Officer Safety

Attention to Detail


Michael Warren

March 18, 2021

March 18, 2021

“Attention to detail, Warren! Attention to detail!” I have heard this spoken to (yelled at) me on numerous occasions. From my first introduction to the military during basic training to my time at the police academy – this message was repeated over and over. Funny how so often I was in the front-leaning rest position when this message was delivered – but that’s another story.

Paying attention to, or perhaps more accurately failing to, the small things can have compromise your safety. So today, I want to ask you to please pay attention to details.

We often miss details when we are “listening” to others. I call it listening, but it isn’t real listening. Too often we listen only enough to confirm what we were already thinking. And once we reach that stage, we begin formulating our response. Sometimes it’s a single word that provides the needed clue. Or maybe it’s a single phrase that gives insight as to the subject’s intentions.

At other times, we actually see a detail that should serve as a warning sign. Instead of responding appropriately, we rationalize what we’ve observed or simply choose to ignore it. What could have helped us was relegated to the discard pile because of our lack of attention to detail.

Maybe the detail we miss has to do with our health. The warning signs may be there – chest pain, shortness of breath – but we choose to ignore them. We tell ourselves that we will see the doctor later, but we never follow through with it.

Details matter. While I enjoy large, complex investigations, the truth of the matter is that they are just collections of a whole lot of details. Each of them important. We can’t get to the larger picture without first understanding the smaller ones.

Attention to detail. Intentional attention to detail. It could save your life. And your life is worth saving.