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The “When/Then” Picture

The “When/Then” Picture

Photo Courtesy:  The State University of New York


More than likely you have a picture taken by your department. It may be on your id, on the wall of your department, but it is saved somewhere for future use. It can serve the above purposes, but it is also your “When/Then” picture. 

What if you run into a burning building and save a bunch of people? They will probably use your ‘When/Then’ picture in the news release.

What if you run into a burning building to save a bunch of people and don’t come out? They will probably use your ‘When/Then’ picture in the news release and perhaps even at your funeral.

Get shot in the upper body while wearing your vest? The vest company will probably want to use the photo to advertise another save, if they don’t go so far as to have your portrait painted.

Get shot in the upper body while not wearing your vest and again your ‘When/Then’ picture appears in the news and perhaps at your funeral.

Drive too fast for conditions running to a hot call or worse yet, just because you can, and end up crashing and, you guessed it, that picture comes out of the file for two possible reasons. The same will happen if you are ejected because you chose not to wear your seatbelt. Why? Because you wanted to be able to make a fast exit out of your squad car. Congratulations, you exited quickly, through the windshield, onto the roadway, then the curb, then into tree. That ‘When/Then’ picture will have to serve how people remember you, because your casket will be closed because no one wants to see the horror of what you look like now.

Chances are it may have been a while since that picture was taken. If you don’t have a copy to look at, get one. You may have a more wrinkles/ wisdom lines. Your hair may be a little grayer, if it’s there at all. But take the time to look.

Look in your eyes and ask yourself, “Are you happy with what you see?”

When you’re standing and you look down at your shoes, can you see them or has it been a while? Has time, obligations to work and family, eroded time away from your workouts and commitment to stay fit?

Have you packed on pounds? Sure, you just have more weight to hit with, but, can you stay in a sustained fight in order to win the fight?

Remember your obligation to your family and to yourself? That promise? The promise that you will always come home.

Have you let yourself go a little? Fail to win the fight because you are out of shape, or suffer a fatal heart attack and your picture will sit in a place of honor in your own home. It won’t be the same as having you there, but in a small way you will still be there each day for them to remember you. To shed their tears, perhaps to bring a smile at the thought of a happy time, and as a reminder, of the ache, the pain, the hollowness of your absence. Your picture will serve to remind them, each day.

Complacency is a seducer that can cost you your well-being and life.

It stands behind you and whispers in your ear, “It’s ok, you’ll be just fine”, “Don’t worry, your safe, I won’t let anything happen to you”, “Stop worrying, everything will be ok, as long as you listen to me”.

Every time you take a short cut, every time you use poor officer safety, every time you get away with doing things and you end up with a positive outcome, not because you did it right, but because the suspect didn’t want to hurt you or kill you, complacency whispers, “See, I told you so, just listen to me”.

If you’re lucky, with complacency as your constant companion, you can get through your career intact. Not because of good tactics, only because fate did not come calling.

But when fate does come calling, complacency is piss poor back up.

In fact, Complacency won’t even be around. Complacency will be off looking for another cop’s ear to whisper in, leaving you abandoned to deal with the mess the two of you created.

When people look at your ‘When/Then’ picture, not everyone will see it, standing behind you. Some will. Some will just suspect. Some will never know, but your ghost will see that specter, that shadow of complacency, right behind you, but by then it’s too late to change.

That picture is just a snapshot of that moment in time.

You can change. You can make better decisions. You have the power.

Use good officer tactics, prioritize each day, What’s Important Now, wear your vest and seat belt and drive at a speed that will get you where you need to be, when you need to be there, every time. Now that probably won’t get your ‘When/Then’ picture on the front cover of the newspaper, on the news or in social media.

You might never get recognized for the hero you are.  The cop who goes out each day and does a dangerous and demanding job to the best of their ability. But, that has its own reward and the time will come for your ‘When/Then’ picture at your retirement party.

It’s your ‘When/Then’ picture.

It’s your choice. You are in control of your decisions and actions, but not the circumstances of your career.

Don’t let that voice in your ear influence you to take the easy way out. Stay strong in your dedication to your own health, and fitness-mental and physical.

It’s your When/Then picture………….Picture where you want it to be seen.

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