There was a story recently about a New York City Police Officer who saved the life of a stabbing victim. And this wasn’t some ordinary save. In fact, the hero officer, Ronald Kennedy, performed this feat using tape and a potato chip bag. When asked about it, Officer Kennedy responded, “It’s the best I could do with what I had.”
I would propose to you that what truly saved this person’s life wasn’t the potato chip bag. Or even the tape. It was Officer Kennedy’s ability to think adaptively under stress that was the biggest factor.
Adaptive decision making is one of the most, if not THE most important factor for officer safety out there. The ability to take in information and produce appropriate decisions based on that information in an ongoing fashion makes you safer. So, how can we improve this skill? Here are a few things that will help.
Be proficient with your tools. All of your tools. If your brain knows that you are not proficient with your Taser, for example, the chances of that tool being considered as an option under stress are very low. Remember, the brain is looking for the first option it thinks will work. If you aren’t skilled with a tool, the brain won’t go with it. And this applies to tools other than weapons. Tourniquets, vehicles, etc. Proficiency is needed with all of them.
Been there, done that. At least in your mind. When we are preparing for an event that doesn’t come around that often in real life (or at least on your shift) then we can use performance enhancement imagery to prepare. Taking the mind to places it hasn’t encountered and priming the response that will be needed in those situations is an invaluable tool.
Finally, be left of bang. For those of you that have been to our in-person trainings know how much we love this concept (read the book, Left of Bang). Through anomaly hunting you can start responding before the critical incident happens. The time saved by doing this may, in fact, save your life.
Doing the best with what you got is all that can be asked of you at the moment of truth. We can, however, improve on that by making sure that what we got is of sufficient quantity and quality to allow for adaptive decision making.