The Officer Survival Creed: A Tool For Life

Last week, I had an opportunity to teach at the Hampton Roads Criminal Justice Training Academy and it is always great to be teaching new recruits. The men and women I meet every time at the academy make me proud to be involved in the law enforcement profession. These dedicated people are more than willing to risk their lives to be defenders of their communities and to live their life as a sacrifice. 

Make no mistake; it takes a special person to be a law enforcement officer. A person must be willing to die for a stranger. That is NOT an exaggeration. It is a fact. Many police officers have died defending their community and this should never be forgotten. It is and always has been a dangerous job.

On this visit, however, I had an opportunity to read something that was on display in the classroom, which I had never read before. I am not sure if I had missed it in prior classes, but I read it and it struck a nerve. Take the time to read the next few paragraphs called the Officer Survival Creed.  It is an eye-opener.

Officer Survival Creed


 The will to survive, to survive the attack, must be uppermost in my mind. For the one who lives through a fight is better off than the one who does not. Therefore, preparation and not paranoia is the key to my survival. To survive I must be aware, be alert, be confident, be deceptive, be decisive, and be ready. I must expect the unexpected and do the unexpected. 

When faced with violent assault, my life depends upon my reaction without hesitation. There is no time to ponder because to ponder is to possibly perish. My response, if attacked, must not be fear but aggressiveness. I must block out all thoughts of my own peril and think only of stopping the assailant. 

 My prize in personal defense is my life. The perfect fight is one that is over before the loser realizes what is happening. The perfect defense is a counterattack that succeeds before the enemy can attack again.

 Therefore, if I am assaulted, I will retaliate instantly. I will be sudden and quick. I will be fast, not fair. Speed is my salvation. 

If my attacker knocks me down, I will fight back against the odds and get up off the ground. I will seize the initiative and take every advantage. My concern is to stay alive. I won’t hold back. 

If I find myself under lethal attack, I won’t be kind. I will be harsh and tough. If I must shoot, I will shoot with precision and shoot to stop. If I must use my hands, I will use them with all the strength I possess and more. When I strike, I will strike hard; I will kick, punch, and do what must be done to survive. I will strike no more after my attacker is incapable of further action, but I will see that he is stopped. 

Above all, I won’t give up and I will make it. I will not die in the streets, or in an alley, or in any other part of the concrete jungle. I will survive, not just by good luck and good fortune, but by my skills. 

If I adhere to these basic principles of survival and adhere to the attitude that is suggested in them, as a police officer, I will greatly enhance and perfect my skills in utilizing good and safe practices, tactics, and techniques.

I read this three or four times and I was amazed at its power. Anyone who has ever been a police officer has been under attack. It is a fact of life, and it often is our cunning and training that keeps us alive. And sometimes, even that fails and we pay the ultimate price. It is one of the great tragedies of the profession that, sometimes, great officers die in the line of duty.

I also sat and wondered, afterward, if this creed should not be applied to our everyday life. Each day is a struggle, and each day is a journey. We must fight for love, life, and happiness. Maybe, it is time to see our lives as a struggle worth battling for. Maybe, it is time to enter the arena fighting for our beliefs, our communities, and our families. Maybe, the time is now to be the best we can be. Maybe, just maybe, today is the day we become what we always wanted to be. Maybe.

Let’s live our days with power and determination.  Let’s live fearlessly and with purpose. Let’s live and use the Officer Survival Creed everyday. Our lives our worth it.

Live with power.

Joseph B. St. John

Not all those who wander are lost – J.R.R. Tolkien