Police and PTSD

imagesThe Emotional Life of Police

It was my life-long passion for the art of policing that moved me to write Arrested Development.” However, with that passion came many mistakes and bad decisions. Reflecting back, I wrote this in the Epilogue of my book:

   “Is there anything I wished I had done differently along the way? Of course—who doesn’t wish life had a re-wind button? I literally grew up and into this job. I had my share of struggles.

            “My life as a chief would have been easier if I had learned and practiced the following earlier in my career:

  • Listening more,
  • Speaking less,
  • Managing more by walking around,
  • Working more closely with the police union,
  • Knowing more about the personal lives of my employees

             “On this last point, there is no way police officers can leave their personal lives in their lockers when they come to work and strap on a gun. I wish I had more understanding and empathy when my officers were suffering from depression, a divorce, or a death in the family…

            “Every transformational police leader pays a personal cost trying to make a bold vision become a reality. Whether or not this can be avoided by a future generation of leaders remains to be seen. Perhaps what I have suggested about paying attention not only to the interior lives of my officers, but my own as well, may help. In my own case, my survival depended on maintaining my physical health, exercise, balancing work and family, and having social, recreational and intellectual interests outside the police. This is because the subculture of police is very powerful and can easily subvert the finest intentions—even the moral structure—of its practitioners, if it isn’t recognized and controlled.”

In light of this, I recently ran across the following article by Hal Brown titled, “The Effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder on the Officer. ” It was on the website of The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress,® a multidisciplinary network of professionals who are committed to the advancement of intervention for survivors of trauma. The Academy aims to identify expertise among professionals, across disciplines, and provide standards for those who provide intervention to survivors of traumatic events.

Brown’s article is worth reading along with Laurence Miller’s . It is necessary for all police leaders to be able to recognize symptoms of PTSD and be an active support person for those among them who have these indicators and symptoms and encourage affected officers to pursue treatment. Doing nothing will not only endanger an officer’s job, but also their present and future relationships outside of policing.

Recently, a very moving blog was posted regarding the personal story of a police officer who experienced severe trauma after a young woman with whom he was working to help was brutally slain. To read this blog, CLICK HERE.