“Work hard, have fun, be safe, and don’t get captured.” I end every patrol briefing with those four simple requests. The first three are pretty straightforward. It was the last one that generated snickers from my patrol officers, but that was fine by me; I knew they had heard it. Each briefing for a month and a half ended in the same way, but the snickers slowly faded. I assume they probably thought I was nuts to continue making the same dumb joke every shift. Then, I shared the meaning . . .
A few years ago, I was sitting in my living room watching one of the best television shows ever made, HBO’s The Wire. Jimmy McNulty, played by Dominic West, and the group of characters that had come together to run a wiretap had been disbanded and reassigned back to their old assignments. The scene opens with a Baltimore Police Department lieutenant giving a patrol briefing. At the very end of the briefing, he closes by saying, “Don’t get captured.”
As a patrol officer at the time, I thought that was a pretty funny way to end a briefing. The simplistic meaning I came up with was that it was a comedic way for the writers to get across the danger that exists on a daily basis working patrol in Baltimore. For some inexplicable reason, this phrase stuck with me. I decided, years before promoting, that I would end every briefing I lead with “don’t get captured,” but for very different reasons than the simplistic one I thought of the first time I heard it.
Don’t get captured truly has a much deeper meaning. Think about it, what does it really mean to be captured? Here are my two reasons for ending each briefing this way:
First, to be captured means you or someone leading you has created a situation that is beyond your control; too far behind enemy lines, surrounded. In law enforcement, it is very easy to metaphorically get too far behind those lines. It could be walking into a domestic violence call without backup, trying to break up a fight without recognizing the encircling crowd, or getting pulled into a foot pursuit without knowing what is around the corner. These are all situations that good patrol officers need to learn to recognize and respond to appropriately so they don’t get behind those lines. The same sentiment holds true for the law enforcement supervisors that are running emergency traffic and giving commands to their officers.
Second, to be captured also means that you gave up or for some reason stopped fighting. As officers, we all accept the reality that we may have to physically defend ourselves and survive long enough for backup to arrive. If we give up, quit, and stop fighting; then the consequences could be life threatening. Babe Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Could there be any truer statement than that for the patrol officer that is in a fight for their life?
So, why do I end every patrol briefing by saying, “don’t get captured?” I do this because it serves as a subtle reminder to the men and women I’m leading to always be cautious of their surroundings and to never give up. Backup is coming . . . just keep fighting.
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