After spending thirteen (13) years in a patrol car answering calls and conducting MV stops, I can tell you first hand that it's VERY easy to get into a "routine" while on the job. And by "routine" I mean simply going through the motions rather than being cognizant of threats and VIGILANT.
Over my 13 years of answering calls I can't tell you how many residential and commercial alarms I responded to. And frankly speaking, after a while it was very easy to get into a "here we go again....another false alarm" mindset.
When it came to MV stops, I was much more on alert as I never knew who I was stopping. But there were still MANY times I could feel myself letting my guard down a bit. Once again, once you do something over and over again (sometimes 15 or 20 stops per shift), it's easy to find yourself just going through the motions. I would have to force myself at times to look up from my ticket book every few seconds as I wrote a summons just to check on the car/driver I had stopped. I ALWAYS approached on the passenger side. And if I knew I was going to be getting someone out of a car I would advise dispatch and request another unit (if necessary).
Recently we have seen an all-out attack on police in our country. Not only is this senseless....it's absolutely disgusting and scary. When the people you are out there to protect begin to turn on you unexpectedly, it's a new level of concern. We all have our guard up a bit as we approach a suspicious person in the middle of the night or are responding to a domestic disturbance. But most of us don't have it in our minds that people are going to be hiding in bushes or perched atop buildings with rifles waiting to take us out as we exit our patrol car.
Something I can't stand is when I'm listening to some news conference following the shooting or death of an officer and I hear whoever is speaking say, "The officer was responding to a routine call for service when...." To me, that is such an ignorant and foolish thing to say....especially if it's a high ranking police official saying it. It DOES NOT matter how many years you've been on the job. It DOES NOT matter what town or city you work in. It DOES NOT matter how good of a marksman you are. EVERY call, EVERY car stop and EVERY interaction has the potential to turn deadly. NO CALL IS EVER ROUTINE!
So when you're out on patrol remember, you're never just "walking around" or "driving around." You are the TARGET of some very dangerous people that can and will hurt you. And as you all know, the name of the game for cops is to make it home alive at the end of your shift. Police Officers are among the VERY FEW who, when they leave their house for work, wonder if they'll make it home.
NEVER get complacent and NEVER say or think ANYTHING you do is "routine." Some have even said its a good idea to change up your daily habits once in a while....like not going to the same place at the same time every day to get your coffee. If you don't think someone who truly wants to hurt you won't take the time to learn your habits....think again.
Take care of your body and take care of your mind. One of the many benefits that people have shared with me about using a Maxx-Dri Vest is that they are no longer focused on how hot, sticky and uncomfortable they are while on duty. This lead to them being able to BETTER FOCUS on the job and potential threats. And I tell officers to take care of themselves in other domains too! If your feet are killing you....get new boots or socks. If your back is killing you from sitting in the patrol car....adjust your seat, get an orthopedic seat cushion, move things around on your duty belt. If there is something, ANYTHING that is shifting your focus away from the job and potential threats, take care of it asap...DON'T just live with it like many officers tend to do. Not only is this not healthy....it's NOT SAFE!
I pray daily for officers here in NYC and around the world. The job is more dangerous today than it possibly has ever been. You must ALWAYS be cognizant of your surroundings as well as your fellow officers. Don't take anything for granted. You are the sheepdogs. You are the protectors. You are the heroes. Trust your gut and get home safe. There is absolutely NOTHING "routine" about what you do....don't ever forget this!
Suresh Madhavan is the Founder and CEO of New York City based 221B Tactical. Originally pursuing a career in medicine, he switched gears soon after graduating and became a full time Police Officer. After 13 years in a patrol car protecting citizens, he now focuses on developing products and offers to help keep his fellow police officers, first responders and soldiers safer while on the job.
The Maxx-Dri Vest for body armor ventilation, body armor cooling and body armor comfort, invented by Madhavan, is now used by police and military units around the world. Madhavan is personally behind the development of every piece of gear the company offers. Learn more at www.221btactical.com