Applying "What's important now?" to the current crisis in law enforcement

The acronym W.I.N. has been used to help law enforcement professionals make better decisions in leadership, use of force, incident command, tactical combat casualty care, training, and tactics.

The following article is part of the WINx: Inspiring Excellence in Law Enforcement event — an event created to help law enforcement professionals think differently. WINx is being held November 18 in Lisle, Illinois. Register now and be inspired by nine dynamic speakers committed to help you grow courage and embrace excellence. 

The law enforcement profession needs to take action now to avoid the impending crisis some would have you believe already exists. If we as a profession fail to take action the resulting crisis will impact the retention and recruiting of good people as well as impact the relationships with the communities we are sworn to protect and serve. 

The question on the minds of many law enforcement leaders is, “What can and should we do?” The answer comes in the form of a question — life’s most powerful question: “What’s important now? 

The power of “What’s important now?” comes from its simplicity, and its diversity in application. It is only three words — and is represented by the acronym W.I.N. — but is a powerful decision making tool. W.I.N. has been used to help law enforcement professionals make better decisions in leadership, use of force, incident command, tactical combat casualty care, training, and tactics. 

It is has been used as a mantra to beat cancer, a tool for youth coaches and teachers, in peer support programs, by air traffic controllers, by victim services advocates and to train special forces soldiers. It can easily be applied in one’s personal and professional lives to be a better parent, spouse, leader, friend, mentor and role model. 

What's Important Now?
Agencies need to create a culture of leadership instead of just having leadership courses that people take in order to tick the box for promotion. A culture of leadership needs to be based on integrity, courage and character. 

To create a culture of leadership agencies need to teach leadership at all levels of the organization starting with the foundational level — patrol. A culture requires key concepts and language that are consistent throughout the organizations training and decision making. 

“What’s important now?” is a foundational concept and question on which to build that culture. 

1. What’s important now is to do what’s right. Doing what is right is not always what is popular or what is expedient, but it is always what is right. Combining the questions “What’s important now?” and, “What is the right thing to do?” forms a solid foundation for decision making in law enforcement and for a culture of leadership. 

2. What’s important now is to allow yourself to be human. To be human is to make mistakes. When you make a mistake what’s important now is to do what is right and stand up, man up or woman up, own up to the mistake, learn from the mistake so you do not repeat it, and move forward wiser as a result of the experience. People are understanding and forgiving of those who make a mistake and have the courage to admit it. They have no tolerance for those who make a mistake and try to cover it up. 

3. What’s important now is to stay humble and hungry. Hungry for new information, new ideas, new ways of thinking, new ways to train and new ways to lead. Humble means remembering that leadership is not about you. Leadership is about serving and growing others. 

4. What’s important now is that we need to control the narrative. For too long we have allowed small, but very vocal special interest groups and cop haters to control the narrative. Their narrative is that law enforcement professionals are racist thugs, bullies and murderers who misapply the law. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Law enforcement is a profession of dedicated men and women who have chosen to serve their communities and their countries through law enforcement. Every day they put on the uniform, put on the badge, strap on a gun and put their lives at risk to make their communities safer. The narrative of these groups narrative creates an ‘us versus them’ mentality and a perceived crisis of trust.

5. What’s important now is to embrace the philosophy that wellness is an officer safety issue. Mental, physical, and emotional wellness are critical to the safety and well being of the men and women of law enforcement. Failing to address these critical issues is costing the profession in both lives lost and millions of dollars spent every year. 

The single greatest killer of law enforcement officers in North America is law enforcement officers in North America taking their own life. Law enforcement officers are killing themselves at three to four times the rate that violent criminals kill us. Heart disease is also one of the top killers of law enforcement professionals in North America. 

According to ODMP as of October 17, 2015 of the 99 Line of Duty Deaths in the US, 16 of those deaths are the result of heart attacks. According to Dr. Jonathan Sheinberg — a cardiologist and reserve officer in Cedar Park, Texas — if we projected line of duty deaths over a 24 hour period (including time of) heart disease would be one of the top two or three causes of death for law enforcement professionals.

The time is now for us as a profession to take action and think, lead, and train differently and embrace “What’s important now?”

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