Game Face

One aspect of this job that often comes as a surprise to the family and loved ones of police officers is the change that overcomes their officers in the hours leading up to the start of shift.  No, the officers do not go through a science fiction style metamorphosis; instead officers likely exhibit subtle and sometimes not so subtle changes in personality.

My hubby calls it the ‘Ha Ha Factor’, as in I have none when I’m getting my game face on.

I’ve already mentioned in previous posts about preparing for this job.  It is easy to tell if you are physically able to this job, because you’re either going to pass the physical test or not.  You’re either fit enough to chase after a suspect and take him into custody, or you’re not.  If you’re not, train harder and be prepared to make the permanent life style changes required. It’s pretty simple. 

Mental preparation is different.  You have to ask yourself several questions about your readiness and willingness to take action if called upon, but it’s even more involved than that.

Every day, BEFORE you leave your house to go to work, you should be mentally prepared.  In much the same way an athlete psyches themselves up before a big game, you should be going through the same ritual.  Not to be overly dramatic (okay, maybe I mean to), but you have to be in top mental condition because every time you put a uniform on you are making yourself a target for those who despise law enforcement.  You need to be ever alert, ever watchful, and constantly aware of your surroundings.  You need to find a balance and not become paranoid. You need to go home to your family at the end of your shift.

To illustrate this point I’ll use myself as an example and delve a bit deeper into the ‘Ha Ha Factor’.

When I’m working night shift I usually have the house to myself during the day.  I’m able to go through my pre-work ritual – grocery shopping, prepare meals, have a nap, get up, have coffee, go for a work out, take a shower, eat breakfast while the family eats dinner, go to work.  I’ve a very set routine and have been going through this ritual for years. 

But on the occasions where hubby is around during the day he notices a big difference in my personality.  He says I’m more serious, more focused and less likely to engage in conversation.  He says I have no sense of ‘Ha Ha’ about anything. It’s not that I’m miserable, cranky, or being a you-know-what, it’s just that my ‘Ha Ha’ has taken leave in favour of my ‘Game Face’. 

At first, many years ago, hubby thought I was snubbing him and he got upset.  I was a bit flabbergasted as nothing was further from the truth, and during the resulting discussion we came to a few conclusions:

  • Being a police officer requires mental alertness at all hours of the day
  • A police officer needs to go through the mental ‘What-if’s’ on a regular basis
  • A police officer needs to ‘get in the game’ long before it’s time to put on the uniform and get in the squad car 
  • Sleep is NOT over rated
  • A sleepy officer is not an alert officer
  • An officer who is not alert is at a higher risk of getting hurt (for a multitude of reasons)
  • The family of an officer should recognize that the officer needs sleep and time to decompress
  • The officer needs to realize his/her family also needs attention, love, and understanding

In short, if an officer does not mentally prepare for the shift they may not come home from it. 

When I put it like that, hubby got it.

Now, hubby understands my aloofness before a shift isn’t personal, it’s a necessity.  He understands that in my mind, I am already hunting for the bad guy, already out-thinking the bad guy, already running though the possible scenarios of the upcoming twelve hours.  He knows my well-being counts on it, and he has chosen to understand it and accept it.  For that, I love him dearly.

It can’t be easy being married to a cop.

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