“The most powerful drive in the ascent of man is his pleasure in his own skill. He loves to do what he does well and, having done it well, he loves to do it better. You see it in his science. You see it in the magnificence with which he carves and builds, the loving care, the gaiety, the effrontery. The monuments are supposed to commemorate kings and religions, heroes, dogmas, but in the end the man they commemorate is the builder.” ~Jacob Bronowski
Professional trainers/developers will tell you they are sometimes a teacher, but always a student. This is a very important attribute we cops must make an effort to continuously “build” and improve upon. There is a constant ebb and flow of conflict in our world and we need to be able to cope with the diverse conditions and adapt sound tactical options towards them in a way that makes sense. What we must develop is a way to respond to these diverse situations without taking a dogmatic closed-minded approach. Our responses need to be executed with strategic and tactical mindsets versus the all too prevalent emotional responses basked in a false sense of urgency or the, this is the only way we do it mentality.
The key to mastering our craft is learning. Learning is something I consider to be a lifelong building process of continuous improvement. If we are to succeed in continuous improvement and become, better than good, we must, take an interest in our own learning and in how, what we learn applies to, what we do. This does not come from a sole training class or even a full academy. It does come from making every effort to better ourselves throughout our lives.
This means learning not only from our successes but also very much so from our failures. Alfred Thayer Mahan stated; “Errors and defeats are more obviously illustrative of principles than successes are…Defeat cries aloud for explanation; whereas success, like charity, covers a multitude of sins.” Successes and failures we see in our day to day encounters both on and off the job and they bring about lessons we can learn from if we only make the decision, to take the time, to pause and, think about what each lesson has to offer us, can we, develop keystone habits that match with the realities of the job. Lifelong learning in an effort to develop good tactical habits is an important attribute for cops to possess as it directly affects our effectiveness on the street and our safety as we handle dynamic and random encounters.
My New Year’s resolution is to encourage every cop I meet to take small steps this year to improve every day in some way and build yourself into a better than good cop. Look at your training from the point of view; you can always learn something new and different from every source. Do not rely on any one source as the, be all, know all when it comes to your training. Train with an open mind and develop the critical skills necessary in the moral, mental and physical dimensions so you become very effective at using “tactical options” that influence these dimensions.
Be sure to take complete advantage of the day to day lessons of the street that informal training only experience can offer, when it is critiqued and leveraged in an effort to learn more about strengths and weaknesses. Discuss the call you just handled, and ask what lessons did it offer? Pick up a book or article, or a blog post on strategy and tactics each month (or more often) and ask; how does this apply to me? Start having discussions about crisis you handled or heard about and ask how would I have handled it, or how would “we” have handled it working together? An investigation, you’re working on ask; how could I have done more for the victim? How could I have done more to find the perpetrator? How can I patrol my area of responsibility better? How can I influence those I serve in a positive way that helps them understand what it is cops do and why and how, we do it? Don’t forget, to utilize tactical decision games and after action reviews. Spend time observing and reading people, their body language and facial expressions and attempt to understand the meaning behind the unspoken language we humans through micro-expressions and gestures, leak out, that tell us a lot about what’s going on. Also take some time to read or train in some disciplines other than cop stuff. Cop stuff is important but cross disciplinary learning helps us to see things from other points of view and opens our minds to more options for becoming better than good. We need to be better than good in these changing times where threats are more serious and those who threaten, more dedicated.
Lau Tzu said, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with the first step.” Let’s all strive to be lifelong learners and always remember it is, a “step by step process” and not an “instant gratification” thing where you will master your abilities right this second. Learning does not work that way. Knowing something is one thing, understanding it another. Being able to apply it in context of a dynamic situation still an all-important other thing, crucial, to our winning on the street at low cost. What does it take to win? Continuous lifelong improvement, which takes individual interest, willingness, discipline and motivation and a love for what you do, to continually learn-unlearn and relearn throughout our careers building our own skills so we can call upon them individually and collectively when needed.
In 2013 I vow to continue to step outside my own comfort zone and provide insightful, perhaps controversial but, hopefully useful, blog posts, articles, ideas and other resources that stimulate debate, and thinking about how we police and the decision making and tactics we utilize in doing so. My hope is that it influences each of you to ask critical questions of me and, of yourselves and of your fellow officers, to dispel fear and inspire a deeper interest in strategy and tactical science so you can be more creative in applying them in the real world. Small steps lead to solving small problems and solving small problems leads to solving complex problems even when faced with overwhelming crisis. In 2013 discover what your capable of and go beyond the physical aspects of the job and build upon the mental and tactical decision making aspects of the job. I will be right there with you all every step of the way, training to make a difference.
“Discovery is a double relation of analysis and synthesis together. As an analysis, it probes for what is there; but then, as a synthesis, it puts the parts together in a form by which the creative mind transcends the bare limits, the bare skeleton, that nature provides.” ~Jacob Bronowski
Happy New Year and remember to Stay Oriented, and evolve, through lifelong learning and continuous improvement!