Officer Safety: 5 Things They Don’t Teach New Cops

It’s about to get real

We have all been there.

As soon as the fight is over and the flood of adrenaline has abated, we start the internal dialogue.

“Man, that guy (or girl) was strong” or “none of those techniques they taught me in my last in-service training worked”.

Probably the most common self talk I usually have goes something like this.

“I should probably go back to the gym” or “man, I’m out of shape”.

If you have been doing this job long enough (back when cops actually went hands on instead of default taser) you have probably had the same conversation with yourself.

So many things can happen when you wear the badge.

And they happen in their time, not yours.

I believe that’s the number one take away from my own personal battles and others on the street.

I recently attended my departments annual firearm’s and defensive tactics training.

A good portion of the training dealt with pre-assault indicators and how to recognize them in real-time.

Good training in my opinion.

“New Officer Tells Everyone He’s a Cop”

Look, I’m not a DT guru or MMA fighter. Just a cop who has had his share of fights on the street. And yes, I call them fights.

Almost without fail, after each one, I make promises to be better prepared for the next.

This article will not teach weapon retention, striking techniques or grappling strategies. I will leave that for the experts.

The 5 areas that will be discussed are essentially those that I feel get overlooked in an officers overall readiness for the fight.

1. Not getting enough sleep.

I remember being brand new.

Having the time of my life, runnin’ and gunnin’, working un-godly amounts of overtime and extra duty.

Sleep?

Sleep was for losers and admin cops.

This lifestyle lasted for a couple of years until I would eventually crash and burn. I had seriously overdrawn on my sleep account.

Your reaction time is greatly diminished when you are sleep deprived.

As we all know, when a fight happens, it happens fast. It’s bad enough that we are generally reactive when it starts.

Add in the impairment of little or no sleep and disaster could befall even the toughest and most tactically sound street cop.

2. Bad eating 

Guilty of this one as well.

We all make the same excuse. “But we get so busy and we are so short, I don’t have time, blah, blah…”

Eating poorly or worse, over-eating makes humans lethargic.

Remember, the fight of your life could happen at any time. There is no fight date, pre-weigh in or marketing photo-op.

Imagine scarfing down that large plate of pasta with a half loaf of garlic bread with your buddies on lunch break.

As soon as you mark back in service, you’re sent to a domestic call, not knowing that within 45 seconds you will be in the fight of your life with no back up.

I know that you are trained to watch their hands.

Watching what and how much you eat is more important.

3. Lack of exercise

Trust me when I say that I do not belong to the super fit cop cult club.

Not even close.

Cops take most things to the extreme if you haven’t noticed.

Why would fitness be any exception.

There are two camps. Those cops who do absolutely nothing and are larger than the side of a barn and those who are fanatical about their fitness.

I have experienced both.

I’m not here to tell you or endorse any specific workout program (sorry cross fitters). And it is not my intention to be overly preachy or why a lot of us do not make our health a priority.

“Want To Be A Cop? Answer These Questions First”

Everyone knows that our profession is not a spectator sport.

It’s a full contact one.

Sorry, it just is.

Everything else in my opinion, report writing, issuing tickets, making arrests, community policing, are merely window dressing.

The number one priority is and will always be your safety and that of the citizens. Our culture has made it so. We are an exceptionally violent nation.

And that targeted violence would prefer you to be weak, fat and out of shape.

4. It will never happen to me mentality

We read about an officer being killed in the line of duty across this country almost daily. But cops are masters of living in boxes.

Maybe it’s a survival mechanism.

Maybe it’s kind of like plane crashes, school shootings, or divorce. We just can’t imagine it happening to us.

Until it happens to us.

I’m not saying that one should go through life imagining such peril.

Just stop the arrogance that bad things happen to other people and that you are immune to tragedy.

Which leads to the next point..

5. Not having a plan

My wife loves to tell me I’m a “catastrophic thinker”. I prefer to call it “having a plan if the shit hits the fan”.

I used to have a Sergeant who would call me up randomly while on the road and present different scenario’s, like a bank robbery or active shooter.

If I didn’t start verbalizing a response within 3 seconds he would abruptly scream into the phone, calling me a failure before hanging up.

Like I have repeated throughout this article, you don’t get to pick the time or place when shit gets real.

Policing, like life, is a lot like Chess.

To be a good chess player, you not only have to have a plan and execute it, you have to anticipate your opponents options and moves at the same time.

If you are sloppy or go in without a plan, it won’t take long before you lose your queen or worse.

Have a plan.

Have several counter plans.

Always have a plan. The bad guy has one. It’s to hurt or kill you.

If you have no plan or no answer to his or her moves,

Checkmate.


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5 Comments

  1. Good article….. Sleep, what is sleep…. Hell, what is a vacation????

    Poor eating, I’m a poster child for it, but I can say that a lot of garlic pasta being puked on a thug is almost as good as pepper spray….

    Exercise, I was lucky to have a coworker who worked out everyday, he harassed me in to it too, and I appreciate it. He was a monster for it, because of an on duty wreck screwed up his hip, if did work out it killed him. NEVER be in to much of a hurry to get anywhere, you may pay for it with your life or limb. I sit here looking and the brace on my left knee and the pain that I have everytime I take a step. I also remember one heck of a wreck back in the early 1980s that slammed my knee in to the dash. I turn 60 next month and everything from my waist down hurts 24/7. Which brings me back to exercise…. moderation in weight lifting, your discs will appreciate it in the years to come. You don’t need to deadlift 500 pounds.

    Four and five go together. Have a plan and realize it will go to hell in a handbasket, but you won’t be sitting there like a deer in the headlights. IT CAN AND WILL HAPPEN TO YOU! If it doesn’t, then you are damned lucky or the best cop in the world…. take your pick.

    Last, I have a number 6. Get good disability and life insurance on you AND your wife. Work Comp SUCKS and no matter how much you are a hero when you have a catastrophic injury, two or three years later your Work Comp carrier won’t care. Sad, but true. Also the part about the spouse getting insurance. Can YOU afford to live on what just you make? Most can’t these days and while you never expect your spouse to go first, it can and does happen. It sucks emotionally and financially. While money doesn’t help the emotional part, it does help the financial part.

  2. David, great points–and I would add 6A–SAVE AHEAD. As you point out, your retirement check will probably not be enough to sustain you, especially in this era of 401 K’s being used as a risky substitute by many jurisdictions. Put some money aside for your retirement, and your kids’ college, and do so with care. I was lucky enough to retire in relatively good shape, so I am working part time–and putting some of THAT aside, too.

    Sorry about your wreck–fortunately, cars are better constructed now. Wish everybody would WEAR THEIR SEAT BELT !

  3. I saw all of this, and plenty of it, but two and three are the ones I saw the most of.

    I spent a lot of my career on nights, where the eating choices can be few and far between, so I packed my own lunch. Saves money, you eat better, and you have food with already if you get tied up with no access to it. I avoided fast food via the Drive-thru lie the plague. Among other things, I would always end up wearing some of that grease…

    I can remember checking a building one time with the key holder and two of my younger officers where we had to climb several flights of stairs. The younger officers (in their mid-twenties) were out of breath and slowing down. The key holder and I (both nearing fifty) were not. When the key holder was gone, I gave the officers a ration for being left behind by the old men…and then told them that they were compromising their own safety by not being in better shape. The worst thing is that the agency has a well equipped gym available 24/7. I always thought exercise was a great way to relieve the stress, too.

    The sleep aspect is not always as easy to control, with Court, shift work and family obligations, but yes, it is very possible to work too much voluntary overtime. As previous posters have said, you can avoid many money pitfalls by making good choices.

    Take care of yourselves so you can take care of everyone else.

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