Time Away From The Job Makes A Better Crime Fighter
I remember when I was applying for my first job in law enforcement. I spoke with LEOs from many different agencies and asked a thousand questions. Truth be known, I probably drove them crazy! How much time do you spend out of the office? How much training do you get each year? What type of firearm do you carry? How is the culture? Do people stay for years or move on after a few years? I even asked about retirement benefits, go figure!
There was one question I did not ask and to this day, I cannot tell you why. “How much vacation do you get each year?” Looking back, that may have been the most important question for me to ask! The older I get, the more I realize what an important piece of information that was to me.
I know when you started working as a LEO, you were convinced that if you were out for one day, crime would take over the world! Robbers would rob, burglars would burgle and people would start ripping off their mattress tags! It would be chaos! As you know, this feeling wears off and we go forward knowing that the world will not end if we take a day off. However, we then encounter other reasons to avoid putting in for annual leave. The shift is short-handed, you need the overtime, you are working part-time jobs in your off days, etc. Before you know it, you are a seven-year veteran with a great work record, lots of training and a case of burnout that could kill a horse! That is how it happens, one shift at a time.
Now burnout is a bad thing for many reasons. First and foremost, your body becomes less able to manage normal levels of stress. Second, you become less tolerant of the daily nonsense LEOs encounter from the public and the agency. Finally, and most important, you become careless. This job demands your highest levels of attention. Being tired, being lax or getting into a rush can get you hurt or killed. Even worse, it can get someone else hurt or killed.
No matter how great your working conditions, you need a vacation at least once per year. If you are like me, it takes more than a long weekend to push in the clutch and let the RPMs wind down. You need a week, even if you never leave town. I’m talking about time away from the job. You do not need to head to see the big rat or one of the seven wonders of the world to decompress, get the stress out of your system and renew your commitment for the profession. You just need to separate yourself from your work!
Perhaps you work in a department that does not have any politics going on, has no stressful calls and no conflict whatsoever. If so, readers of this blog would love to apply! Even if you do, and I doubt it, the job itself is stressful enough to warrant a break.
Still don’t believe me? Ask your family. They’ll tell you…if you are willing to listen. Your spouse would like to see you out of uniform, pun intended. Your kids would like to see you for more that a few minutes between shifts and part-time jobs. Your friends would like to get you out for a movie, ball game or BBQ. Just ask them then listen to their answers.
So, before you find yourself writing someone a ticket for walking a cat without a license or doing a felony stop on a kid riding his bike without a helmet, take some time off. Check your calendar this week. Check your department schedule for the next few months. Look at your annual leave bank. You can afford some vacation time. Schedule it and take it. You will renew your desire to do the job, your family will benefit and trust me, crime will not overrun the world in your absence.
If crime does take over the world in your absence, when you get back you can put on your cape and take care of business!