"You can't Monday morning quarterback" an officer's decision.
The heck we can't. In fact, we have to; It just has to be done the right way. Please allow me to explain.
The phrase "Monday Morning Quarterback" carries with it a negative connotation and it's usually for good reason. You see, when we watch our favorite athlete from the comfort of our sofas, never having played the game at that level, it's quite easy to critique how a play was executed or how a split second decision was made that we didn't like. And no one wants to be critiqued by people who lack the experience, pressure or perspective that one can only have by being "in the game."
Add to this the fact that criticism (even of the constructive variety) is often rejected in our culture because, in ignorance, people mistake a critique of action as a rejection of a person or their character in its entirety. This is par for the course in a society that enjoys being offended and hurt on the internet each day and are seemingly incapable of embracing a dialogue in which the facts may prove their actions or ideas weak or incorrect. It is difficult for people to actually make changes based on valuable information because they feel slighted as a person, while all the while missing the real point.
The phrase carries over into just about any other area or career in life. People hate to be "monday morning quarterbacked", especially when they are passionate about what they do. However, when it comes to law enforcement, we absolutely must embrace Monday morning quarterbacking because it's the kind of thing that will save our lives. But the quarterbacking must come from the right sources and in the right way, for it to be effective. In other words, in needs to come from people who have invested in and understand "our game."
In law enforcement circles, we simply refer to this as training. Even if we look at the sports analogy, you better darn well believe that your favorite quarterback is "Monday morning quarterbacked" quite literally on Monday. The coach, the teammates, and the player themselves are responsible for making sure that any mistakes are identified and corrected as they work together to accomplish their goal of winning (unless you're the Detroit Lions, then I'm pretty sure that's not your goal). Applied to law enforcement, the individual cop, his/her fellow officers and yes even the bosses must work together to review situations so that they can learn, make necessary changes and move forward to be better next time. We owe that to ourselves, the ones we go home to, and those we protect.
To admit or identify a mistake in an officer, even in one's self, isn't to admit that the persons very character is flawed or that their entire career is a waste. To the contrary, since we all make mistakes, it's only the ones that actually learn from the Monday morning quarterback sessions that will further develop their character and improve not only themselves but others around them.
Even among pro-police supporters, there is a tendency to immediately go on the defensive when an officer's actions are questioned or critiqued. Yes, if the criticism comes from someone that has never been a cop or been close to police situations and is making judgments that they are incapable of making fairly from behind a keyboard, then that is the wrong kind of Monday morning quarterbacking. Even then, however, there may be some valid questions raised that can help others to learn, right?
But when people with experience in the field begin to offer thoughts and constructive critique, it can't be rejected outright. Instead, it must be carefully considered, reviewed and learned from.
If we can't accept correction, how will we expect to correct others in the course of enforcing the law?
If we can't challenge ourselves, how will we challenge others in our community to make improvements?
If we can't overcome hurt feelings, how will we ever effectively adapt and overcome our areas of weakness.
Improvement starts with a willing mind that is open to honest critique. If you want to be the best police officer you can be, you'll learn to value you Monday as much as Sunday.