The Other Side of the Line - by Brian Yates
March 25, 2020
To my fellow LEO’s: “Aim small, miss small”. This is something we hear regularly at the range for qualification. If we aim for the center and miss a little, we still hit paper. This training mentality accounts for the extremely low number of innocent casualties in justified on-duty shootings. What if we bring this mentality to the rest of our jobs?
There are so many drills that good trainers will implement to help improve accuracy: trigger reset, moving targets, shooting while moving, dummy rounds (emergency drills), low light engagements, and so on. One of the most powerful tools an instructor ever taught me was the use of video. He videoed my time at the range. Then we sat and watched the video together. He asked me if I ever ‘anticipated the shot’, I said no. Sure enough, there it was on video, muzzle almost jerked to the ground on a misfire. Let’s bring this full circle. What if you spent time with a peer or respected senior officer reviewing your body cam footage? Do it a week after a shift. Watch several calls together. Some questions to ask: Did I maintain professionalism? Did I stick to the purpose of the call? Did I complete the call in a manner consistent with building a strong personal brand as an officer and for the larger image of law enforcement?
This takes a level of discipline. It takes some time and effort. But if we aim smaller on our calls our misses will be much closer to the center. Here are a few things that can be extremely helpful in getting “sited in for duty”:
Hit the reset button after every call. Approach each call the way you want other officers to respond to a call involving someone you love.
Seek to understand the situation before satisfying the need to be understood by everyone involved.
Approach the day with more long term solutions in your mind. If you get called to a PI for someone you’ve dealt with a dozen times, try to find other resources within your jurisdiction to help solve the problem beyond just removing the subject from the situation yet again.
Keep in mind that you are dealing with people at their worst. When we are at our worst, we hope that someone with clear thinking will help us PREVENT bigger mistakes, so let’s do the same.
And please remember “I’m not perfect, nobody is. I have value, everybody does.”
This may seem a little basic, but as in my own career, common sense isn’t always common practice. As I was taught many of these things, I observed that my stress was reduced and my effectiveness increased. The alternative is to continue being more and more distanced from the very people you have chosen to serve.
To all non LEO’s: There are times in all of our lives that we act in ways that are not aligned with who we really are. These are the times when law enforcement interact with many people. In spite of the common expectation, the police cannot: read minds, tell the future, undo history, or change laws. The police are primarily employed to protect the community. It’s a reactive job. Most of a shift is spent responding to calls and/or complaints. It’s like a flight attendant. We expect our Pepsi and peanuts, but in reality, we just need them to hand us a flotation device if things go badly (and I’m glad they are there in case that ever happens).
Good leaders promote proactive policing, but developing relationships in the community takes two sides. It takes a willingness on the part of the department to reach out. But it also requires that the community respond to that effort. Here are a few things that the community can do that costs nothing and will have enormous results:
Get to know the officers in your community. Say hello. Ask them about their job or about current events that are impacting you both.
Recognize their authority. If you’ve ever seen someone attempt to use the airplane bathroom during an unauthorized time, you will see a smiley, polite flight attendant turn into an MMA fighter real quick. If you feel wronged, there is a time and place to submit a complaint or refute a charge. Arguing with the refs in the NBA doesn’t work. Calling them aside at halftime and asking them questions usually gets the calls to go your way in the second half. Police are charged with protecting the community and keeping order. Arguing with them, on scene interrupts order. Find calm and rational time to talk to them or their command or work with legislators to address concerns about laws.
Sleep on it. If you have an encounter with the police that you don’t like, sleep on it. You can talk to them the next day, the next week, or a month later. It doesn’t have to get resolved right then and there.
Law enforcement officers want to help. If you have something brewing with a neighbor or family member, ask an officer for options. Find out what resources exist that may help. There is an increase in programs to address issues such as mental illness, substance abuse, and depression. Don’t wait until it becomes an emergency. We all have fewer options under duress.
Get involved. Officers in your community are PART of your community. Go to city and county open forums. Ask to meet the chief or sheriff for coffee. Sometimes you need to seek to understand a policy or procedure and that knowledge can change your mind. Or, perhaps your perspective, when given appropriately, will contribute to policy/procedural change.
And please remember “I’m not perfect, nobody is. I have value, everybody does”.
There are two sides to every coin. Officers can’t know everything going on in the life of every civilian and no civilian can know everything going on in the life of the officer. But we can appreciate that we are far more similar than we are different and we are in this together. We have to return a sense of ‘we the people’ instead of ME the people. Reaffirm your role in the community or we will lose all sense of what community means.