When a meteorologist predicts a storm, they use the latest advanced technology. They storm track the system and try to predict the path and severity of that weather. Seismologist use similar techniques to measure earthquakes and the aftershocks that are sure to follow. They follow storm patterns and look at historical data for the time period or season.
These all help us prepare for the storms ahead.
How do we forecast the storms in law enforcement? Where is the high-tech equipment that tells us ‘The storm is coming!’ Unfortunately, that equipment doesn’t exist. We usually don’t know the storm is coming until it’s upon us.
We usually find ourselves in the “eye of the hurricane” when it’s too late. Just like yesterday in Philadelphia. The storms we face can’t be measured by radar or by an almanac that tells us what to expect. Sure, our training and experience says, “do this, do that”, but does it fully prepare us for the storms that follow?
I believe there is an existential threat that exists when it comes to police work. If officers are worried about being tried in the court of public opinion along with the media vilification that may follow, what will happen?
DE-ESCALATION IS ALL THE RAGE
What happens when they pause to think when a criminal is pointing a gun at them or the ridiculous idea that officers should close their eyes and count to 5?
What will be the outcome when they are legally justified to use deadly force, but are worried about the storm that will follow? I can tell you very easily, they WILL DIE! That split second of thinking “What if?” is all the time the bad guy needs to pull the trigger first.
What prepares us for the aftermath of the storm?
Who tells us how to handle the clean-up from whatever damage may have occurred?
I ask these questions now with the hope of opening a dialogue to help our brothers and sisters deal with some of these topics before they find themselves jammed-up.
The storms I am referring to come in many forms. They can be of backlash from an incident gone badly. We could have another “Ferguson effect” outcome, referring to the aftermath of the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.
Something like that can be the winds of change in police popularity and public support. It can be policies and procedures that change the way citizens see “their” police officers. The storms can present themselves in the form of media frenzies that condemn officers for a particular action or try to sway the viewers to believe a narrative written and motivated by a purely self-serving agenda.
We have seen done this time and time again, but how can we accurately predict when it will hit? How can we be sure where, and when, it will make landfall? Truth is we can’t. We can only hope to be in a position to prevent or deal with the storm, if possible. If we can’t prevent it, we can help ourselves and those around us cope with it until it passes.
STORMS OF THE MIND
Another type of storm we face is one where help rarely ask requested. The kind of storm we don’t seek shelter from or wait out. These storms last longer than anyone knows and yet we can’t see them.
These are the mental tsunamis taking place in our heads and the heads of our brothers and sisters in blue.
The problem is, sometimes we have no idea they, or we, are in trouble or that help is needed, until it’s too late. Before we know it, the storm has manifested itself into PTSD or depression or it’s morphed into drug or alcohol abuse. We cannot let it get that far if at all possible.
So, if we really can predict tomorrow’s storm by studying yesterday, then we should be able to see the storms ahead. Right?
Since we saw what happened yesterday, we can certainly do something different tomorrow? Wrong!
We must act today!
If we see there is a problem we must act now. Tomorrow is never promised and may be too late. If we see problems that we can address, we should take action today.
“The fisherman knows that the sea is dangerous and the storm is terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason to remain on shore.”
-Vincent Van Gogh
Police officers don’t ‘stay on the shore.’ They go in and take on the storm, headfirst. They risk their physical and mental wellbeing to make sure everyone else is safe, first.
We must ensure they are given the help they need every day.
At the bottom line, it all comes down to saving just ONE life.
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