Not Today

This poem emphasizes the mental preparations and actions that law enforcement officers should take to help ensure that they stay safe.

I will not come to work sleepy or tired.  Sleep deprivation has been proven to diminish reaction times and interfere with my decision-making processes.

I will not let any person gain the advantage by placing me in a poor tactical position during any contact, no matter how innocent the situation may seem.

I will not ignore the danger signs that may be present during street encounters.  I will not take shortcuts with my safety or the safety of my fellow officers.  I will pay attention to my gut feelings and be aware of the little things that can precede the big ones.  I will not allow myself to be hurried into making a fatal mistake.

I will not allow any person to gain the advantage by failing to watch his or her hands and feet.  I recognize that a subject can injure me just as quickly with his or her feet as with his or her hands.

I will not conduct poor or incomplete searches.  I recognize that deadly weapons have become smaller and smaller, and if I find one weapon, I need to look for another.  I will never assume that someone else has done a thorough search—never.

I will not search first and then handcuff.  I will always maintain the tactical advantage when handcuffing and be aware that since it may be the first physical contact with a subject, it may be the most dangerous to me.  I will always cuff first and search second, unless agency policy demands otherwise.

I will not come to work with dirty or inoperative equipment, hoping that everything will be all right.  I will have clean and functional equipment every time I work, and I will train to be proficient with my tools.  I will wear my body armor every day; it may be uncomfortable, but so is thinking of my family trying to carry on without me.

I will not become hypervigilant but will remain alert, aware, and prepared.  While on duty, I will recognize that threats may come while I am eating in a restaurant just as easily as an armed robbery in progress.  “Routine” traffic stops are not complete until the subject leaves the scene or is handcuffed, searched, and secured in jail.

I will not let my ego place me or others at risk.  I will recognize that, short of active shooter incidents, contact and arrest usually can wait until my backup officer has arrived.  I understand that, most often, the longer that I can keep a catastrophic incident from occurring, the less chance there is that it will occur.

I will not be reckless or careless in the operation of my duty vehicle—be it a car, a horse, a motorcycle, an ATV, a boat, a helicopter, or an airplane.  I am aware that officers die in vehicle crashes, and I am determined not to be one of them.

I will not be unprepared for off-duty encounters. I know that I am responsible for enforcing certain laws or ordinances while off duty and I do realize that I may be confronted with a life-threatening situation.

I will not assume anything during my tour of duty.  I will not assume that the call is no longer in progress or that no one is armed just because my dispatcher told me so.  I will remain alert, aware, and prepared.
 
I will not give up to ensure that I survive an incident.  I will go to work every day believing that my attitude, diligence, and training will allow me to go home safely at the end of the day; it is the least that I can do for my fellow officers, my family, and myself.

I will not neglect my physical and mental wellness.  I will strive to maintain control of my health and physical well-being.  I am the only one standing in my way.

I WILL TODAY BE polite, professional, and prepared to perform my duties with utmost safety to me, my fellow officers, and the citizens I am sworn to protect.
I WILL GO HOME TODAY!
Adapted from the poem “Not Today,” written by Lieutenant Brian Garrett.

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This project was supported by Grant No. 2016-VI-BX-K003 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART). Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.