Complacency and False Sense of Urgency: Why We Fail to Take Advantage of The Last Hundred Yards?

The problem is complacency. We have all seen it. Yet we underestimate its power and its prevalence. Highly destructive complacency is, in fact, all around us, including in places where people would deny it, deny it, and deny it still more. With complacency, no matter what people say, if you look at what they do it is clear that they are mostly content with the status quo.” ~John Kotter, A Sense of Urgency

In policing we have heard the term complacency for years as being detrimental to officer survival skills and I think most would agree that is indeed so. The question is how do we fight complacency? Is it with by psyching yourself up and rushing to a scene? This false sense of urgency is driven by pressure to get there and anxiety, fear, and anger and maybe even ego. This false sense of urgency that results in reckless responses to just get there and the activity surrounding it is more distracting than useful. We often mistake this overwhelming fast response for real sense of urgency. Let’s go! Move! Hurry up! Go get him! Get inside! We need to do something of value! We have serious problem! It could grow more serious in the future if we don’t act now! The problem is what many see as the solution which in the vast majority of police responses is the high diddle, diddle straight up the middle and through the front door tactic which often makes matters worse. This is what I call the “status quo” response. With complacency and a false sense of urgency, no matter what people say, if you look at what they do it is clear that they are mostly content with the status quo. The, we have always done it this way approach.

“The real solution to the complacency problem is establishing a true sense of urgency. This set of thoughts, feelings, and actions is never associated with an endless list of exhausting activities. It has nothing to do with anxious running around. It is not supported by an adrenalin rush that cannot be sustained over time. True urgency focuses on critical issues. True urgency is driven by a deep determination to win, not anxiety about losing.”

This true sense of urgency is crucial to those of us who respond to dangerous circumstances. A true sense of urgency comes from developing a growth mindset which influences or willingness to continually learn through experience. This willingness to learn is crucial to developing a strategic and tactical mind, a mind that takes into consideration the mental, moral and physical dimensions of conflict. The ability to look at crisis situations with a true sense of urgency and understanding that tactics are both science and art not in what to do, but in HOW TO THINK! We should not respond without knowing and understanding the “WHY” behind the way we respond. This is an important aspect of tactics for all police officers to understand, especially those officers on the streets who deal with the complex problems and make the critical decisions found in every community.

With a true sense of urgency police officers see the problem for what it actually is in real time and then apply solutions based on experience and sound tactical judgment. Officers want to work each crisis ready to cooperate energetically and responsively with intelligent tactical ideas from others, not just some canned approach or school solution. Thinking strategically and tactically becomes the norm and utilizing the last hundred yards to adapt how to maneuver to a position of advantage. A true sense of urgency is rare in police crisis situations, much rarer than most seem to think. Yet it’s invaluable to those officers responding to and dealing with the situation at hand.

Stay Oriented!


Next post will be How is the Strategic and Tactical Mind Enhanced by the Last Hundred Yards?