Act As If..You're the Best Possible Officer

If Wiseman is right we don't all need to get certified as safety experts, we need to act certified. If every time you made a traffic stop you acted like you were demonstrating to a group of cadets the right way to do a stop, what would you do?

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Illustration: Sequoia BlankenshipIllustration: Sequoia Blankenship

"If you want a quality, act as if you already have it."

—William James

As anyone who regularly reads this column knows, I love to read books, especially books about the human brain and body. Sometimes I end up putting the information in one of my seminars, but more often than not, I will write an article about what I have learned and hope other folks will read on and further expand their knowledge. Other times I will try what I have read about with mixed results. Diets that are unmanageable, exercise programs designed to injure or kill, and life tips that may or may not work well are all things I have found in my reading adventures.

One fellow whose books I have always enjoyed reading is Richard Wiseman, Ph.D., a psychologist who writes in a very relaxed style—one that is extremely accessible to us laymen. Previously, I have written about his book, "The Luck Factor," and how lucky people create their own luck. In his recent offering, "The As If Principle," Wiseman takes American philosopher and psychologist William James' theory that if you act as if you have a quality then you will gain it, and he tests it in his labs. What he discovers is that acting as if you are happy makes you happier. Acting as if you are skinny when you are not will make you lose weight. Acting as if…

Wait, I thought. I wonder if acting as if I am rich will make me rich?

Grabbing my wife, the Sarge, I headed over to an Audi dealer and looked at the latest offerings, then headed to the best steakhouse in town and ordered the most expensive steak and bottle of wine for dinner. As I headed for the door to go back to the Audi dealer, the Sarge grabbed me and advised me that the monthly entertainment allowance was shot, we had two cars we still had to pay off, and tuition for our youngest was due at the end of the month; she didn't feel rich, only mad, and I better get my butt home.

Wow, I should have read the rest of the chapter! Acting a certain way is more than just a few simple steps. It involves seriously examining the steps, attitudes, and specific actions of people who have a trait or quality. For instance, skinny people often push away foods that are fattening or unhealthy and it turns out that the act of pushing something away makes you feel negative about that object. Pull this magazine to your chest and say, "POLICE Magazine, I love you," and you will subscribe forever.

It turns out that pulling things or people toward us makes us feel more positive about them. As William James would explain, "We don't pull things toward us because we love them; we love them because we pull them toward us."

So, what does any of this have to do with us? Well, I wish everyone working the streets was an officer safety expert. But if Wiseman is right we don't all need to get certified, we need to act certified. If every time you made a traffic stop you acted like you were demonstrating to a group of cadets the right way to do a stop, what would you do? Check out on the radio properly, make sure the stop is in a safe location, start backup if necessary, make sure you have a safe approach lane, evaluate the threat, and on and on.

So why don't you try that?

How would you demonstrate a building search if you were the head trainer in the academy? How would you demonstrate handling a domestic disturbance, or a suspicious person call? Do you cuff in a lackadaisical manner, search carelessly, fail to wear your seat belt, assume others will cover for you, think everyone is a "yes" person? It doesn't matter whether you truly think that or not; if you act that way then you are a careless law enforcement officer and it isn't just your safety that is at risk.

So, today, act as if you are an officer safety expert; a hard-to-kill, ready-for-action crime fighter. Slice the pie, quick peek, search effectively, train hard, check your equipment, wear your armor, maintain condition "yellow," and demand safety from your brothers and sisters. Be the leader.  Be the warrior. Act as if you were born for this.

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.

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Officer (Ret.)
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