Critical Incident Stress Management

Editors Note: The following is an article from Robert F. Rabe who has 38 years of Law enforcement experience, and has been involved in Critical Incident Stress Management for over 20 years.

A college professor once asked the class, “how heavy is a glass of water?”  The professor received several answers but the professor replied, “the weight doesn’t matter, it depends on long you try to hold it…the longer you hold it the heavier it becomes…that is until you put it down and rest.”  Stress is the same way.  If we carry stress especially after a critical incident the stress can become increasingly heavy, if not dealt with properly.  The stress may lead to a crisis.  According to the Chinese symbol for crisis it is made up from two other symbols which are danger and opportunity (see graphic on this page).  We can collapse under the weight of the crisis (danger) or we can learn to develop new skills (opportunity) to meet it head on.  Dr. Jeffrey Mitchell is the founder of Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) and the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation.  In the early 1980’s, Dr. Mitchell, who was a firefighter/paramedic, found that after a critical incident, his peers demonstrated difficulty coping with the stress.  He studied their reactions and developed CISM, which is now a worldwide program. The purpose of this article is to provide to help law enforcement personnel, better understand and cope with reactions following involvement in critical incidents.

CRITICAL INCIDENT STRESS MANAGEMENT
CISM is a comprehensive, organized approach for the reduction… Continue reading

Our Honorable Profession

On New Year’s Day, I received a telephone call from a good friend who is one of New York’s Finest. I will refer to him as Officer X to protect his anonymity.

Officer X wanted to talk for a while. The N.Y.P.D. recently lost a well-known police officer Peter Figoski who was murdered on duty in December. The news broke on Saturday that A.T.F. Special Agent, John Capano died while stopping a pharmacy robbery on Long Island, N.Y. Officer X was really down and frustrated with the public. His frustration was people do not respect the police or the military like they used to. The increase in violence against cops over the last several years is really starting to hit home for Officer X. Add in the fact he is approaching the 10 year point as a cop, he works the day in-day out daily grind, the tragic events and people he… Continue reading

A Stress Management Prescription for Law Enforcement and Police Officers

Stress and all the physiological impacts it has upon a law enforcement officer’s body and mind are a major contributing factor to many of the ills that befall police officers and other law enforcement professionals.  Even though this article is written using the term police officer, it isn’t meant to exclude other law enforcement professionals like deputy sheriffs, corrections officers, parole officers, probation officers, DA’s investigators, dispatchers, CSI’s, code enforcement officers, wildlife officers, park rangers, etc.  The problems of stress seem inherent in the law enforcement profession in general and no one seems immune to its toxic effects.

The Law Enforcement Survival Institute offers a prescription for law enforcement stress management called “Rx3x”.  The prescription (Rx) is for stress management activities three times (3x) a day.  The Rx3x process calls for a combination of mind and body exercises to reduce and manage excessive stress on days when a law enforcement officer or other professional is working.  The process calls for:

1. A Physical Fitness Workout of 30-45 min each day focused upon building strength and aerobic fitness;
2.  A Buffer Workout for Stress Reduction (20-30 min) between the work and home transition; and
3.  A Stress Management Session (20-30 min) later in the day focused upon reducing mental stress.

A career in law enforcement can become very toxic… Continue reading

2011 US National Suicide Prevention Week

Editors Note: CopsAlive was created to prompt discussions within our profession about important issues like police officer suicide, and we invite you to share your thoughts and opinions in the Comment Box that is at the bottom of this article.

Today begins National Suicide Prevention Week in the U.S. which runs from Sunday through Saturday preceding World Suicide Prevention Day on Saturday September 10th.

No matter who’s statistics you consider on the issue of police suicide, police officer suicides are a major problem worldwide.  We invite you to discuss this problem within your agency and we have provided a roll call discussion guide at the end of this article.

The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Federation for Mental Health, is hosting World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10th, 2011. This year’s theme is “Changing the Legacy of Suicide,” and will focus on raising awareness that suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death on a global level. Governments need to develop policy frameworks for national suicide prevention strategies. At the local level, policy statements and research outcomes need to be… Continue reading

The West Coast Posttrauma Retreat

Editors Note: This is a guest article written by Anne Bisek, Psy.D. about the activities of the West Coast Posttrauma Retreat.  They are trying to learn more about PTSD and how it affects law enforcement officers and other first responders.  Please help them out by taking their online survey and maybe referring someone you know to them for assistance.

Pedro sat in front of his computer, when Jay snuck up from behind him with a can of jalapeño flavored jelly beans.

“What the –?” Pedro gasped.
Jay laughed.  “You gotta try one of these. Hey, what are you doing? That looks like Survey Monkey.”

Pedro grabbed the jar away from his colleague, a veteran of the police department for 9 years.  “You are going to hurt someone with that.”
Inside, Pedro breathed a sigh of relief. This was the first halfhearted attempt at a practical joke he had seen from his friend in months.  Since the last SIDS call, Jay had lost his usual spunk, and was less interested in the banter at the office.

“Yes, this is Survey Monkey. I am filling out a questionnaire for a group called the West Coast Posttrauma Retreat.  They are developing a new questionnaire for PTSD because the current ones are normed on civilians and don’t fit us cops.”

“So you have PTSD?” Jay asked hesitantly.
“That is not the point.  WCPR needs a lot of cops to fill this out because what is normal to us isn’t normal to the general population.  The measure will also be able to… Continue reading

The Importance of Sleep to Police Officers

As a Cop, Do You Get Enough Sleep?

The issues of fatigue and poor sleep quality are become more and more important to effective law enforcement management.  Police managers, supervisors and officers, need to be aware of the issues and liabilities that surround officers who are fatigued at work, and how that might affect their job performance.  Individual officers need to be responsible for insuring that they are properly rested and ready for work.  Effective stress management and proper sleep habits work hand in hand and law enforcement professional need to know how to care for themselves as well as they care for their communities.

In his article “Sleep Deprivation: What Does It Mean for Public Safety Officers?”, written for the National Institute of Justice Office of Justice Programs, Brian Vila, Ph.D. cited that
“More than 90 percent report being routinely fatigued, and 85 percent report driving while drowsy.”  He also suggested that “Sleep deprivation is dangerous. Researchers have shown that being awake for 19 hours produces impairments that are comparable to… Continue reading

Stress Reduction Program for Police Officers and Other Law Enforcement Professionals

I had an interesting opportunity this week to interview an expert on the subject of police stress reduction, which is an excellent followup to our articles on the problems of police suicide and the other toxic side effects of a career in law enforcement.

Professor Edward LeClair has been a criminal justice professional since1969. During the last 15 years, working with dozens of police departments in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Professor LeClair has researched, designed and implemented the Law Enforcement Officer Stress Reduction Program with unique training based upon gender and sexual assault investigators stress reduction.

The police training was the outgrowth of Professor LeClair’s unique training as an intern at the Mindful Based Stress Reduction at the University of Massachusetts Worchester Medical Center, which was under the direction of John Kabat-Zinn, PhD; and the published medical research on the “Relaxation Response” by Herbert Benson, MD, from Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

As mentioned above Professor LeClair has found that the stress response is different for male officers and female police officers which is one of the things we talked about in our interview. Here are some things… Continue reading

Police Officer Builds a New Life after Suicide Attempt

CopsAlive was honored this week to be able to interview a police officer who attempted suicide and survived, and has maintained their career. This is critical to our discussion about wellness in law enforcement because we have a problem in our industry that we need to fix. Statistics indicate that somewhere between 2-6 times more officers kill themselves each year than are murdered in the line of duty. Police officer suicides are an issue that is long overdue for serious discussion within our profession.

It seems that the person who is best suited to describe this problem is someone who has been there, and lived through the depression leading up to a suicide attempt. Officer Kathleen Graves of the Seattle Police Department is just such a person, who after a lifetime of battling chronic pain, an addiction to pain killers, and bouts with depression, attempted to take her own life a little over a year ago. She created an elaborate plan to give away all of her worldly belongings, including her beloved dog, and even checked into a hotel room under an assumed name. She chose a hotel outside of her own jurisdiction to avoid traumatizing her peers, then she took a massive amount of pain killers. When she realized she hadn’t died, she took even more pills but was found by her rescuers before they could kill her. Her story is fascinating, and even more crucial for other officers to hear, because she was rescued, despite her own efforts to hide from her rescuers, and has been able to rebuild her life and her career. It is a remarkable story of tragedy and triumph. It is also a great starting point for an informed discussion about police officer suicides.

You can CLICK the play button here to listen to our 55 minute interview:

Or you can download the 10 MB mp3 file by using a RIGHT CLICK HERE to start the download (that’s CONTROL CLICK if you use a Mac then SAVE LINK AS…) of a copy of the mp3 file.

In our interview you will hear Officer Graves, a 14 year veteran, talk about her battles with chronic pain; her struggle with depression (a condition faced by many police veterans) and her feeling of burnout. She describes… Continue reading

Police Suicides Finally Make Front Page News


Thanks to American Police Beat and the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association for putting the issue of police officer suicides on the “front page”.  On the front page of their February 2011 edition, American Police Beat magazine features an article by Gary Delagnes the president of the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association entitled: “We need to talk about suicides”.

Police officer suicides are an issue that is long since overdue for serious discussion within our profession.  We need active discussion, awareness training and action because If we don’t care about it, who will.  We are leaving a legacy for our police families to deal with because we are too ignorant or afraid to handle the fact that more of our brothers and sisters are falling at their own hands than are being murdered in the line of duty.  This is an issue that should be discussed in Command Staff meetings as much as in Roll Call sessions about the world.  CLICK HERE for a copy of our Roll Call discussion guide.

The Problem

Statistics indicate that somewhere between 2-6 times more officers kill themselves each year than are killed by the bad guys.

A quarter of female police officers and nearly as many male officers assigned to shift work had thought about taking their own lives, a study of police work patterns and stress has shown*.

What to Do?

We Need to Discuss This Topic Now.  It should be a part of Roll Call Training and at every level of your organization.  We should ask:

Did You Know Someone Who Committed Suicide?
Have You Ever Contemplated Suicide Yourself?
How Should We Help Someone We Think May Be Contemplating Suicide?

Possible Warning Signs of Impending Suicide** Continue reading

Great Article for Police Officers on Beating the Holiday Blues

Here is a link to a great article on “Beating the Holiday Blues” by Dr. Beverly Anderson from “Gift From Within- PTSD Resources for Survivors & Caregivers”.

“COP TALK: Beating the Holiday Blues”
by Dr. Beverly Anderson
http://www.giftfromwithin.org/html/beating-the-holiday-blues.html

Dr. Anderson is the Clinical Director/Administrator of the Metropolitan Police Employee Assistance Program (MPEAP) in Washington, DC.

Have a Safe and Healthy Holiday Season!

CopsAlive.com was founded to provide information and strategies to help police officers successfully survive their careers.  We help law enforcement officers and their agencies prepare for the risks that threaten their existence.

We do this by Helping Law Enforcement professionals plan for happy, healthy and successful lives on the job and beyond.  We think the best strategy is for each officer to create a tactical plan for their own life and career.

The Law Enforcement Survival Institute (LESI) works with individuals and organizations to help them create and sustain success in their lives and careers as law enforcement professionals.  It is the primary goal of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute to become the preeminent source for training, resources and information about how to create and sustain a happy, healthy and successful life and career while providing superior law enforcement service to your community.