Harnessing Your Excitement

Communication is one of the main building blocks of success regardless of profession, relationship, bias or gender.  In policing, communication is what can make or break an in-progress call, is what can lead to the solving of a criminal investigation, and is what can save an officer’s life. 

For a new police officer (and for some more experienced ones as well) learning to harness your excitement while feeling the effects of ‘adrenaline dump’ can be difficult.  Last year, I talked about combat breathing and how to control your breathing in an effort to control your body’s response to the elevated heart rate, tunnel vision, loss of fine motor skills, auditory exclusion and difficulty in communication side effects of being in a fight-or-flight situation.  I linked to two expert articles on the techniques of combat breathing, and they are worth a read if you haven’t already done so.

Sometimes, an emergent situation unfolds in an instant and there is no time to do any except to act/react in the pure fundamental way your ability and training leads you to.  The only thing you can do about these situations is to train, train, train, and to mentally prepare yourself by regularly going through ‘what-if’ scenarios in your head.  Visualize what you would do if someone tried to disarm you, or assault you, or ambush you. Read articles, watch videos and review reports where other officers have faced life and death struggles.  Learn from their successes and from their failures.  Situations where an officer has lost the battle are excellent learning tools.  Do not let those officer’s deaths be for nothing – learn from them so it doesn’t happen again.

Then there are situations where responding officers are granted a little more time to take into account facts and nuances of the call.  This is when officers need to harness their excitement and communicate effectively with one another.  Do not let the adrenalin dump become your downfall, especially when given the grace of a few extra seconds/minutes.

Two examples of harnessing excitement come to mind:

1) An officer was involved in a pursuit of a stolen vehicle used in a serious crime.  The officer was giving location updates, speeds and directions of travel.  This is good.  The officer was also trying to control his breathing.  This is also good.  The reason I know the officer was trying to control his breathing was because he was holding his radio-mic open and the heavy, systematic breaths were audible for all to hear.  Was this the result of fine motor skill loss?  Probably.  That, and the officer was in the middle of overcoming the adrenalin rushing through his system.  He had the time (albiet only a short time) to get himself under control and he did a really good job, releasing his mic after a few moments. His next broadcasts were more calm.

2) Another officer was involved in an in-progress incident.  The excitement in the officer’s voice was clear, but she kept her head about her and was able to give her location and communicate effectively about where responding units needed to get to.  It’s okay to be exciteed – just get it under control and use it to your advantage like this officer did.

There are times when an officer is overwhelmed by circumstance.  It happens, to rookies and veterans alike.  But it doesn’t ALWAYS have to happen.  Train, be alert and be smart about your approach to calls.  Assess the situation, wait for back-up if required/needed and use your resources. 

Most of all, focus on staying calm – you are doing no one any favours if you run around like Chicken Little.

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2 Responses to "Harnessing Your Excitement"

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