“SITUATIONAL AWARENESS” – EVEN AT HOME
BY DAN BATEMAN
Grace, peace, and blessings honored graduates of the FBI National Academy and, now, proud members of the FBI National Academy Associates. Our organization receives strong support from the Federal Bureau of Investigation without which we could not survive. The FBI is in transition and it behooves all people of faith to keep the Bureau in prayer during this time. May God continue to bless the FBI, its special agents and staff, and the leadership as it fulfills the great mission upon which it was founded. And, likewise, the FBI National Academy and the National Academy Associates since we are inexorably tied to the Bureau and are blessed to be so.
As we continue in our fourth year on our journey, we are examining the importance of home. As I’ve said before, it’s where it begins and where it ends. But sometimes the intersection of our professional lives and our home lives become blurred and the two paths collide on a course that can cause great upheaval, tension, and tears. We do well to be aware of this danger.
Now for the irony. An important concept and practice in police work is “situational awareness”. Whether it is on a traffic stop or during the investigation at a residence and/or crime scene, we must always be keenly aware of our surroundings, persons close or in the vicinity, and their actions and movements. Failure to have keen situational awareness could be catastrophic both to the officers, first responders, potential victims, and even suspects.
We hone our skills in situational awareness the moment we attend basic police academy. It may be during mock traffic stops and arrests, search and seizure, or as simple as being a keen observer and having to recall on paper what we observed in great detail. Sometimes, to our dismay, the academy instructors may point out something so obvious we missed simply because it was so very obvious and our attention was drawn away (intentionally at times) so we would miss the danger in plain sight. Situational awareness is further enhanced by the our field training officers who grill us during debriefing following a traffic stop, citizen contact, suspect arrest and search, or during a crash investigation.
The danger of having a high degree of situational awareness is we are always searching for subtle indicators even when are off-duty. Who of us hasn’t been in an off-duty situation where something didn’t seem right and we began to mentally plan what to do. In a milli-second, we have observed, assessed, and planned a course of action all based on situational awareness. Many times, if at all, nothing transpires but we were prepared based on our situational awareness.
Some officers call it a sixth sense, others say the hair on the nap of their neck became sensitized. Some chalk it up to a certain tingling of their “spidey sense” much like Spiderman experiences. No matter what the nomenclature, it all adds up to a keen sense of situational awareness as police officers.
The danger may be in surrendering situational awareness as we enter our homes. Sure, we can let our guard down now because there is no obvious danger or threat. However, there may be subtle danger or threat to our families if we are not observant or able to properly assess the potential for upheaval in our families. In many ways, it may be evidenced in the lives of our children as they rapidly pass from child to teen to young adult. If we do not have “home-awareness”, we may miss important clues that point to problems hidden beneath the surface.
By God’s grace, we have a Biblical example of a father who neglected to see the tell-tale signs of trouble in his family even as he was hailed as a mighty warrior and great king to his people. I speak of David whom the Bible characterizes as “a man after Gods’ own heart.” (Acts 13:22)
David was the epitome of fearless courage and leadership, traits embodied in our National Academy graduates. As a young lad, David took on the giant, Goliath, and single-handedly slew him. With his bare hands, David fought a lion and a bear on separate occasions and defeated them both. He led Israel into battle and the people sang his praises for defeating the enemy. David was honorable in his dealings with the king who preceded him in spite of death threats. Twice David spared King Saul’s life even when David had opportunity to kill him.
But, in spite of David’s warrior spirit, and concurrently, his situational awareness, he failed to be aware of what was happening at home. Most of us would immediately think of his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent ordering of her husband’s death on the battlefield. But David knew what he was doing and thought it was hidden until confronted by Nathan, the prophet, who revealed David’s sin to him.
Where David failed to employ “home-awareness” was in his raising of his son, Absalom. While it cannot be disputed he loved his son dearly, David failed to see the destructive nature of Absalom to David’s peril and near loss of his kingdom at the hands of his own son.
Absalom was committed to forcibly taking the kingdom from his father, King David, and even plotted with others to do so. The commander of David’s armies, Joab, cautioned David against giving Absalom any quarter. In spite of Joab’s wise counsel, David wanted no harm to come to his son even though Absalom was avowed to take his father’s kingdom and his life.
David’s love for Absalom became so overwhelming, David was willing to sacrifice his army and kingdom as long as no harm came to his son. In one of the most emotional scenes in the Bible, David collapses in tears and sorrow upon hearing of the death of his enemy, his own son Absalom.
The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Samuel 18:33) King David’s sorrow was so great and known throughout his kingdom, the army returned from battle “as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle” even as David continue to cry out “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!” David’s overwhelming love for his son made him completely blind to the evil his son had plotted.
Thankfully, David had Joab who was a loyal subordinate. Joab came to David and said “You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.” David heeded the advice, ceased his misplaced sorrow, and took positive command of his army once more.
Lessons to be learned: while situational awareness can protect us from professional danger, the failure to be perceptive and sensitive in our personal lives, a lack of “home awareness” as it were, can cause emotional blindness to dangers facing our families and, in particular, our children. Jealously guard your home but do not let the potential for a “loving blind spot” fail to protect your family even if there is great personal pain associated with it.
As we continue our journey and reflect on the theme “Home: where it begins and where it ends”, let me encourage you to develop a keen sense of “home awareness” such that while we protect the public, we also protect our family relationships.
Peace and blessings,
Dan Bateman, Chaplain
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