I’m indebted to Deputy Chief Kyle Sumpter for inspiring some of the formative concepts of this piece…
When we discuss the concept of Warriorship or Warrior Mindset in the law enforcement context we must begin with the Priority of Life. In short, this idea – codified and practiced in formal training – places the life of the responding officer beneath the lives of citizens and hostages in any situation where there is an imminent threat to life. The life of the officer is in turn held in higher regard than that of a violent suspect threatening the lives of others.
This is at the core the reason warriorship must be inculcated in law enforcement officers, and not just tactical officers. When an active threat (active shooter). hostage taking. or immediate threat-to-life situation occurs, it is the first responding officers who run to the problem, and are best positioned to deal with it as necessary. The time to be considering one’s own mortality, or second guessing deadly force response decisions from the point of view of fear of administrative sanction or public opinion is not in the face of a murderous act in the moment it is happening. They must be analyzed, devloped, inculcated, and practiced as core values before they happen in real time.
Unfortunately, perhaps more so now that at any time in the recent past, elements within law enforcement management have lost sight of this view: that the primary role of LE is being prepared for going into harm’s way to protect others. Unable to articulate the tenets of proper warriorship in the face of political and public pressure, many executives have instead chosen to acquiesce to a skewed narrative and embraced a misconstrued philosophy that tells cops NOT to be warriors.
This is unworkable and impractical. It is inconsistent in concept and application with the Priority of Life, and can breed only one thing for the responding officer: hesitation.
Under circumstances of imminent or immediate threat, time does not take sides; no problem will solve itself if only given more time. Some problems get far worse. Too often simply waiting and talking is nothing but hesitating and gambling with the lives of citizens, hostages, and officers in the hope that “things will turn out okay.” This is in direct conflict with the Priority of Life, and places the life of the suspect in higher regard than that of officers or victims.
That it frequently does turn out in the end does not make it a morally or tactically defensible approach. This is where the fundamental misunderstanding lies.
Because when it doesn’t, that life allowed to hang in the balance could be lost. And though not averse to risking my life, I prefer to be the one making the wager with my own rather than someone else.
One wonders how all of this could have been so easily forgotten. It partly lies in lack of experience: most police executives end up with little time “on the road,” and research has shown that as humans we often forget where we have come from while at the same time remember ourselves as better than we actually were. When those proclaiming new philosophies as workable have been retired for some time, and before that spent more than twenty five years of thirty in administrative careers, perhaps its not a wonder after all.
Warriorship is honed through being there, doing that, and learning from experience.
So, yeah….Not a wonder after all.