Badges have been worn by the law enforcement community as an emblem of legal authority and as a sign to honor and to protect the communities they serve. Unfortunately, for many officers, badges have also been viewed as a guard from danger, injury, or even death. In those officers’ minds, badges make them invincible.
That’s Not a Word
In response to the preventable injuries and fatalities in the Texas law enforcement community, the Texas Police Chiefs Association (TPCA) and its Officer Safety Committee discussed approaches to address these exposures and shift the paradigm.
During the Committee’s initial discussions, someone offered the notion that ‘officers need to realize that they aren’t invincible…they are vincible.’ A hush fell over the room as those attending the meeting pondered a word that no one really knew existed (but it does, Merriam-Webster says so), and, so, VINCIBLE was born.
As many as 50% of officer deaths and a significant number of injuries in past years can be attributed to behaviors that are controllable. Knowing that, the Officer Safety Committee developed five VINCIBLE cornerstones:
- Wear Your Armor
- Wear Your Belt
- Slow Down
- Stay Fit
The first four concepts in this list were the original VINCIBLE cornerstones. The last to be adopted was “540”. Essentially, 540 means that officers should maintain vigilance and awareness of each and every situation and not become complacent in their activities, keeping 540-degrees of awareness (360-degrees horizontally and 180-degrees vertically). Complacency has been called the number one enemy of police officers, primarily due to the fact that a majority of the job happens the way they think it will…until it doesn’t.
Ramping Up the Revolution
So how do you invade and reposition organizational and professional culture? How can an organization remove the ‘in’ from invincible and constantly remind officers that they are vincible? There are a number of considerations, but the overwhelming response was ‘roll-call’ training. Roll-call training makes sense- everyone on that shift is together as a captive audience to listen to one message. This is an opportunity to introduce training “nuggets” that might otherwise be overshadowed during other training activities.
Core elements of the VINCIBLE program are communicated throughout the state via weekly training programs and are communicated by the TPCA Officer Safety Committee. Training programs have been designed support TPCA Best Practices, to be relevant, recurring, and readily available, and can generally be conducted in 10 minutes or less.
Currently, training is sent to participants via email. TPCA will roll-out a website (www.vincible.org) with a searchable catalog of all training presentations. Best of all, the VINCIBLE program is free. Sales of promotional items and donations support VINCIBLE’s mission.
Creating a Partnership Experience Because Together We Are Part of Something Larger
Understanding that a group effort could help take VINCIBLE to the next level, the TPCA Officer Safety Committee approached the Texas Municipal League Intergovernmental Risk Pool (TMLIRP) to share its experience. TMLIRP provides coverages and services to over 700 Texas law enforcement agencies, so leveraging those relationships to create involvement and support for the VINCIBLE program made great sense. TMLIRP currently provides financial support and is involved in various aspects including course content, training, and promotional items.
A special thanks to Abilene Police Chief Stan Standridge and the City of Abilene for their efforts in developing and implementing VINCIBLE. Special thanks as well to the other cities and police departments serving on the TPCA Officer Safety Committee along with Texas Police Chief Association staff.
Various Texas police departments and representatives from TMLIRP participated in a VINCIBLE train the trainer program in Lacy Lakeview on October 26-27. Attendees recorded videos to supplement weekly roll call training.