I have read yet another article of law enforcement personnel saying that they go into every encounter like it is a life or death situation. The article then goes into the negative effects it has on the officer’s family and the stress associated with the mindset.
When I was on duty and had the privilege to serve, very few of my calls I entered with the mindset that it was a life or death situation. I was never complacent and I was always alert to my surrounding, but there is a huge difference. Law enforcement should not be entering most of their calls with the adrenaline flowing that comes with a life or death situation. The constant adrenaline dump is very taxing on your body. You need that adrenaline when you have a bad situation turns physical. If you have already started the adrenaline when you arrive on scene it is very possible that your body will be in the rebound phase of the adrenaline dump when you need the adrenaline the most.
Let’s talk numbers, there are more than 750,000 sworn law enforcement personnel according to BJS-Bureau of Justice Statistics, less than 200 tragically die or are killed each year. That is less than .0267% that the tragic incident will occur, but this isn’t an accurate number, because it assumes that the 750,000 personnel have only one encounter with people a year. Those less than 200 tragic incidents are the tragic incidents spanning a year. So, what is the ball park number of interactions with law enforcement annually. I will make this number very conservative to address the critics. My calculations are personnel work 4 days a week and only take 4 calls a day. 750,000 personnel X 208 days X 4 calls a day equals 624,000,000 interactions annually which I believe is a very low number. The actual percentage of tragic incidents is .000032% to non-tragic incidents or another way to look at is 1 in 3,120,000 interactions.
Let’s take a step back and bring it into perspective for people. Almost everyone commutes to work, now imagine that everyone on the roadway took the mindset that they were going to be killed while commuting to work every day. Imagine the unnecessary stress and anxiety this mindset would bring to their workplace and to their families. According to National Safety council your lifetime odds of dying in a motor vehicle crash are 1 in 114.
When I served in the Marines, contracted to the Department of State, private security and law enforcement, I knew there was a possibility that I could be killed in my act of service. Because of this I had life insurance and a will in place to take care of my family if tragedy did strike. I can’t imagine trying to cope with the mentality of every interaction I was going to have any given day would be my last. I can also see how many of the situations I de-escalated would have required force and been very likely to turn tragic if I took the defensive posturing and mindset the warrior training suggests.
The article, Law Enforcement’s “Warrior Problem” by Seth Stoughton goes into detail the negative aspects of the warrior approach mentality.
My approach earned me the thanks and respect of 90% of the people I arrested, just imagine if everyone took my approach to law enforcement and dealing with people. The people would trust law enforcement and we can begin healing the divide in our country. The people would then respect and appreciate our law enforcement, much like they do for our military personnel.
Darron Spencer is the award-winning author of Humane Policing: How Perspectives Can Influence Our Performance and founder of Humane Policing – Transforming Police Culture. For more information, visit humanepolicing.com.