The 10% of Mindset

By Fred Leland and John Demand

"Of every 100 men you send to fight, 10 shouldn't even be there. Eighty are nothing but targets. Nine are real fighters, we are lucky to have them, they the battle make. Ah but the one, one is a true warrior and he will bring the others back" ~ Heraclitus

If your reading this article you are probably in what we call the 10% of mindset or those in law enforcement that are continually improving themselves both physically and mentally. This article is preaching to the choir, but as members of this proverbial choir your voices need to be heard and you need to sing out loudly to those who are not so concerned about improving themselves as they are jeopardizing your life, the lives in the communities you serve, and the tranquility in a free society that is being torn apart by those that would destroy us. Police officers are the fine blue line between chaos and order. You are our first line of defense.

Today’s law enforcement officer can no longer be what has been referred to as a “ROD”. That is “Retired on Duty.” Those who look at law enforcement as just a paycheck and a career leading to a secure retirement need to be not only shaken, but steered either out of their departments or quickly change their attitude about what it means to be a cop. The risks today are far too great and too treacherous to have anyone that is not at the top of their game. Any athlete of quality who understands that their performance involves mindset, attitude, skills and long term preparation, would not think of the demands of game day long before game day itself. For cops, everyday is game day and being prepared is not just winning, but survival. Last year 162 police officers lost their lives in the line of duty. Already this year 12 officers were shot in one weekend, 53 officers shot at in the month of January alone and the death toll continues to rise. Those who wear the uniform and badge are a symbol of government. Police officers are a virtual target to those who oppose the American way of life be they terrorist, anarchist, gang member, drug cartel or lone wolf.

We have learned through hundreds of conversations with cops that officers talk a lot about “officer safety.” The “talk” stems around safety in numbers or staffing, back-up, contact cover principle, cover and concealment, firearms training, situational awareness, recognizing the signs and signals of crime and danger, reading body language, decision making under pressure, active shooter response, hostage negotiation, barricaded subject response, tactical response and approach to calls, off duty survival and many more tactical concepts as well. Talking about the concepts behind officer survival is great, BUT IT’S NOWHERE NEAR ENOUGH! The concepts behind officer survival must be practiced and integrated into every aspect of officer mind set, attitude and personal approach to their duties.

How many of us apply these officer survival concepts on the street? How many of us take short cuts or fall into a complacent mindset and daily routine? How many think ‘it will not happen to me’ or ‘it will not happen here’? We ask you this question: Is officer survival just a concept or have you internalized these safety principles into your habits every day and on every shift? The need for change is obvious, threats are real and evolving despite the fact that most people would never do harm to us. There are still those who, for whatever their personal agenda and reasoning, know we as American guardians are, what we as American Law Enforcement do, and they will unleash their rage and fury at us according to that personal agenda.. The fact that few organized aggressors would resort to mass violence, and many more unplanned, opportunistic or event related aggressors act against Law Enforcement is all the more reason we must develop a mindset of heightened superior situational awareness and mental attitude, while simultaneously being approachable and engaged with those whom we serve and interact. This is true no matter where we are and no matter what we are doing.

Talk is cheap and its time we started walking our own talk and applying the concepts we say are so near and dear to our survival. In the end it comes down to doing the things we talk about; continual learning; and applying what we know to the evolving situation at hand. This takes effort in leadership ensuring proper realistic training is brought to officers, and that LE personnel be open to ongoing professional development, honing of skills, attitude and preparedness through their own individual initiative. If each officer took the responsibility for assuring their survival through ongoing developing, training, and evolution; their entire organization is optimized for survival and adaptive response to threats. It’s time to stop merely talking and learn to discipline yourself to walk the walk of officer safety by doing what you know is necessary, and by seeking out more training so you consistently strive to nurture what you know and evolve your skills to be adaptable and instinctive. You do not need to be in formal training class to create and nurture this mindset, indeed it must come from within. It must come from one’s own sense of integrity and personal anima and believe system. When this belief system is a way of life, the development occurs as part of an ongoing evolution of a warrior or modern knight.

Several forms of thinking play a crucial role in preparing and readying us for conflict, violence or crisis. These include the “if – then, the when X happens, they Y”… and “what do I do and do I…” effort at anticipating threats as we try to plan for a response to a predator we can’t full anticipate..

We need to become students of human behavior, both normal and aberrant, to rapidly recognize the difference between the two and be ready to instantly respond correctly and accurately. Inherent in this is understanding the various dimensions of aberrant behavior between deviant, dangerous, suspicious, under the influence, and psychiatric.

A simple and recognized concept is the Boyd Cycle, which includes Observe-Orient-Decide-Act elements. Commonly referred to as “OODA Loops,” this is a concept that applies to everything we do. No matter what we are doing this concept is part of how we learn about what’s going on, make decisions as to how to handle it and take actions to effectively and safely get it done. Obviously it takes physical skills as well and time must be spent developing these skills, but by and large, it’s lack of awareness or complacency and lack of good sound decision-making that gets us killed in the field. Yes the bad guy has something to do with it, but the fact is we know they are out there stalking the public and cops. The bad guy watches us, learns our habits, and plans his actions and when the opportunity presents itself the bad guy puts his plan into action. His planning and plotting give him an advantage because he is putting an effort forward and walking his own talk. We should be aware of, prepared for and ready to prevent this type of advantage from developing. We need to be thinking in the same way as the bad guy, and do what we call personal “Red Teaming”. This means thinking of how we might be compromised and if you yourself were the bad guy how would you aggress or act in a given situation.

Winning takes constant superior situational awareness and a willingness to step outside the lines of traditional training. It requires each of us to use individual insight and innovation in applying what we have learned in training and through our experiences to what we know. Applying what we know then takes consistent and constant practice and “practicing what we preach” to our daily duties. We can no longer be complacent watching cops die, making the same mistakes time and time again. These mistakes are fixable! It’s time to call to arms and to wake-up every law enforcement officer to the mindset of survival in the context of where we are now, in a current environment of multiple and chronic threat. It is time to take the mindset that each of us must be one of the 10% who diligently and continually try to improve themselves, optimize our own chances for effective response and survival from threats of all kinds. That warrior mindset, that approach of the knight guarding the kingdom, needs to be the goal of our profession and obligation to serve.

If you knew that tomorrow you were going to be in a gun fight, if tomorrow your community would be hit with a Mumbai type terrorist attack or your child’s elementary school was being attacked by terrorists, how would you train today and how would you prepare yourself for tomorrow? Tomorrow may be sooner than we think. Train hard, be aware, stay oriented, and be safe. Evolve to the every-prepared and evolving state-of-the-art modern knight.