In law enforcement, we sometimes forget the small details.  Thanks to society, our lives are now bombarded with objectives that are filled with details.  We have all heard the clichéd saying of “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, and many other quips that have the same meaning.  But in our line of work, not sweating the small stuff can get us in a real bind.  In our jobs we have to remember that missing or not giving considerations to the small details could lead to unintended and tragic consequences.

Paying attention to detail has always been important in my 21-year law enforcement career. I’ve had a few friends that have been injured because they did not pay attention to the little things around them, from interviewing the 60-year old with his hands in a fist, to a car occupied by several subjects and only focusing on the driver while back-up is several minutes away.  If we just pay attention to the small things that present themselves we can limit the chances of having the small stuff “bite” us in the end.  Here are a few things we can do to limit being caught be the small stuff.

Do not treat any calls as routine.  If you have been to a house 20 times before, treat the 21st time as a new experience.  Be ready for the unexpected.  Look for things that are new since you were last there.  Look for items that are “out of place”.

When on a vehicle stop, identify the driver as soon as possible, and make sure you make eye contact with all of the occupants of the vehicle.  Before you even get out of your car, radio in or log into your computer the vehicle information of the vehicle you are stopping.  Remember CYMBAL.

How about when something just does not feel right, trust your instinct and call for assistance, or secure the scene.  The longer we are in this line of work, the better our “Spidy Sense”.  Trust it.  In my years in the field and in the custody environment I’ve learned that mine protects me very well.  Even if it is the same person you have dealt with 100 times before, treat this time as a new time so your 101st contact goes as well as those before it.

When interacting with individuals, give them your attention.  At the same time however always be aware of your surroundings.  When I teach Interpersonal Communications I always stress that we should spend 80-85% of our time with our gaze focused on the person we are interacting with, especially when they are talking.  The remaining 15-20% of the time our head should be on a swivel.

Unlike the saying, we SHOULD sweat the small stuff in our line of work.  It is preached to us during the academy, and at in-service that we should always be aware of the little details that can cause a troubling situation.  But many of us forget these lessons at the classroom door, or we sometimes get in a hurry and cut corners so we can be done with something that seems a mundane task.  The problem is there is nothing mundane and nothing too small for us to consider when performing our duties.

Let us take a minute to remember those around us who depend on us.  Let us remember those whose’ face we bring a smile to everyday.  Remember that we owe it not only to ourselves but to these people as well; to always sweat the small stuff.  Most importantly remember ATD (Attention to Detail), it could mean the difference between a good day and a tragic day.

David Crisler Jr. is a Lieutenant with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. He currently holds the assignment as Unit Commander for the Bravo-One Unit at the Arrestee Processing Center. He is an instructor at his Departments academy as well as other academies.  He has a strong interest in dynamic leaders and new practices that can be used in the leadership and operation of law enforcement agencies. He has been a presenter at numerous ILEETA Conferences and the 2013 Conference of the Park Law Enforcement Association.  David’s work on FTO Program Management and use can also be found in the Police One Academy Section.  David is an accomplished high school football coach and for over 15 years has been a fixture along the sidelines in the Central Indiana area. He works daily to empower those working for him, whether they are deputies, civilians, or football players.  David has a passion to use his planning and research knowledge to assist other agencies in solving problems and delivering training when needed.  You can reach David at [email protected]