a Better Cop program also accepts the proposition that solid mental health enhances
performance. So, as the Probationer advances
though each Field Training and Evaluation Process Step with their MPC’s, the
psychologist can assist by developing concrete statements to pass on to the Probationer
to provide stress inoculation and protective
strategies to protect them from becoming overwhelmed with the sensory mix of
sights, sounds and smells that are a daily part of police work. The Field Training
and Evaluation Process is
not a glorified ride-a-long. It is
training at-the-speed-of-life to produce the finest officers that can be entrusted
to solo patrol; so, what are these stress inoculation strategies and how can the
MPC prepare the probationer for the worst?
The MPC not
only trains the probationer
to become a cop as a long term-career but be aware of all the “firsts” that will
confront the neophyte Officer during the formative initial two years on the
the frame-of-reference in
order to process fatal crashes, suicides, homicides new and old, missing
persons, dead bodies in general, humans screaming in pain, the smell of
decomposing flesh, interpersonal violence cases, injured and deadchildren, death
notifications, drug overdoses, conflict in the officer’s own family--and the
list goes on in the tsunami of humans at their worse.
First are old
school responses to death,
conflict, and the everyday horrors that can occur on the job. Most experienced
police officers have heard
the following from their Field Training Officers: back-in-the day or from
someone in the department.
it up! What did you think you were going to see?”
is the job, handle it or move
on to another career.”
show weakness, the bad guys can
your feelings and reactions
down, that’s the only way to survive this job”
it up, there’s no crying in law
enforcement”. This female Probationer committed
suicide pre-shift in the department’s armory.
Litigation against the department followed and the department was partially
liable, based on this statement alone.
embarrass yourself or me with
your overreaction. Dead bodies are part
of what we handle. Get used to it.”
OIS was legit, quit worrying
and useful mentally
healthy language provided by an experienced mental health professional with the
training and permission of the MPC
can assist in altering the quality of the Probationers and eventually the
independent cop’s career for the long term.
Now if the
Master Police Coach changes
the above statements to these healthier alternatives we can expect less,
maladaptive behaviors, negative emotional states, and faulty thinking.
Here is some
language that the MPC can
use to train the Probationer to handle these difficult, but common situations
which will help protect Probationers from getting overwhelmed, stressed,
depressed, anxious or getting full blown Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI).
After a probationer
sees their first
dead body, the MPC might say, Wow, the
first time I saw a dead body not at a funeral, I barfed at the side of the
At my first autopsy, I fainted, so be prepared
to have strong feelings. This is a
normal reaction. As you continue in law enforcement, you will
build up some defenses. However, you
never want to be reaction free, we don’t want you to be a robot, just a caring
Time and experience
will help you accept
these things. However, they will change
you. We all have changed. Expect
it and inoculate yourself against
Peer Support, private therapy, and chaplaincy programs freely. All effective
and forward thinking Probationers
do this now. This is the best way to
protect us from becoming sick. Do it for
yourself and your family
recommend you, like me, go for an Annual Mental Health Check-in. This will give
you a known therapist to turn
to when things get overwhelming, and they will.
This job changes you. You will
see the worst of human behavior. We have
to inoculate ourselves before we break down, become depressed, have panic
attacks, rely upon alcohol and drugs to numb us or from developing PTSI.”
develop PTSI, not from a
single incident, but from multiple incidents over time. These are traumatic
events that are life
threatening, dramatic and terrifying, like those examples described above.
though, stress is what you will experience daily, related to internal
department practices, problems with peers or superiors and other political
situations that you have no control over.
are what sour the job for many. I hope
you are comfortable enough with me or one of your other Field Training Officers
to come to us and talk about these pressures.
is, and will continue,
to change in multiple ways over the next decade. The combination of the Police
and the Master Police Coach is a new approachand we are on the forefront of
making policing a career of integrity, ethics, health, and safety for officers
and the public they protect and serve.
Badge of Life
(2008) Police Suicide
Prevention Program-The Annual Mental
Health Check-In.) Clark, Ronald, and
Commission on Police Officer
Standards and Training (2014) Police
Officer Psychological Screening Manual.
Chief Magazine (January,
2002) The Law Enforcement Candidate
Ride-Along: A Supplemental Selection Tool by Bruce A. Sokolove and Mark W.
& Dodson, J.D.
(1908). The relation of strength of
stimulus to rapidity of habit-formation.
Journal of Comparative Neurology and Psychology, 450-482.
Friedman Psy.D PC is a national police trainer, author, program developer for
law enforcement, executive board member at Badge
of Lifeand Chief Psychologist at
Field Training Associates. She also
maintains a full time therapy practice in Wheaton IL. Do not hesitate to contact