Like many old bromides, the saying “take care of the little things and the big things will take care of themselves” is true a lot. I have been thinking about this for awhile for two reasons: prompted by discussions in the leadership workshop that Liz O’Connor and I conduct with sergeants and by being struck by two of the salient facts in the last moments of the life of young Officer Sean Collier of the MIT Police.
Getting officers to embrace the safety value of little things is a subject of constant irritation to bosses. Wearing the hat, stocking the tool belt with only department-issued equipment, keeping watch while on patrol, etc. In my opinion because Officer Collier was where he was supposed to be and doing the essence of what he swore to do — going on patrol and paying attention — and wore the appropriate holster, there are people alive today who otherwise would be dead. He was, in the words of MIT Chief John DiFava, “keeping people safe.” The two assassins, you’ll recall, were unable to free Officer Collier’s gun from the holster. I don’t know the names of these saved people, of course, or where they might have died. I do strongly believe that an additional firearm in the hands of these two desperate and depraved murderers would have meant more deaths.
In managing the Millennials and the Y’s in patrol we may need to explain why the correct tool belt is the right one, or why wearing a hat is important (one good reason: so we civilians can tell you from a security guard from more than 20 feet away), or what good things can come from paying attention. We have a lasting illustrative example in the supreme sacrifice of Officer Collier to show that paying attention to the “little things” can save lives.