The first weekend after the 4th of July saw division's city wide struggle to meet staffing. I can relate to part of the problem; officers calling in sick. I have been struggling with a stomach virus for the past 4 days and spent Friday and Saturday lying in bed or on the couch (Still feeling puny and on the couch). If there is anything good to come from this, it's the loss of about 8 pounds (OK, I know, that's like throwing a deck chair off the titanic) and some much needed rest. I think this may be a trend as officers work longer hours; have fewer days off and move in and out of the air conditioned car to the sweltering heat of summer.
We all need to be aware of our bodies and what it's telling us. We need to take care of "Number ONE." If ever there was a time to take care of ourselves, this is it. If you are feeling sick and run down; do not come to work and infect the rest of your squad. Take the time off necessary to fight the bug and get back on your feet. Take your vitamins and supplements; eat properly and stay hydrated. Cut back on your workouts if you are feeling run down and starting to show signs of illness. The adage of working through it has been shown to be a fallacy; it will simply run you down more and hinder your ability to fight off some of the more low level bugs.
To those of you who work a lot of volunteer overtime or second jobs; remember you need time to refresh and rejuvenate your bodies. Late nights and too much alcohol is not on the list of to do's from the doctor. Take time to relax, rest, charge those batteries. The lack of staffing is not a reason to let yourself go and not take care of you. If you do not take care of "Number ONE" you will not be any good to those who count on you most. Keeping your mind and body fit is paramount to your safety and the safety of your partners.
I heard over the weekend 20+ officers called in sick on Saturday. It appears this created a concern that there was some sort of a coordinated "Sick-out." I am confident this is not the case and those who called in sick were in fact legitimately ill and not capable of working. That being said; I would offer these suggestions for supervisors, managers and officers;
- We need to pay attention to each other and support one another.
- If a squad member appears to be fatigued and showing signs of illness or fatigue, demand they go home and rest.
- Supervisors need to monitor the overtime of officers for stress and fatigue.
- Managers need to encourage officers to take vacation time at least once a year to relax and recharge.
- Officers need to make it a point to take time off, over and above the three days off each week. Being away from the stresses of the job for several days in a row will allow the mind and body to recharge and release those stressors that create illness.
- Supervisors and Managers need to have a plan to accommodate those times when officers are run down, stressed or ill. Acknowledge the officers importance but honor their need to take necessary time away from the job to prevent or overcome illness.
We owe it to one another to look out for each other. As supervisors and managers we owe it to our officers and the department to take care of them and ensure they are fit both mentally and physically. We owe it to officers to reduce the outside stressors and provide support and encouragement for the job they do; whatever it takes. This may mean going a person down on a busy night and sending an officer home who is over tired, run down or feeling the effects of the stresses of life and the job.
Be safe and take care of "Number ONE."