We Need To Get Serious About Dealing With Addictions in Law Enforcement

Operational readiness and our ability to be “fit for duty” is critical on a daily basis in law enforcement and yet we don’t always do the preparatory and preventative things necessary to do to make that a reality.

We know that physical fitness is critical in law enforcement, that’s why we test for it when we hire new cops, and why some agencies still test for it annually.

We talk about understanding that mental fitness is important for law enforcement officers because we screen for it when we hire them but after that initial assessment we seem to go astray and never talk about mental fitness again until someone’s mental fitness is in question.

There is another component of fitness that we never deal with in law enforcement and that has to do with someone who isn’t considered fit for duty and may need to assistance. We seem to struggle and fein surprise that some of our own will stumble and have to deal with PTSD or substance abuse, or that they might mess up in their marriage or in their finances. When these things happen it seems that it is easier to set them on the curb with the trash rather than try to help or repair them. My question is “were there warning signs before things go so bad?”

If we did the same thing with our vehicles or firearms people would be aghast but when we do it with people, everyone seems to go along, grateful that it wasn’t happening to them.

My guest for this weeks interview, John Southworth, suggests that if a red warning light goes on in your car most people will take action to correct the problem before it gets worse. Most people believe that preventative maintenance is important for the vehicles but we don’t seem to have the same mentality when it comes to taking care of our cops.

John suggested the Warning Signs for human beings in trouble are relatively simple:

Watch their:
1. Behaviors
2. Attitude
3. Achievement
4. Attendance

If one or more of these things changes then you should be looking closer for a cause and asking more questions.

I heard about Southworth Associates from our good friends at Safe Call Now and this week we did an interview with their President, John Southworth.

John has had both personal and professional experiences in the field of substance abuse and mental health for more than 30 years.

John’s holds certification as an Alcohol and Drug Counselor (CADC) from The National Association of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Counselors (NAADAC). He is also a Nationally Certified Addictions Counselor (NCAC), and an Internationally Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor (ICAADC) (level) I. He hold membership in the International Certification and Reciprocity Consortium (ICRC) and also is a Board Registered Interventionist (level) II.

What all that doesn’t tell you is that many of the lessons John has learned in his lifetime he had to learn the hard way, and that he has now dedicated is life to helping others in a variety of industries including law enforcement.

Through his personal battle with addiction John learned that there is no cure for the disease, and that it can be fatal, if the appropriate education and steps to recovery are not taken. This knowledge is the driving force behind John’s motivation to educate others about addiction, and it also plays a major role in John’s continued sobriety of over 30 years.

The fact that John now works as an interventionist who uses a long-term followup system of case management gives him lots of first hand experience helping lots of people who are battling lots of different addictions, including police officers.

Some of his suggestions might seem outrageous such as the fact that treatment might need to last up to 12 weeks in order to be successful, not just the 30 days that insurance companies want you to believe. Or that we should utilize a case management system for up to five years to keep track of people who are trying to make major life changes and that it might take that long with the support of a case management system to not only hold them accountable but give them the support they need as well.

John is an interesting character but when you listen to our interview I think you will find that he has “been there” and now “walks his talk” with information that you can believe. I encourage you to spend 35 minutes and listen to our interview and then start a discussion at your agency about what you are going to do WHEN it happens to someone you know!

If you would like to listen to our 35 minute interview please click the replay button below or RIGHT CLICK HERE to download the 10 Mb file (that’s CONTROL CLICK if you use a Mac then SAVE LINK AS…) a copy of the mp3 file.

You can learn more about John and Southworth Associates as well as their intervention program at his website at:

If you need help you can contact John Southworth on their crisis hotline:

Or his personal mobile: 866-460-9014

The issue is not IF this is going to happen at your agency or to someone you know it’s a matter of WHEN it’s going to happen to you. Are you prepared to help a family member or one of your peers?

What if it’s you, will you be able to ask for help?

Don’t forget you can always call Safe Call Now as well at: 1-206-459-3020

Safe Call Now is a confidential, comprehensive, 24-hour crisis referral service for all public safety employees, all emergency services personnel and their family members nationwide. Safe Call Now provides education, healthy alternatives and resources to save lives and put families back together.

CopsAlive is written to prompt discussions within our profession about the issues of law enforcement career survival. We invite you to share your opinions, ask questions and suggest topics for us in the Comment Box that is at the bottom of this article.

At The Law Enforcement Survival Institute (LESI) we train law enforcement officers to cope with stress and manage all the toxic effects and hidden dangers of a career in law enforcement.

Our “Armor Your Self™: How to Survive a Career in Law Enforcement” on-site training program is an eight hour, hands-on, “How to” seminar that helps police officers and other law enforcement professionals armor themselves physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to survive their careers in police work. To learn more CLICK HERE

The concept of “True Blue Valor™” is where one law enforcement officer has to muster the courage to confront a peer who is slipping both professionally and personally and endangering themselves, their peers and the public. It takes a system of organizational support and professional leadership to support and foster the concept of courage and intervention. We will train your trainers to deliver this program to your agency.
To learn more CLICK HERE

Our “Armor Your Agency™: How to Create a Healthy and Supportive Law Enforcement Agency” Program includes critical strategies that you will need to build a system of support and encouragement for a healthy and productive agency. To learn more CLICK HERE

CLICK HERE to read more about The Law Enforcement Survival Institute.

CLICK HERE if you would like to contact us to learn more about training for your organization.

I’m John Marx, Founder of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute and the Editor of CopsAlive.com. Connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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. Thank you for reading!

About Editor

John Marx was a Police Officer for twenty-three years and served as a Hostage Negotiator for nineteen of those years. He worked as a patrol officer, media liaison officer, crime prevention officer and burglary detective. Also during his career he served as administrator of his city's Community Oriented Governance initiative through the police department's Community Policing project. Today John combines his skills to consult with businesses about improving both their security and their customer service programs. John retired from law enforcement in 2002. When one of his friends, also a former police officer, committed suicide at age 38, John was devastated and began researching the problems that stress creates for police officers. He decided he needed to do something to help change those problems and he wanted to give something back to the profession that gave him so much. He started a project that has evolved into CopsAlive.com. Put simply, the mission of CopsAlive is to save the lives of those who save lives! CopsAlive.com gathers information, strategies and tools to help law enforcement professionals plan for happy, healthy and successful careers, relationships and lives.
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