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Operation survival NY2022

Some key tips for staying safe in the new year

Hiking photo police hobbies

The author strongly believes hobbies are the key to emotional fitness for law enforcement officers.

Photo/Warren Wilson

Well, 2021 certainly was another challenging year. There’s no reason to think 2022 will be any easier. We should probably hope for the best while preparing for the status quo.

I suggest a two-pronged approach to surviving 2022: safety and peace of mind. Over the past year, we’ve given the reader items or activities that we believe are good investments of your money or your time.

The following is a blended list of things we believe will help you get the new year started off right.

Physical safety

Traditional officer safety is well covered elsewhere. I’d like to address some unconventional aspects of safety for law enforcement officers working in today’s world.

The first recommendation is an investment in your physical health. The average age of heart attack for the general population is 67 years of age. For career law enforcement officers, that number is 49. Since we are many more times more likely to die from heart disease than a line of duty death, my first suggestion is a gym membership. This requires a small investment in time and money, but your most precious asset is your heartbeat.

Police 1 resource: How to maintain adequate LEO physical fitness

Financial safety

The vilification of law enforcement hasn’t only threatened the physical safety of law enforcement officers but also our financial security. Bills have been introduced in various jurisdictions around the country to cut police retirements, end qualified immunity and rob funds from agencies that would and have resulted in layoffs.

Like your physical health, your financial health is also in jeopardy. Law enforcement retirement plans are complicated and since most of us who are on a pension plan are not allowed to participate in social security (no matter how much we contributed prior to our cop careers), we need financial expertise from someone who understands law enforcement retirement plans.

Police1 resource: Your pension plan shouldn’t be your only retirement plan

Home safety

It’s difficult to focus on your own safety while at work when you’re worried about your family at home. I suggest you spend a little time and money on your home’s physical security.

Many of these improvements come at little or no cost. For example, replacing the screws in your deadbolt lock from what comes with the unit to three-inch versions will vastly increase your security for a matter of pennies.

The days of spending thousands on a monitored alarm/surveillance system for your home are all but over. There are many Internet-based options that will protect your entire home for a fraction of the cost. The one I use allows me to add sensors and cameras one at a time if I wish, which gives me the financial flexibility to build the system over time.

Police1 resource: 6 steps to making your home your castle

Home preparedness

Ensuring your family is set up for emergency preparedness is a must. While most folks are sent home from their jobs during a catastrophe, cops don’t have that luxury. In fact, we are more likely to be required to be at work for long periods of time after a disaster; be it natural or manmade.

Ready.Gov and FEMA have some helpful information on how to achieve preparedness and even a downloadable PDF guide. Get informed and be prepared so you can worry less about what’s going on at home while you’re on the front line of your jurisdiction’s next disaster.

Emotional safety

I believe the first step to emotional safety and fitness is turning work off at the door. For me, that means not watching the news. There’s no way to avoid the big stories, of course, but there’s nothing in the national news cycle that gives me hope or peace of mind. Engage in hobbies that have nothing to do with your job. It doesn’t matter if it’s horseback riding, hiking, driving trails, running or whatever. Just find something that gets your mind off your work.

My next suggestion is to turn off negativity. Avoid conversations about all the terrible things about your work, whether on the local or national level. There is solid research that indicates the more negative thoughts you engage in, the more negative you’ll feel long-term. Focus on the positives in your life and at your work. And don’t be afraid to seek mental health assistance occasionally, even if you’re feeling well.

Police1 resource: Why your off-duty life is important for stress management

Quality of life

We really don’t have much control over what New Year 2022 will bring. We do, however, have control over how it affects us and our quality of life. Happy New Year, brothers and sisters.

Warren Wilson is a captain, training commander and rangemaster with an Oklahoma metropolitan police department. He is a former SWAT team leader, current firearms instructor and writer. He is certified as a De-Escalation Instructor and Force Science Analyst by the Force Science Institute. Warren has over 3,100 hours of documented training including multiple instructor certifications on firearms, active shooter and OC. He has been a full-time law enforcement officer since 1996.