What is Your Profession? Responsibilities of the Law Enforcement Professional
In a scene from the movie 300, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) asks another commander’s soldiers to state their professions. One says he is a potter, another a blacksmith, the third a sculptor. Leonidas then turns to his own Spartan soldiers, and asks them the same question. They reply in unison with a battle cry, making it clear that they were all warriors by trade.
The trade of the law enforcement professional is that of peace officer. Whether a deputy, police officer, corrections officer, security agent or court bailiff, we are all in the same career. It is both a straightforward and complex job. There are moments of boredom, others of sheer terror, and everything in between. And we have to be ready for all of it. It is our responsibility to the public, our fellow officers, and our families.
Back to the movie reference for a moment: the same film dramatizes the fact that professionals need to learn and hone their craft, first and foremost. Public safety officers must train in a way that enhances their skill sets. For many of us, this will probably mean looking outside our departments for additional training—we can’t rely on 4 hours of in-service training to ready us for the rigors of the street. Here are a few of the things I recommend for every officer who wants to be a prepared professional:
Take a shooting course. Firearms training beyond the basic skills taught at the academy—and beyond annual qualification—is a must. Handgun competition is also great way to build skills… and you might even develop a new hobby.
Exercise. Physical Fitness is increasingly overlooked and underemphasized, in a profession that needs it more than most any other. Don't procrastinate, just get out there and work. A dozen burpees goes a long way.
Train in unarmed skills. Empty-hand tactics winds up on the back burner for many officers. Hitting the gym is great, but really hitting (in the gym) is even better. There are countless disciplines, styles and courses available; find a well-rounded program that is applicable to the job of a police officer. The key is to find one you like, and train consistently.
Develop and enhance writing skills. A routine part of our tour of duty is report writing. There is always room to improve and get better at this skill. Among other things, poor writing affects the prosecution of cases—and it is demoralizing to lose a case due to a badly written report.
Practice public speaking. Speaking is an art form, and for most, developing this skill doesn't happen overnight. But it’s worth the time and effort; effective speaking skills can improve courtroom testimony, de-escalate many problems on the street, and boost your career prospects. The better you are at public speaking, the more relaxed and confident you can be under the stress that the job presents.
Of course, I can’t talk about training without mentioning the ASP Instructor Certification (AIC) program. These courses—which are offered completely tuition-free—are taught by some of the top law enforcement trainers in the world. The AIC is a unique course by design. From start to finish, everything is geared toward being the best version of a police officer you can be. It is built around principles that work on the street, not just in the classroom. It will push you and challenge you in ways that no other training will.
It is great to have hobbies. Back to our movie reference, being a potter, sculptor or blacksmith is a wonderful thing. Just make sure that whatever you do, you are better at your profession than at anything else you do. The stakes are high. Simply put, train your basics regularly, so you can be an expert and a professional.
Chicago Police Department (Ret.)
ASP Trainer since 2011