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Paul Clinton

Paul Clinton

As the POLICE Web editor, Paul Clinton contributes posts about patrol cars, motorcycles, and other police vehicles. He previously wrote about automotive electronics as managing editor of Mobile Electronics. Prior to that, he was an award-winning newspaper reporter.



William Harvey

William Harvey

William "Bill" Harvey is currently serving as chief of police in south central Pennsylvania. He retired from the Savannah (Ga.) Police Department where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. Harvey has more than 25 years of experience working with recruits, rookies, and FTOs.
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What Rattles Your Cage?

Find ways to overcome your fears, so the job doesn't rip you apart.

September 24, 2010  |  by William Harvey - Also by this author

This isn't a topic most rugged cops want to discuss in polite company or reveal in a private confession.

Every recruit has their inner fears or phobias. They must be addressed and not suppressed. Much like the monster that was under your bed as a child, they will haunt you. There is an old Japanese proverb that "fear is only as deep as the mind allows." I'll remind you not to let fear overwhelm you.

Things we can prepare for are a fear of failure to perform in a certain capacity. I have seen several officers come to reality about their physical prowess. They became winded after a foot pursuit or physical arrest situation that was too close. These officers then went into physical training, running or hit the gym constantly. Others enrolled into martial arts of some form to prepare for the next confrontation. Either way, they adapted to overcome their perceived weakness.

What you must understand as a recruit, trainee or apprentice officer is that neither life nor your trainers will prepare you for everything. The constant about police work is that your knowledge base is built upon a foundation of experiences. These create a foundation made of building blocks of learning, which builds your police skills into what they are today. The sad thing is that as a rookie you need moxie the most.

I have always told my students that the day you quit learning on the job, please turn in your shield; or you will get somebody killed. You can't quit learning in this job, ever!

If you do this job correctly, it will strengthen you as you go along. If you let it get to you, it will rip you apart. First, listen to yourself. Don't overevaluate the situation; the young officer in you has a fear of failure and rejection. You don't want to make a mistake and be graded down on your evaluations. Nor do you want to be rejected by your peers; this is a brotherhood/sisterhood that we strive to cling to. Being rejected is not an option.

Evaluate yourself.

Where do your structural flaws exist? What makes you shake in your boots? Self-introspect these matters, and then seek a reasonable resolution. If you have a trusted trainer, go to them and pick their brain for answers. If it is an overwhelming fear, definitely seek their advice. You must remember that your response to an incident may affect other officers' lives or other third parties' lives. If you have a fear that's riddling your life, then seek professional help.

Small worries are one thing and they can be dealt with a trainer or FTO. If you're worried about choking in court on your first case, your FTO will drill you prior to court. If you're bugged about not completing the FTO program on schedule, the FTO sergeant will sit down with you to evaluate your progress.

Worried about the boogie man who jumps out at you with blazing guns and a made-for-the-movies shoot-out? Get to your trainers and talk this out about tactics and realistic application of your responses in traffic stops or building checks.

Is there a monster under your bed? Nope, you're just going through what every young officer goes through in your transition to Copland. It's doable; we all have done it and you will as well.

Trust your trainers and FTOs and believe in yourself. The ability to meet challenges comes from within you; it is not bought at the store. Believe in yourself as a winner!

Tags: Officer Psychology


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