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Columns : In My Sights

Fire Nobody!

Officer Nobody has no place in law enforcement. All officers must hold themselves accountable for what happens on the beat.

August 04, 2013  |  by Dave Smith - Also by this author

Illustration by Sequoia Blankenship.
Illustration by Sequoia Blankenship.
I have finally had it with Nobody. I know that sounds harsh, but I simply can't take it anymore. Nobody has got to go. Gentle crime fighting readers I know you think me a very tolerant and low-key fellow, but Nobody has managed to get my goat, not to mention the rest of my barnyard.

"What happened?" you ask. Well, I was just working on my PowerPoint and checking the links to my videos and I played a classic video of a suspect in custody that had shot and critically wounded a deputy, had been arrested by a local agency then transported by two different transport units. Once at the jail, the only one armed in the interrogation room turned out to be the suspect. After several taboo words, one investigator turns to the other and says, "Nobody shook him." Nobody again? 

This Nobody guy is one worthless cop and I think it is time we dumped him. Time and again I read an officer killed or injured summary and there he is.  Nobody backed her up; Nobody checked the attic; Nobody put out flares; Nobody cuffed the suspect; and on and on. That darn Nobody has got to go. So often in critical situations, Nobody does the things we know are basic officer safety steps. If he can't handle the job, it is time to assign Somebody. Somebody seems a lot more competent, and often I hear how Somebody jumped in and took control during the confrontation or Somebody was able to get the road closed before an officer got hurt.

The only problem I have is when I call an agency or department where Somebody has done a great job I find it is a mistake. Invariably Somebody got the credit when, in reality, an Officer Johnson, or a Deputy Elmwood, or a Trooper Jackson actually did the good deed and saved the day.

So here is the conundrum: When bad things happen it appears Officer Nobody has failed again to do what needs to be done, and when things turn out good, Dep. Somebody is taking all the credit. Something needs to be done.

Sure, I know exactly what you are thinking: "I think it is the sergeant's job to make sure things don't end up being assigned to Nobody." That is exactly the kind of thinking that gets Nobody involved and everyone hoping Somebody saves the day. You cannot put your safety and well-being in the hands of others, not even your Sergeant.

In psychological terms, this is called "locus of control," the way you view your control over your life and destiny. Do you put the center of control for your life in the hands of others? Is it the sergeant's job to keep you safe or Officer Somebody's job to swing by and check on one of your squad mates during a traffic stop, but not yours? That's exactly how Officer Nobody got the assignment; you were expecting Somebody, just not you, to do it.

I don't care if you are a rookie or 30-year veteran, it isn't Somebody's job to take care of you, to make sure your fellow warriors have backup, to search your prisoner effectively, it is yours! That is how we get rid of Nobody. We take care of ourselves and our brothers and sisters. We don't expect Somebody to do it: We do it. We think about the risks and balance them: slicing the pie on searches, always aware on a traffic stop, maintaining our fitness and all the other tasks so essential for effective and safe law enforcement. It is not Somebody's job, it is your job.

Ah, but now you are thinking, "Good points but there is one more person out there who should be responsible for safety. Everybody" 

"Touché!" Except I find when Everybody takes an assignment, Nobody ends up doing it. So now we have gone full circle. That worthless Nobody ends up assigned to the most critical elements of our safety.

So here it is: Officers Nobody, Somebody, and Everybody are truly not responsible for our safety or the safety of others, each of us is. And when we put that responsibility right in the center of our spirit, our locus of control, we find we are not only safer but happier.

Dave Smith is an internationally recognized law enforcement trainer and is the creator of "JD Buck Savage." You can follow Buck on Twitter at @thebucksavage.

Tags: Leadership, Officer Psychology, Police Humor


Comments (1)

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Robert Worcester @ 8/7/2013 1:57 PM

Dave, I like your point here. It is true; we are all responsible to ourselves and our brother and sister officers. We can't control what everybody else does but we can control what WE do.

If WE make the effort to all the little details like driving a couple miles out of the way to make sure somebody is checking on a brother or sister on a traffic stop or on a call, properly searching suspects and all that stuff than we are upholding our end of the deal. We are making sure that we, and our partners, are going home at the end of shift.

I think one of the big issues is getting everybody else to maintain that same level of professionalism. Probably the best way we can all influence others is to live by example and when others aren't holding up their end to be adult enough to have a chat with them or do whatever it takes to train or motivate them.

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