Why Fixing the Window Made All the Difference—A Police Officer’s Tale


A police officer in New York State, in a high crime and drug area populated with pimps, dealers and hookers is on patrol. The neighborhood is out of control. There is not enough police presence, not enough anything it seems to bring this area out of the despondent and vicious cycle it has become.

One day, the officer notices a broken window in one of the local buildings.

He fixes the broken window.

This small step created a change of attitude in other residents in this neighborhood. They began to sweep and tidy, repair and paint, and take pride in their environment.

This one small step created a very large amount of MOMENTUM.

One of the easiest ways to move out of negative cycles is to create positive momentum using a simple tool called a list of positive aspects.

When you sit down with your beverage of choice first thing in the morning (and you should make a point of finding a few minutes to do this first thing) take a pad of paper and a pen (it is important that you hand write these aspects – it creates a different level of “ownership” in your brain) and make a list of … ready?


What if nothing is going well?

What if your life is like the neighborhood that has gone-to-hell-in-a-hand-basket and everything seems dark and bleak without much chance of improvement?

That police officer saw an opportunity. Fixing that window was a courageous act of defiance in the face of overwhelming odds.

His actions stated clearly to everyone that he didn’t care that he was outnumbered. He wasn’t going to give up on that neighborhood. And because of that MINDSET he watched until he saw something symbolic, something actionable that he COULD do and it made all the difference.

Look around. What IS going well in your life? Are you breathing? Did the sun come up?

Keep adding to your list and do this every day. You will start to see things differently. Double down on what is going well; do more of that. You will create new MOMENTUM.

Broken Windows Theory is based on the idea that cracking down on minor offenses can eventually reduce major crimes. This idea is really about creating positive momentum.

Creating momentum requires people to care.

The police officer in the story above who cared about the area he patrolled created a huge change. He hadn’t opted out mentally or emotionally and become cynical. This is dangerous territory for officers. The landscape of the mind has to remain optimistic and realistic while the external world they face may be dark and bleak.

Often we look at our external world and want to throw up our hands in surrender.

Michael got pissed off one day after Christmas in 2004. The Asian Tsunami had just hit and he like many of us watched it unfold on TV. He became further upset after Hurricane Katrina hit the U.S. and it took five days to get water to the Superdome in New Orleans.

Michael took his anger and molded it into an invention. This innovation is now used around the world. You may have one of his products in your kit.

Often we look at the external circumstances before us and think we are powerless to create meaningful change. The problem is too big to solve.

Before the solution can become a reality people who have ideas they want to match with long standing, large-scale problems often meet enormous resistance. Why is that?

Resistance is fear. But this fear is often based on old, unsupported beliefs that are no longer accurate NOW.

In trauma recovery one of the biggest hurtles to get people through is getting the THEN out of their NOW.

All of us operate from a belief system. This system, like all others, needs MAINTENANCE. Look at it occasionally and make sure you aren’t trying to live your life based on outdated paradigms.

Explaining to people that we don’t have to continue to have people suffer through Combat Stress and PTSD is a similar situation to what Michael faced when he said we can ensure that everyone who needs to have access to clean drinking water can do so.

Many people said, no it’s too big.

Michael invented the Lifesaver water filtration system. Many operators would not leave on a mission without a Lifesaver bottle or Life Straw in their kit. Everyone on the planet can now have access to clean drinking water. We have the technology. What we need now is people who care and who are not clinging to old, outdated ideas. It is no longer – too big.

Many people now would not try to maintain their operational effectiveness without having a WEAPONS PKG in their kit. This is one of my contributions to ending the darkness of Combat Stress and PTSD as we have known it.

We need people who don’t settle. When they hear someone say, “It’s too big,” … “It’s too old,” … “We’ve always done it this way,” … “It can’t be changed,” they say, “GOOD. These are the problems deserving of my big ideas.”

Keep your head in the game.  Create MOMENTUM.  Fix those windows.

Angela C. Benedict is a Consultant, Author and Trainer specializing in Combat Stress and pre-emptive protocols.  She is the creator of the WEAPONS PKG, a SWAT approved and field tested three component visualization based resource for law enforcement and military.  She also writes crime drama novels.

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