I recently listened to an interview with Mike Tyson who spoke about his old trainer Cus D’Mato. Cus and his wife took a young Mike Tyson into their home and trained him to be a heavyweight champion fighter. Cus taught young Mike to fight and destroy each and every opponent. Tyson stated he was a student of old fighters and watched hundreds of old films showing the best of the best.

But there was one major problem Tyson spoke about. His trainer never taught Mike to shut it off, to cope with things, to cope with the hype, power, drugs, women and excessive lifestyle that would consume his life. Fighting was the only thing Tyson knew. 

Is being a cop the only thing you know? Are you able to turn it off? 

When you’re not at work… can you turn it off? (Wikipedia)

 

After listening to this interview, I spoke to an officer’s wife about some issues she had with her husband.  I informed her that I had those same issues.  I told her how hard it truly is for officers to turn ‘it’ off. I thanked her for talking to me and it motivated me to write this article. 

 

Going to the restaurant –

Do you have to be seated so you can see the front door? There is nothing wrong with doing this during your tour. However, try to actually enjoy the breakfast, lunch or dinner with your family without playing the role of “security” the entire time.  Relax and enjoy the time spent with your family.

 

Wardrobe Malfunction –

Does your wardrobe consist of jogging pants, cargo pants, cargo shorts and t-shirts? For many officers, this is the only clothing they wear when they’re off-duty. Impress your spouse and actually dress up for a night out and see the positive and overwhelming surprise and gratitude they give.

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Talking “code” at home –

Do you use work codes at home? Do you say things like 10-4-instead of saying okay? Do you say “roger that!” instead of saying you understand? Do you use those codes with your kids? Again, you are off-duty. Take your mind away from work and potentially impress those around you by using proper and grammar.

 

Driving like a cop with the family –

Everyone who has ever driven in my car knows that in the past, I drove like an IDIOT. I admit that I am completely at fault. I drove like that for far too long.

Why do we do it?  The answer is simple-because we can!  Do you drive with your family the same way you drive your squad car?  This can lead to arguments or worse… a car wreck.

Slow down and remind yourself that you’re not going to a call.  If you find yourself constantly driving too fast, leave earlier and take your time.

Do you carry your gun at all times? (Flickr)

 

Wearing a gun and handcuffs everywhere –

I know officers who carry their gun while taking the garbage outside, and we all know guys who also carry their handcuffs. This behavior programs you to believe you are never off-duty… EVER.

In the movie Stripes, the drill sergeant stated to an uptight soldier, ”Relax, Francis.”  We can all learn from the drill sergeant and make an effort to relax on our days off.

 

Deviating from the plan – 

Does your spouse ever make social plans on short notice without your permission? When you find out, your answer is pretty much always… NO! It leaves her feeling angry and defeated. Next time, say, ‘yes’. I promise you it will surprise and please them. Stop being so rigid and enjoy.

Take time to be with your family. (Flickr)

 

Change –

Most officers don’t like to change their routine on their day off. Don’t believe me? I recently spoke to an officer’s wife who said she couldn’t agree more. Her husband does not do well with change; that is not of his making. Sometimes, you need to roll with the punches for the sake of your relationship and your spouse’s happiness. Deviating from your ‘normal’ can bring some happy and healthy surprises.

 

Having a shrine or ‘Brag Wall –

I have walked into numerous homes of officers who have a law enforcement shrine to themselves. There are pictures and multiple awards recognizing their job performance. Maybe, just maybe, putting up a picture of your family would be a good idea, too.

I am NOT saying a cop shouldn’t display his accomplishments or awards on a mantle or shadow box. Just remember to not turn your home into a hall of fame to brag about your accomplishments.

 

Constantly Paranoid 

Do you know any officers who are paranoid? Yep, me too. These officers spend an enormous amount of their life on “High Alert.” They are always wondering and worrying about a worst-case scenario that might happen to them. A little noise outside the house at night and they are up clearing rooms.

An officer once told me that he was being followed.  He activated himself, took out his weapon and continued driving home. The car behind him continued to make the same turns as him. Terror kicked in. Ultimately, it was his neighbor who happened to be going to the very same block.

For many of you reading this, you know that it is very hard to “turn it off.”  I should know, it took me a few years to learn the concept of turning it off.

I had help. My old man used to say, “You’re off-duty copper – settle down!” It was tough but humbling to hear. Change doesn’t happen in an instant. The process of turning it off also means slowing down and clearing your mind of the leftovers from the workday. An incremental change is necessary for you and your family’s overall happiness.

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If you are constantly thinking about “what I do” for a living, it’s simply not healthy.  Author Wayne Dyer said, “If you are what you think about, be careful what you are thinking.”

Remember, you are more than just a police officer. Spread yourself out so that you have meaning outside of work. You have a family. Strive to have a strong network of friends, too.

Try turning it off for a few days. It may feel weird at first – like a strange emptiness. But remember: it’s a healthy change that will provide immeasurable happiness for you and your family.

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