When the Game Changes

When the Game Changes

I sat down with my boys the other day to play a game of Uno with them. We have been playing lots of games over the past few weeks. I love playing games, grew up playing games. I’ve been playing Uno for as long as I can remember (that’s a long time, by the way) and I welcomed the chance to put a beatdown on the fellas.

My plan was working perfectly. I was on a roll. The competition, while tough, simply could not hang with my expertise developed over a lifetime of yelling “Uno!”

That is until the third hand. I had carefully maneuvered and was down to my final two cards. Because of wealth of experience I had managed to save my Wild card until this point. With a little bit of smugness and a lot of fanfare I threw the card on the pile and announced, “Uno, blue!” Victory was certain. Until…….

My six year old grinned and asked me who I was going to trade my hand with. Confused, I asked what in the world he was talking about – expecting some kindergarten shenanigan to be revealed. He explained to me the Wild card I played required that I exchange my hand with someone else.

Still not believing him, I looked at the card and, sure enough, that’s what it said. The instructions were right there on the card. But I hadn’t bothered to read them – because I thought knew the rules. But the game had changed.

Failing to recognize the game changed in this context didn’t cost me much. Some humiliation, some trash talking from my 6 and 9 year olds – but the only thing that really was hurt was my pride.

Law enforcement is often slow to recognize when the game has changed. We continue to do things the “way we’ve always done them” because “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The problem with this is we don’t find out that it is “broke” until someone pays the ultimate price.

The recent study on Line of Duty Deaths, Making It Safer, highlighted several areas where the threat has both changed and increased. Domestic-related calls is one of these areas. While everyone knows these types of calls are dangerous, the danger has evolved since most of us began our careers.

In these cases, the researchers found that the majority of officers killed on these calls were killed outside the location and prior to making contact with the suspect. This is well before the majority of officers were told the greatest point of danger is – the time of arrest.

The dedicated researchers also discovered that one third of the officers were killed at distances of 50 feet or more. The most dangerous area is on the approach to the call – and at greater distances. Yet, we continue to focus the bulk of our training starting at the door of the location.

Each and every day you need to ask yourself, “How do I know what I think I know?” This will cause you to examine not only the game, but the rules of the game. Be willing to change when change is necessary.

“Where might the smallest change make the biggest difference?”
Robert Cooper

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