Photo courtesy of William Harvey.
During your career, you'll hear all too often familiar phrases repeated, some may not be worth repeating but some are lifesavers. I've developed a short list of maxims that good leaders reiterate and young officers should heed.
These aren't going to be exact nor the end-all answers, but they're a great starting point. The application and exact verbiage of these may differ from region to region. Please remember this is a short list, if you have some more—give us some feedback by commenting below.
Probably my personal favorite is, "If it is not written down, it did not occur." Most often, this phrase is screamed by prosecuting attorneys during discovery phase in a criminal case. This is the verbal penalty flag thrown at the investigating officer who forgot to mention a fact or statement and is now trying to slip it into testimony.
This too is often heard at the end of shift by your patrol sergeant while you are being quizzed to see if you checked on something during your last patrol. Sure you did, but it is not denoted in your activity report. The goal behind this phrase is to remind you of the thoroughness required in completing reports. Memories fade and people forget, but good reports live on. This is also the most important tip in the "cover your arse" category (CYA)—the ability to cover your arse is extremely important and never allow an opportunity to do so slip past you.
The next one is often dismissed as commentary from an anal-retentive supervisor telling you to, "Check, double check" on everything. One of the first things a young supervisor should learn is to remind officers after a vigorous foot pursuit or engaging arrest to perform an equipment check. Later in your career, your supervisors on raids, warrants and special events will remind you check and recheck your necessary equipment. Why? They don't want the mission or officer safety compromised because you forgot something.
After every vigorous call, perform a personal equipment accountability check. It will save you a ton of backtracking and heartache. Firearms instructors will often take this to a higher level on triple checks on the range. Good for them, and thanks for keeping our range time safe. I know many range goers can find this cumbersome but a good double-check never hurt.
I had a commander who seemed to have said, "Are we clear," after every other sentence. Clarity of orders and understanding of orders are keys to completing a mission without mistakes or omissions. Most will ask if there are any questions at the end of the briefing. This reverts back to the old statement that no question is stupid. If you're not clear or haven't grasped the content of the orders, seek clarification. Mistakes can injure and kill.
Ensure that orders, directives and commands are received clear to all. We need to emphasize this more today because of the diversity of our departments. On your department, you'll have representation from two if not three generations, various ethnicities (not all cops are Irish), hailing from all parts of the country (colloquialisms come into play), genders and backgrounds. If any one of us fully understands the officer next to us, we're pleased. Imagine sending orders to a precinct or team. Sharpen your orders to achieve clarity.
Are these all of the warning statements? No way! I didn't cover the safety statements made during training or safety briefings prior to raids. The one concern is the needless loss of life and injuries that occur with our profession. This could revert to check and re-check but it is more than that. Never compromise safety by inattentiveness or lackadaisical performance. Every officer is a safety officer, not just the instructor on the podium. Let's all make a difference. Are we clear?