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5 tips for cops on developing a winning mindset

Now, more than ever, our mindset must be developed — here are five reminders to prepare you for whatever may come on your next shift

We live in an environment that is incredibly dangerous for civilians and the officers who serve them.

In incident after incident, the reviews of police officers’ actions have proven that officers are operating well within the confines of the law and common sense in this dangerous environment, yet under the “Hands up, don’t shoot!” rhetoric — which has been proven to be a fallacy — certain politicians, members of the press and the public make uninformed statements and refuse to understand the dynamics of law enforcement.

Because of this increased scrutiny, many officers tell me, “I would get in trouble if I ____.” or “My (chief, sheriff, boss) would fire me for ____.”

You have to be alive to be in trouble. Here are five mindset reminders to prepare you for whatever may come on your next shift.

1. Know that evil exists.
Many people cannot identify evil when faced with it. The lines between good and evil are often not clear. Look at the way that many blame the police for standing in the gap, but glorify the criminal who forced the gap to be filled. Law enforcement officers need to have clearly defined values which identify good and evil.

2. Know that no values transfer.
You cannot assume that everyone shares your set of values. Treat everyone like they share your values, but don’t trust them like they do.

About 15 years ago, a police officer confronted a man with a rifle who had been involved in a domestic situation and had fired shots. The officer set his service weapon down with the belief that the other person would share his value for life. The suspect fatally shot the officer That officer trusted someone to share their values; it was a deadly error.

3. Remember that complacency kills.
You must constantly be aware. Pay attention to what is going on around you, especially in this current environment. Don’t pull up somewhere, walk up to a door, or get out of your vehicle until you look. If you can do so, drive past that address where your call for service is, get a close look, then turn around and come back to it. Forewarned is forearmed. Be aware of everyone and everything going on around you.

4. Be willing to do your job.
If you are not ready to fight, shoot, or wrestle with someone, find a new job. The job is tough, but no one can prepare you for it except you. You must spend time developing your skills. When the fight comes to you, you will be the one involved. Blaming the media, news, training officer, chief or anyone else won’t matter when you are in the struggle. Again, you have got to be alive to be in trouble.

5. Know the law.
Finally, don’t rely on others to protect you when you are challenged. Study what your department’s policy, state law and federal law say about the job you do and how you do it. The courts know that law enforcement must make split-second decisions in “tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving” situations.

Develop your mindset so that you will be prepared to do what you need to do to be safe every day — take charge of your safety and your life.

Tim Barfield is the Chief of Police in a small midwestern Ohio town. He is in his for 37th year as an officer. Prior to his appointment as chief he spent 32 years in an inner ring suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. He is a husband, father and grandfather who has a love for police work and police officers with a goal of helping them succeed in a great profession. His responsibilities and desires have included patrol, traffic, DARE, SWAT, training and supervision. He is a member of the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association and Chairman of the Board of the Law Enforcement Training Trust. He continues to learn and instruct on subjects with an emphasis on awareness, police survival mindset and ethics.

Contact Tim Barfield