Continued from "Coping WIth Fears of Anguish", on page 35
control. Appreciate the importance of calling for backup and use of the supervisory chain for decision making, consultation, direction, and actionable steps in handling "grey" areas in the law enforcement environment – these are all factors you control. Focusing more and more of your time, attention, and energy on what you can control, while letting go of all that you cannot control, can be a highly effective strategy to help strengthen your resilience and decrease your overall level of stress. RECOMMENDATION #3: SEPARATE POSSIBILITIES AND PROBABILITIES To maintain strong officer safety, law enforcement profes- sionals must always consider worst-case possibilities, such as the possibility that a suspect may be armed with a weapon. When working to specifically reduce the fear of being ambushed, it can be helpful to consider the difference between the possibil- ity of a worst-case scenario (i.e. being ambushed and killed), and the probability that a particular scenario will actually occur. Fortunately, the statistical odds are strongly in favor of an officer not being ambushed and killed in the line of duty. In 2013, for ex- ample, law enforcement agencies in the United States employed 626,942 officers, and the statistical probability of an officer being feloniously killed in the line of duty was approximately 0.00004%. When stress and anxiety rise to a level that undercuts officer safety, separating possibilities from probabilities can help to keep overwhelming negative emotions in check. RECOMMENDATION #4: AVOID COMPLACENCY Officers do an outstanding job of prioritizing safety, but hu- man nature exerts a powerful pull towards growing comfortable with routines, lowering defenses, being subject to distractions, and becoming less aware of ever-present dangers over time. Do not let this happen to you. While some threats are impossible to detect in advance, most are forecast, if only by split-seconds, and detectable only if we remain vigilant. One of the core tenets of Below 100 is “Remember: Complacency Kills!” for good reason, as their mission is to reduce line-of-duty deaths to fewer than 100 per year, something we have not witnessed in over sixty years. In the words of Gordon Graham: “Complacency kills because it leaves us unprepared for the sudden appearance of danger, that is if we even see the danger coming at all.” Avoid overconfidence and complacency, remain alert, stay focused, and practice strong officer safety at all times. RECOMMENDATION #5: BEWARE OF FATIGUE Research shows that most police officers do not get ad- equate sleep, and an officer experiencing fatigue on the job can suffer deadly consequences. As an officer becomes more and more fatigued, their job performance and ability to engage in officer safety will decline, placing them at greater risk of impairment, de- creased reaction time, inability to engage in effective self-defense, and increased risk of injury. Officers can combat fatigue by limiting or avoiding alcohol and caffeine and prioritizing good sleep, includ- ing setting aside ample time for rest, utilizing blackout curtains or a sleep mask, and keeping the bedroom temperature at no more than 67 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit during sleep hours. RECOMMENDATION #6: RELY ON YOUR TRAINING Consider the extensive training that you, and those who serve with you, have gone through to prepare you to do your job safely and effectively every day. As a result of your training and experience, you are vastly more equipped than most people to manage high-risk situations and violent individuals. Engaging
in Crisis Rehearsal preparation for what-if scenarios can also be very helpful, with repetition, practice, and preparation being keys to success. Law enforcement professionals frequently emphasize reliance on their training as a central factor in helping them to successfully navigate the most difficult situations they encountered across their years of service. RECOMMENDATION #7: UTILIZE YOUR EQUIPMENT It’s critically important to stay knowledgeable and practiced with all of the tools at your disposal to help you maximize your safety and effectiveness on the job. Wearing your body armor is a critically important step that you can take to help strengthen your chances of survival if you are attacked. Also, it never hurts to get in more practice at the range or the simulator, or to ensure you have maximized your effectiveness with various less-than- lethal tools that may be at your disposal. Preparing for what-if scenarios can also provide opportunities to reassess underuti- lized but potentially useful equipment in the inventory, along with exploring grants for more specialized equipment (e.g., shot spotter programs, drones, technologybased surveillance, robotic equipment for surveillance, negotiations, etc.). RECOMMENDATION #8: LEVERAGE YOUR EXPERIENCE Consider how much more effective you are at prioritizing of- ficer safety now, compared to when you first entered the profes- sion. All of your experience adds up over time to help make you better, more skilled, and safer on the job. Continually leverage your experience, your understanding of risk, and your knowledge of safety procedures. Avoid falling into a rut or becoming com- placent, and instead continually challenge yourself to get better and better at all aspects of your job. If you’re newer to the profes- sion, consider seeking out a mentor who is more experienced and willing to share their wisdom and knowledge with you. RECOMMENDATION #9: STAY ATTUNED TO YOUR INSIGHT We are evolved to survive, and as Gavin DeBecker famously emphasized in The Gift of Fear, it is critically important to trust your fear instinct because this instinct helps to keep all of us alive over time. Chronic anxiety and worry can cause us to be- come overly susceptible to stress, so it is important to learn to regulate and manage these emotions. However, it is equally important to be attuned to your genuine fear instinct, because this is vital to your ongoing self-preservation. Too often officers deprioritize their own safety over the years, and this can only take place for so long until something terrible happens; do not let this happen to you. Stay attuned to your insight. RECOMMENDATION #10: MAINTAIN STRONG COMMUNICATION Concerns about personal safety are of paramount impor- tance, so do not keep these concerns to yourself if it makes sense to share them with others. As a law enforcement professional, you are part of a team dedicated to upholding safety. Make sure to clearly communicate any safety concerns with others who can assist in helping to address those concerns and take steps to pro- mote increased safety. Use of vital communications tools (radio transmissions, briefing discussions, internal email, etc.) can be of paramount importance to counteracting unknowns and ensur- ing that you and your force are prepared with the necessary equipment, communications plans, and training predicated on potential ambush scenarios. continued on page 38
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