Are you Superman? No, of course not. We are all as vulnerable to physical harm as the average person. Unfortunately, there is a time in many police officer’s lives when they begin to feel a little invulnerable and take risks they shouldn’t.
When a new recruit joins the ranks, they go through a time when they are still learning and feel a little hesitant as they approach a violent situation. That is expected. However, within a short time they go from worried caution to a certain cockiness. They begin to swagger up to a threat as if bullet proof. Even if you haven’t had this happen to you, you have seen it in some of the young officers with two or three years on the job.
There is a time when young officers puff up their chest and stand toe to toe with a threat. While there is a time and a place for that it isn’t always the best choice of action. Sometimes a more laid-back approach is wiser and acting bullet proof only exacerbates the situation. While the young officer might be in excellent physical condition and quite capable of physically handling the confrontation the best choice might be to take it down a notch.
This happens because young officers really haven’t had enough experience yet. The idea of being vulnerable has been forced to the back of their brain. This is a good thing because these officers need to develop the courage to face what can be overwhelming odds. They also need to learn to temper their bravado.
Sadly, there comes a time when an officer is killed. It might be in a traffic accident, or in a violent confrontation with some dirtbag. Through no fault of their own they are killed. Perhaps it is off duty and the officer is trying to help a robbery victim they chanced upon. Perhaps it is a routine traffic stop that goes bad.
In my case it was a friend from the academy who was killed by a drunk driver as he was heading into the station at the end of his tour of duty. I was part of the honor guard and one of the pall bearers. It forced me to face my mortality. I am not bullet proof.
I reevaluated my actions. While there are times to stand tall and puff up your chest there are more times to avoid getting physical. Sometimes the choice isn’t yours so you must always be ready to take action. Just remember if they punch you first it will hurt. If they cut you, you will bleed if they shoot you, you might die.
Recently, Chicago PD lost a young female officer. Through no fault of her own, she was shot down in the line of duty. A pretty young woman with an infectious smile who people liked. That day started out like any other. The traffic stop started out like any other only it didn’t end that way. She was shot and killed; her partner seriously wounded. This kind of tragedy happens and is part of the police life.
The outpouring of grief was felt nationwide, and nowhere was it taken more to heart than by her fellow officers, the young men and women she worked with, came on the job with, and those also young and new to the job. These are the officers who today are faced with their mortality and must learn how best to deal with it.
See the job has to be done. The bad guy has to be arrested and bully has to be stopped. There is no one else to do it. You have to do it.
Take care and stay safe my brothers and sisters in blue. Run low and zig zag. Robert Weisskopf (Lt. CPD ret.)
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
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You can find more articles from Robert Weisskopf as well as links to his novels and cookbook at www.bobweisskopf.com.
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