens that lead to increased roadway safety or arrests of criminal suspects.  The passerby is unique in that he or she will call and provide information about a potential drunk driver and immediately turn down a different street rather than following the car until an officer can get to it.  The passerby has the right intentions but lacks any sort of follow through which often leads us on a wild goose chase.
  6. The I Hate Cops: Unless you immediately recognize the name from a previous incident, the responding officer may have no idea what he or she is getting into while responding to a call from the “I hate cops” caller.  This person has reached a limit and must now call the very people he or she despises, and generally lets the officer know upon arrival “look, I hate cops, but…” making further interaction that much more fun.
  7. The Requesting Callback:  This complainant will contact dispatch to request an officer for any number of call types, and often they will not actually be an involved party. Then, regardless of their involvement they will either request that the handling officer call or meet with them in person to share the final disposition of the call. Being nosy is one thing, but when the pending call log is backing up we don’t want to fill you in so you can gossip at your bridge game. 
  8. The Conversationalist/Hostage Taker:  This individual may be one of the previously mentioned folks or they may have had a legitimate complaint, but once the call is somehow resolved the conversationalist/hostage taker will do everything possible to keep the officer there. Maybe they had a third cousin who was a cop in another area. Maybe they want to debate politics. One way or another, you may have to put an officer in distress call out in order to escape. 
  9. The Bebe’s Kids:  This complainant has had the kids since birth and has had every opportunity to not screw them up over the years. Alas, due to their consistent parenting failures the child (children) are messed up and they call us and expect an immediate solution.  Now. 
  10. The CSI/NCIS Fanatic:  Sometimes also a speed-dialer, this caller insists upon a full evidentiary search to discover who pushed a shopping cart into his or her car while they were at Walmart and gets upset when the officer doesn’t use a DNA swab on the cart handle. 

There are plenty of legitimate, non-aggravating complaintants in this world who aren’t one of these characters, we just don’t see them nearly as much.  Sometimes even these folks report something worthwhile, but generally that’s not the case.  

It’s time to go patrol the Donut…

Posted in Cops, Law Enforcement, Police | Tagged , | 2 Comments

No Better Friend…

I’m far too old to have many role models. At this point in my life many of the folks I have held in high esteem have revealed themselves as less than ideal examples of a path to follow for the long term. I’m now pretty set in my ways and have moved toward being the old dog who doesn’t learn many new tricks. 

One man’s influence still holds sway in my life even after my vicarious involvement with him ceased. I’m not alone in this thought process, as there are thousands like me who count themselves as disciples in the James D. Mattis school of thought. 

General Mattis left the Marine Corps in 2013, but his wartime leadership created a cult-like following amongst a majority of his subordinates. 

I had the pleasure of hearing him espouse his philosophy in a lecture hall at Camp Pendleton before we deployed to Iraq. I saw him put those philosophies into play when I encountered him in Iraq as a junior NCO when we crossed paths and he addressed me in a brief and frank man-to-man type of conversation rather than commanding from the mound. 

In spite of the cries about the “militarization of police”, I would contend that the ways of General Mattis are applicable in the law enforcement world. His leadership style sets an example we should all strive to emulate as we hit the streets, and are certainly viable for the star and oak leaf cluster club who “lead” law enforcement organizations across our nation. 

While I certainly understand that we don’t have the close air support  Mattis had at his disposal, ultimately the most basic tenets of his approach to leading Marines transfer to the law enforcement realm fairly seamlessly.

  1. Leaders set the tone.  General Mattis has been quoted as saying “You can overcome wrong technology. Your people have the initiative, they see the problem, no big deal … you can’t overcome bad culture. You’ve gotta change whoever is in charge.”  Unfortunately the senior leadership in a lot of law enforcement agencies are rife with “leaders” who have been promoted by out-breathing the competition. The Chiefs and Sheriffs who have no leadership experience and are promoted beyond their own capabilities are easy to find.  These “leaders” create intellectually incestuous environments where cronyism flourishes and independent thought is crushed. Rule of policy versus rule of common sense is a good indicator that the organizational culture is ill, especially when policies only apply to those outside the inner circle of the star and oak leaf cluster club. 
  2. Delegate authority and expect mistakes.  General Mattis understood the concept of commander’s intent and the idea that there are many ways to achieve a mission. A leader who spells out each step in accomplishing tasks not only limits the unique abilities of subordinates, but also stifles the development of junior leadership in the organization.  When a newly minted leader makes decisions within the overall interests of the organization, mistakes will occasionally happen. Those mistakes made with the proper intentions are learning opportunities for the new leader. However, if mistakes are treated as unexpected and inexcusable, the new leader will hesitate to made judgement calls in the future out of fear of retribution. 
  3. Admit mistakes and be humble. A leader that has cultivated the organizational delegation of authority and refuses to play “wack-a-mole” when mistakes are made by subordinates will receive the same leeway in kind. When was the last time a Chief or Sheriff owned a poor decision and actually apologized to those impacted?  Not around here. Our star and oak leaf cluster club is infallible, just ask them. 
  4. Be bluntly honest, and carry out the plan.  By the time an officer is hired, he or she is an adult. Cops are very accustomed to being bluntly honest with suspects, victims, and witnesses. We don’t typically receive the same treatment from our leaders. It is far too common for entire policy books to be filled with policies generated to skirt difficult personal conversations with the individual(s) who created the problem.  Rather than directly addressing an issue, a blanket policy change allows the agency to address an issue without actually addressing the problem. This behavior extends to Chiefs and Sheriffs who make statements to the press without factual information about situations that are receiving a good deal of media attention.  An agency head that refuses to excuse egregious actions by his or her officers is fine. But only after everything is considered and investigated. 
  5. Lead from the front.  A Chief or Sheriff in a mid-to-large agency will not likely be out on the tip of the law enforcement spear. We understand the idea that they have been promoted beyond the need to actually enforce laws. What subordinates do want and need is a leader that can understand the current climate and demands placed on those who are actually still carrying out the law enforcement functions. The organization exists and succeeds because of the efforts of those in uniform, not necessarily because of those who are in charge. Chiefs and Sheriffs who function in support of the officers rather than commanding from a desk will find that the main effort will be willing to run through a brick wall to return the support. 
  6. “No better friend, no worse enemy”  General Mattis famously delivered this mantra to the Marines of the 1st Marine Division just prior to the invasion of Iraq. He wanted those in his charge to demonstrate decisive action to the Iraqi citizens by differentiating between threat and non-threat. Those who decided to receive his Marines without posing a threat would be treated kindly and with respect. General Mattis implored his men to do anything reasonable to assist these “friends”. Those who made the decision to oppose them by force were not likely able to make any other decision again. This concept correlates very well to the mission facing our modern police force. Those who are victimized or are in need of assistance should be treated as friends-and we should make reasonable accommodations for them as the law allows. Those who decide to break the law should do so with the understanding that they will be pursued and held accountable accordingly. And the bad actors who attempt to take the lives of innocents and/or those in uniform should know that they’ll do so at the risk of their own lives. 
  7. “Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”  A lot has been said about police use of force recently, and those folks will likely take exception to the preceding quote from General Mattis.  The reality is that the world faced by our police is not a kind one. The golden rule reigns supreme.  Treat everyone as you wish to be treated until they give you a reason to do something else. In spite of public opinion, officers are not hard wired to shoot first and ask questions later.  The vast majority of our interactions with the public pose no threat to us. However being reminded of the ever-existing danger and planning ways to survive each encounter are vital to officer survival. 

General Mattis set a tone that did not allow for excuses in lieu of decisiveness. Timid leaders were rapidly replaced by the bold.  Rank certainly had its place, but rank did not always confer leadership in and of itself. Actions were more important than PowerPoint presentations. Everyone understood exactly what was expected of them and exactly where they stood. 

General Mattis thrived as a leader in one of the harshest organizations in the world for 44 years. He set a standard that will be difficult for others to attain, but understanding the basic philosophical ideas behind his leadership and striving to achieve them should be a goal for us all. 

Now it’s time to go patrol the Donut…

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