Should Street Cops, Break Routines...and Think?

ANALYZING POSITIONSShould we break routines and think? This question brings up many more questions in my mind surrounding the how we do what we do in law enforcement. Especially as it relates to officer safety and overall effectiveness. Standard operating procedures are for standard operations and the norm. What happens when circumstances deviate from the standard and become abnormal?  Are we analyzing friendly and adversarial positions before we act or are we just acting dictated by routine and yesterdays battle plan? 

Anyhow the initial question “Should we break routines…and think?”  Lead to a few more questions I am seeking the answers to. I can use your help in my efforts to adapt my own thinking on the matter and would love to hear your thoughts as well. Your interaction here will have a great impact in shaping and reshaping my thinking on this important topic. So please check these questions bellow out give me your thoughts and lay out your own questions.

The payoff? Continued learning and improvement! A noble cause I might add.

    • Should we follow the same old patterns of operations, the same old tactics, techniques and procedures that are embedded in the mindset of “we have always done it that way” so why change or can we learn to balance policy and procedure with people and ideas allowing us to adapt more timely to unfolding situations?
    • Do policies and procedures help us recognize any deviation in unfolding circumstances and do they help us in shaping and reshaping the circumstances back to a norm where you have control over the circumstances? Or do policy and procedure channel us into a way of doing things based on the procedure with no understanding of the WHY behind the methods we use?
    • Do policy and procedures consider novelty and the irrational 10% of circumstances not taught in the books and do P&P helps us adapt more readily?
    • Is it processes and checklists only that make us effective or is it when they are combined with the ability to think on our feet that allows us to execute and focus on realistic outcomes that create and nurture continued improvement?
    • Overly detailed rules and procedures, designed to prevent failure, do so. But in so doing, do they not, also prevent excellence? 
    • Are we overly reliant on process, and not focused enough on results?
    • Are we willing to settle for mere adequacy in individual and small-team skills conditioned by routine or can we can do better?
    • Does not policing require thinking leaders, leading thinking officers?
    • Should officers focus on identifying the problem and solving it using the tools and personnel available?
    • What roll does leader/officer judgment play on each and every shift we work? Are we allowing decision making from the bottom up and is this an important factor in handling dynamic crisis situations?
    • Shouldn’t leader character and judgment be as valuable as detailed rules, regulations, policy and procedures?
    • What roll does experience play in effectiveness, and what roll if any should experience play in deviating from routine while keeping in accord with law enforcement mission and intent?
    • Experience comes from working and doing the job and is a form of training, as such, should experience and the lessons learned be leveraged to improve upon individual and organizational decision-making and developing sound judgment?
    • How powerful is blending people and ideas with policy and procedure at making us better and even more important, how does this blending lead to learning and better handling of crisis situations and officer safety in the future? 

My observations through experience, reading, research, countless conversations with law enforcement, military and security professionals and developing, experimenting and adapting training programs is we need to honestly explore and answer these questions. I have my own ideas on what I believe are the answers to them which I will briefly lay out here: What’s needed is not marginal change in the training programs and how we prepare cops, but a change in the culture of law enforcement that involves a shift in focus away from process and toward results. We need to start creating and nurturing cops who are problem solvers who understand there is no one solution to a tactical problem. We do this by teaching them how to think and do verses what to think and what to do. Failure to do so will have us continuing on the path of missing too many opportunities to develop adaptability, leadership and team work and hence overall effectiveness and safety. 

These are my thoughts but I am more interested in yours so please break the routine  challenge yourself and the status quo and sound off with the intent in mind we are all striving to get better! 

Stay Oriented!

Fred