This feature is part of Police1’s Digital Edition, “Officer Down! A Police1 Survival Guide.” Download the guide here.
What is the most important thing that contributes to an officer’s safety and completing their career? My answer: “Possessing a respect-based police survival attitude!”
This involves having:
1. Respect for the public you serve.
Treating people with respect gets better results than the opposite approach.
2. Respect for the danger of the profession.
Respecting the danger of the profession during every contact will inspire you to use solid tactics that will become good habits, keeping you constantly in a defensible position of advantage.
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3. Respect for law and order.
Enforcing the law with respect for and knowledge of the law will lead others to respect you. Officers of the law who follow the law on duty and off do not compromise themselves and others, while securing their own legal and emotional survival.
Police1 resource: Legal pitfalls on patrol: Lessons from case law
4. Respect for the physicality of the profession.
An officer one moment might be thinking, “It’s sure quiet tonight,” and the next struggling with a suspect who outweighs them by 100 pounds, or in a foot pursuit with a college-level athlete. Respecting the physicality of the profession will lead an officer to maintain a high degree of physical fitness. This will not mean they will catch the college athlete, but it might mean they won’t suffer an on-duty cardiac arrest during the pursuit.
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5. Respect for the deceptive abilities of suspects.
An essential officer skill set is being able to read a suspect who is trying to cover up a crime, or fake kindness to cover an impending assault. A few indicators of deception are hesitation in giving a simple answer, steepling fingers and sweating. Since officers do not have lie detectors, they need to be lie detectors.
Officers especially need to be able to read indicators of an imminent assault when suspects are feigning cooperation. This body language may be as subtle as a glance toward an exit or toward your weapon, or the tightening of facial muscles and the clenching of teeth, or as obvious as shaking a fist coupled with a threat.
6. Respect for the fact that it is difficult controlling a resisting person.
Respecting the difficulty of overcoming resistance inspired me to train extensively on my own time on my dime. This training outside my agency not only made me effective at physically controlling suspects, but also led me to train others to become proficient in the art of controlling resistive suspects. Without this training on my own time on my dime I would not have survived my career.
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7. Respect for trainers.
Respecting my trainers and the value of training made me a sponge, trying to soak up as much knowledge and as many skills as I could that would help me say after surviving an encounter, “….and then my training kicked in.”
8. Respect for commanders.
I was lucky to have many great commanders. Early in my career, when facing something for the first time, I was amazed at the ease with which some commanders could answer my questions. I found that even when a commander would recommend a different course than I might have taken, theirs was an acceptable option.
Police1 resource: Why police sergeants are an agency’s MVP
9. Respect for the importance of effective communication in all aspects of law enforcement.
Some people’s job requires that they must be able to build bridges. Police officers need to know how to talk other people down off them. Whether you are communicating with a hostage taker over a phone or a dispatcher over the radio in a high-speed pursuit, you must develop the ability to listen and speak effectively. If we are talking effectively with a dangerous person, we are not having to shoot accurately.
Police1 resource: 4 ways to effectively communicate during a critical incident
10. Respect for the importance of a thorough, accurate, well-written report.
Report writing is an extension of the previously mentions “effective communication.” It is as much a survival skill as defensive tactics and firearms. You will use the skill of report writing every day and especially after a use of force incident, as you will need to be able to relay the justification for the force you used.
Police1 resource: 7 deadly sins of police report writing
11. Respect for your peers and partners.
Law enforcement is not a profession you can do alone. You have to rely on your fellow officers, dispatchers, corrections officers, and state and federal officers, as well as prosecutors. By being a good backup, you will get good backup, which is essential for survival. Also, developing a good working relationship with your dispatchers, prosecutors and corrections officers by showing them mutual respect pays off in many ways. When people know you and respect you, they unconsciously listen a little harder on the radio when they hear your voice, rush a little faster to the elevator when you are on it and they hear a scuffle or prosecute a case a little harder when it is yours, because they know the quality of your character and your work.
Police1 resource: Are you a great backup?
12. Respect for the fact that change is inevitable.
The only thing constant in law enforcement is change. Since I began in law enforcement, these changes occurred: