Discussions on forums, facebook, etc. seem to hit the same topics, sparking much debate and emotion. I thought that maybe summarizing a few of these things could help to prepare new RLSH or someone on the fence, contemplating “joining up.”
We spend a lot of time hashing over the risks of becoming part of this community. First thought may be Bodily Harm. How will you protect yourself, your team members, and private citizens from getting physically wounded? First Aid/CPR Training, Self-Awareness, Self-Defense, Conflict Resolution, Non-Violent Alternatives and Redirection… where you begin is your choice. Ideally it’s a good idea to find a mentor, regardless of your age or skill level, master a few of these concepts or others that appeal to you, practice them until they become second nature to you, share your knowledge if you are a seasoned or highly trained professional, and incorporate them into a team dynamic. That may not be practical: Independent study may be your most realistic option, but some kind of training is very essential and encouraged. Youth under 18 are especially urged to seek a mentor. Check out some of the RLSH/X-Alt sites and talk to people. We want you to reach your potential, support you in your efforts to help others, and most importantly to be safe in your pursuits. There are wise people putting together extremely valuable information and groups to help you; please ask if you are interested in becoming involved.
Another identified risk involves possible reveal of Secret Identity. If your Secret Identity is revealed would it endanger your loved ones? Would you possibly face repercussions from those who want retribution for spoiling their plans, possibly those you assisted in incarcerating? Would you be afraid of looking foolish or worry that it could threaten your employment? Anyone with young children who may be at risk of a custody battle will undoubtedly have their status as RLSH/X-Alt brought to public light. Are you ready for that? These are legitimate concerns. Maybe you don’t need a Secret Identity. There is no “rule.” If such things are a concern, perhaps you could focus more heavily on outreach vs. crime prevention.
Weaponry and Uniform alternatives are plentiful and to be most effective, you need to know what your legal restrictions are for your state, or others if you travel out of state for meet-ups. It’s no secret that I don’t carrying common weapons, though I am trained to use a variety of them. I will not tell another person that this is “wrong” if they feel they need a weapon for protection. I do what I feel is best for me, and the area(s) that I may patrol. I live in Minnesota now, but even on the streets of Boston, I did not carry weaponry. That was my personal choice and someday my choice may change. Just please know what is or is not legal, and whatever your choice, make sure it abides by the laws of that state.
Also be aware of how you are perceived and present yourself accordingly. Like it or no, if you do present yourself in public and are recognized, you just became a role model, and have added that responsibility to your duties. Those who do not champion for public causes but instead focus on crime prevention and avoid the public eye may have a totally different presentation than outreach-based counterparts. I suggest being aware of what your focus will be and considering that before choosing your name and uniform.
Please, realize these are just my personal opinions, and I’m in no way saying I’m right and someone else is wrong. I don’t want to start an argument or debate. I just want you, the potential newbie, to know what you may encounter and what you might want to think about before moving forward.
If you are considering a future as a RLSH/X-Alt, you must weigh all the risks as well as the benefits, and, oh yes, the benefits can be plentiful and wonderful! It’s a huge step, but there are many established folk here with a variety of skills and experiences to guide and support you if you are willing to prepare yourself for the challenge, and if it is truly in your heart. “What I am looking for is not out there; it is in me.” –Helen Keller.
If it is in you… Welcome!