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A small sticker defends against apathy

January 18, 2013  By Tom Wetzel

Retired officer Ron Borsch recently gave me a memorable gift for my shift. Ron served his community for more than 30 years and continues to serve his colleagues through instructing and managing the SEALE Academy, which offers in service police training.

Ron is one of those guys who spends a portion of each day thinking of how he can help keep his peers safe. He is passionate about finding ways to outsmart the bad guys and effectively defend against their assaults. Getting each and every officer home safe after a shift is a primary focus of his thought process.

Ron has been a strong and long consistent voice on the value of single officer responses to active shooters. A good example is his “Tactical First Responder” course, which teaches how to best stop those intent on mass murder.

The gift he gave me was hardly surprising – orange stickers about the size of a half dollar. Each had a check mark followed by the number “6”.

The “check your six” idea is a phrase that has caught on where an officer looks behind them to make sure their back guard is clear. The stickers, which Ron designed, are intended to be placed on objects that an officer regularly uses or sees to remind them of the importance of being aware of what is behind them – a locker or closet door, for example.

The importance of Ron’s “check 6” reminders are obvious and demonstrate the value of finding ways for officers to not only stay safer but combat the complacency and apathy that can set in at any point in a career.

Unfortunately, I suspect complacency and apathy, which can negatively feed off each other, cause far more injury and loss of life to police officers than we realize, resulting in cops letting their guard down sooner than they should. They also cause physical, mental and spiritual complications.

Complacency and apathy can result from the strains of rotating shifts, poor diets, exposure to sadness and danger, department politics, negative media coverage, criminal justice inadequacies that favor violent criminals and unmet personal expectations.

Their corrosive damage can extend beyond the doors of the agency and reach into our homes, touching families and affecting personal relationships with loved ones and those with whom we serve. Complacency and apathy are realities and require regular vigilance to lessen or prevent their negative effects.

Police leaders need to help officers focus on battling complacency. Finding innovative ways to help can range from the simple to the complex – teaching a new defensive tactic, for example, or buying a new piece of equipment.

Finding solutions to prevent or lessen the effects of apathy and complacency are important investments for a police agency. With more officers having to work longer due to strapped pension funds or children’s educational expenses, agencies may be filled with too many officers especially susceptible to damage. To address this, develop strategies that focus on teaching personnel to stay sharp and immunize them, so to speak, from the disease of complacency.

Defending against an apathetic attitude is not easy and requires an earnest effort by officers and their leadership. As Ron has shown, just finding a way to remind officers how to stay safer is a step in the right direction.

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