A Gift to Cops from CopsAlive During National Police Week

Our mission at Cops Alive is “Saving the lives of the people who save lives.” I’ve shared many times about the many hidden dangers of law enforcement. We’re reminded of the 73 officers murdered each year, but we rarely acknowledge the 400 plus officers who take their own lives each year by suicide.

The list of stressors that lead cops to commit suicide is long, but one that certainly plagues a great number of us is stress and worry about money. Financial mismanagement does not always lead to suicide, but it’s definitely a contributor.

We train hard and allocate resources to shooting and unarmed tactics, yet ignore the more probable risk factors like alcohol abuse, marital problems and personal finance issues. Stress at home distracts cops from doing their job effectively, opening them up to greater risks on the streets.

We ought to use the same strategies to manage the hidden risks that we do to plan tactical situations. For example, imagine how… Continue reading

Preparing for the Weather

Many of my peers have an annual ritual of poking fun at me in the late fall when I break out the “light” long johns or undergarments as they are referred to today. Many of the younger and inexperienced officers give me a grin when I explain the benefits of dressing appropriately when we are on duty outside or in the cruiser. They learn the hard way like I did years ago. Many sections of our town have open spaces along the roadways and state highway which comes though and nothing is more of an attention getter than freezing your tail off while working a vehicle crash, backing up another L.E.O. and other duties and you are exposed to the elements and the wind.
When you dress for duty, do you dress for the outdoors?

What if you get stuck in a situation you are outdoors like a crowd control situation, a building fire, a traffic control post, chasing a suspect or looking for a lost person?
Dressing for duty is vital for your health and well-being. Along with our ballistic vest and the issued equipment that we must wear, please consider wearing… Continue reading

The Tactical Lunch Bag: Healthy Eating-Law Enforcement Style

As we finish the first couple of months of the New Year, many of us are adjusting to our committed changes we have made for a healthier 2012.

One area which can make a huge difference in our wellness program is our eating when on duty.
• Do you have a plan for your meals at work?
• Do you succumb to the quick and easy fix of fast food or easy to grab snack foods when we are ravenous?
• Do you constantly pick at food that people offer?

I used to be one of the officers who would spend quite a bit of money on junk food and eating crap while on duty. I felt like crap and it was no secret as I weighed over 350 pounds trying to do this job. My body ached, my demeanor was not nice and I was miserable. I was fortunate many years ago when I slowly decided to change the way I was eating and start exercising. I indicated several weeks ago, I am in the best shape of my life today as I slowly approach the age of 50.

A great part of my success keeping the weight off has been planning out my meals when I have to work. It sounds complicated but it is simple when… Continue reading

Code 9 Officer Needs Assistance Meets Their Fund Raising Goal

Thank you to all of our readers and congratulations to Deborah Louise Ortiz and everyone involved in the “Code 9 Officer Needs Assistance” film project. The producers have reached their $25,000 fund raising goal five days early. This will allow them to move forward with the completion of the film.

The film is being produced to help law enforcement officers survive the rigors of their very stressful careers. This powerful documentary explores the darker side… Continue reading

Police officers and SLEEP: “O.K. so like…What’s that?”

In December 2011, a study was released by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston which reported that about 40% of police officers in the U.S. have a sleep disorder. From my experience over the past 27 years as a cop, my thought is this: “TELL ME SOMETHING, I DON’T ALREADY KNOW”. Seriously, I am thrilled with this study as we are once again getting scientific facts which will help our profession advocate for better working conditions.

Dr. Bryan Vila in his book: TIRED COPS has already been educating us on this serious issue.

As law enforcement officers know most of our duty time is during the night hours. I worked midnights for many years and I can tell anyone first hand that it was tough especially during those shift hours between 0300 to 0600 when we as human beings have a natural dip to fade physically as our human biological clock tell us we should be sleeping. We have other cops who work swing shifts, rotating shifts, 10-12 and some 16 hour shifts. Unbelievable!

The conflict is the public we serve and police administrators expect us to be bright eyed and bushy tailed during these hours. Put on top of this expectation: rotating shift schedules, forced overtime shifts, court appearances and training are some of the professional conflicts that police officers face. This contributes to the problem. I mean let’s face it; there are very few court sessions or in-service training being held during the night time hours with an exception of the large communities or agencies.

Contributing to this problem is… Continue reading

Mental Health & Peer Support in Law Enforcement

Editors Note: In the following article Officer Jeff Watson discusses the need for integrated mental health services and appropriate peer support programs for all law enforcement officers.  Officer Watson has 12 years of civilian Law enforcement experience, and is currently working towards state licensure as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor specializing in P.T.S.D. and Trauma. He is also currently working towards a Doctorate in Organizational Leadership.

Since 1974, there have only been a handful of research studies in law enforcement about peer support. Most of the studies focused on one particular department and did not encompass additional data. Growing up, I didn’t value mental health services and had several slag terms for individuals employed in the mental health profession.

I always had a sense of wanderlust and I left home as soon as I graduated. I set off to find adventure in the military and as a military veteran I assumed I had all the tools I needed to survive a career in law enforcement. I was sorely mistaken. Several years into my law enforcement career I decided to go back to college, using my G.I. Bill. While sitting in the mandatory General Psychology class, everything started to make sense. I finally started to understand the criminals we came into contact with, my coworkers and more importantly myself. That was the start of my psychological journey.

I was determined to pursue psychology as a major and went on to graduate school, majoring in Mental Health Counseling, which will eventually lead to licensure. Like those before me, my goal is to open a mental health counseling practice to focus on law enforcement and first responders. As part of my internship, I trained at a local community mental health facility where I gained clinical experience. During my time at the facility, I gained valuable insight into how a civilian organization operated and their assumptions about what law enforcement can and can’t do.

I have dedicated the last 10 years of my life as an “agent of change” in hopes to “normalize” mental health in law enforcement. Since then, I have moved to a doctorate program in education. My dissertation is to design and implement a mental health counseling program which can be embedded into any law enforcement department.

Having said that the following are things I’ve learned during my time in law enforcement. The law enforcement profession does not hold mental health professionals in high regard. Historically speaking, mental health professionals were the last stop before a law enforcement officer was fired, suspended or had their firearm officially taken from them.

The law enforcement profession frowns upon showing any form of emotion. Law enforcement officers, collectively, do not have resources to turn to when they are in need of mental health services. Law Enforcement is a male dominated career field. Contemporary society has unwritten norms about men and emotions, especially crying. As with most men, law enforcement officers are no exception. Most male law enforcement officers do not show any visible signs of weakness, which is a way of maintaining credibility with their peers.

As with any population having difficulty with emotions, law enforcement officers frequently internalize their emotions and do not seek assistance, as seeking assistance can be viewed as a sign of weakness. Due to the lack of perceived mental health support systems, there is a higher rate of suicide… Continue reading

Take Care of Our Own

I recently had the pleasure to talk with Chris Allen the President of Hunting For Heroes a unique organization that is helping disabled police officers connect with other officers in similar situations and give back to them some hope, some joy and even in some cases a sense of purpose again.

Founded in 2010 by two active duty law enforcement officers, Hunting For Heroes (H4H) reaches out to officers across the country to connect them with other officers who have sustained life altering injuries. H4H provides a hunting camp environment where officers and their families are able to step away from daily struggles and enjoy time outdoors.

Hunting for Heroes actually began as hunting television show. The founders, Chris Allen and Chuck Bowles, were police officers in the St. Louis, Missouri area and were both avid hunters. They were working on a hunting television show working with both the law enforcement and police angles. As the show concept was being developed, the talk of hosting a charity hunt was presented.

We then began to search out those organizations that were taking care of our disabled law enforcement officers. Only to find out there were NONE. We could not find one organization that was providing services specifically… Continue reading

Can You See Me Now? Traffic Safety for Cops!

A shocking incident occurred here west of Boston last week. We had our first snow storm since Mother Nature threw us for a curve with the October snow storm. Snow storms on a Saturday morning within our community mean traffic crashes, lots of them.

As I was standing on our state highway assisting at a vehicle rollover, I am surprised how we as police officers become possible hazards during these times of reduced visibility. I wore my bright high visible safety rain jacket and I have noticed recently that the firefighters are now wearing a high visibility safety vest over their turnout jackets at motor vehicle crashes and roadway incidents.

We have heard of many tragedies over the years of public safety personnel being struck by vehicles while assisting at crashes, directing traffic or staffing a road detour.
Some of these are planned operations and there is time to prepare and deploy the… Continue reading

Code 9 Officer Needs Assistance

This is just the trailer for “Code 9 Officer Needs Assistance” a new film being produced to help law enforcement officers survive the rigors of their very stressful careers. This powerful documentary explores the darker side of law enforcement as it documents the stories of police officers and their families who are now suffering the mental anguish of the careers they chose, which has led some to suicide.

You can find the above trailer or make a donation to help them finish the film by CLICKING HERE Note: Their Kickstarter campaign is an ALL OR NOTHING campaign and what that means is if they do not reach their goal of raising $25,000 dollars by March 3rd then they will not receive any of the money pledged. And that any one who makes a pledge will not be charged for their pledge unless they meet their fundraising goal. If they don’t reach their goal, then you will never be charged

One of the film’s producers, Deborah Louise Ortiz, is the wife of a retired state trooper. When her husband retired from his 22 year law enforcement career all of their dreams of how his retirement would and should be turned into nightmares. Little did they know that his years on the job would transform into the demons he still battles today. Deborah says that she did not understand what was happening to him and watching his downward spiral was heart wrenching and it has torn their family apart. After much pain and family trauma they now know that he suffers from job related Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

His story has inspired… Continue reading

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