A Lesson In Crisis-Handling

In 2001, as a rookie cop, my first major rioting and law and order experience was a good lesson in crisis-handling.


Backstory: In the main college in Trivandrum city, a student union was conducting a protest march to the Secretariat, which was expected to be violent. Having deployed a strong police force, I was waiting in the police control room, feeling quite confident, and in control.


However, as soon as the protest march started, there was heavy stone-throwing followed by hurling of country-made bombs. Then the police lathi-charge started. It went from order to complete chaos within a minute. On the police wireless, you could not hear who was saying what - police officers were frantically screaming to share updates, talking over each other.


The 1st lesson of crisis: it is totally chaotic and uncertain. Don’t panic - just because you don’t feel in control does not mean things will collapse. If the team has role-clarity and training, they will act and save the day.


The 2nd lesson: Just dive in and do what you can; don’t freeze. In this case, once I went to the spot, we quickly mopped up and things normalized quickly.


Your plan will work, but not how you imagine. Uncertainty and confusion are scary, but they don’t kill. Just keep moving.

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