Today’s Investigative Special Report – October 1, 2012 “Dealing With Today’s Law Enforcement Specialized Investigations” “In The Red Zone – Law Enforcement’s Managing Stress”

By Lawrence W. Daly
Forensic Expert Senior Author
President George W. Bush signs the Law Enforce...
President George W. Bush signs the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, June 22, 2004 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The ever demanding responsibilities and conflicts which law enforcement officers deal with on a daily basis on and off the job places them in “The Red Zone.” The amount of stress officer’s face may not be initially apparent, but over a period of days, months, and years, the wear and tear of the job may add up to psychological and physical ailments.
Most law enforcement agencies have developed and created employee programs where an officer can request their agency for a referral to specialized professional who provide services to deal with their personal and professional issues. These experts and professionals who specialize with law enforcement issues can resolve the conflicts and stress the officer may be dealing with.
On the job law enforcement officers deal with a multitude of scenarios which can impact them psychologically and physically. Responding to a call, which involves violence and death can and may take a toll on an officer’s mental and emotional ability to deal with the ever-cyclical nature of the job.  Being placed in “The Red Zone” from the beginning of the shift until the officer completes his daily tour can be a situation where the officer has emotional and mental highs and lows. One minute the officer maybe having coffee and the next minute is in pursuit of an individual who just robbed the local grocery store and shot the clerk.
The adrenaline rush the officer deals with can create physical ailments no matter how long the officer has been on the job. The adrenaline rushes may cause hyper-tension, anxiety, high blood pressure issues, and a list of other physical ailments.
An officer can manage the adrenaline rushes when they enter “The Red Zone” by being in good physical condition. Leaving the issues surrounding the job at the law enforcement agency is psychologically and emotionally healthy. Unfortunately, it is difficult to turn on the job when they walk into the agency and then upon leaving the job at the end of their daily tour shut off what happened during the day’s events.
If an officer does not properly manage their psychological, emotional, and physical conditions then each time they deal with a stressful situation this places them one-step closer to a deterioration of their psychic and physical abilities to deal with the job.
Many law enforcement officers mask the wear and tear the job may be affecting on them. It is rare for an officer to wear their emotions on their shirt sleeves. Most officers generally keep the problems they are dealing with internally. Their fellow officers may never know their co-worker is dealing with emotional and mental issues until the officer can no longer handle the job.
In 1
Seal of the United States Department of Justice
Seal of the United States Department of Justice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
996 the US Department of Justice created the Law Enforcement Stress Management Training. The purpose of this training program was to provide officers with the resources needed for managing reactions to situations which occur on and off the job.
Their findings concluded that most law enforcement officers do not trust or use the city-county type programs which can be a benefit to their families and themselves. One of the biggest concerns is the role of the professional who would assist them with their individual problems and then keep the information confidential. Confidentially was a major concern by the officer that in sharing their problems with the professional the city-county law enforcement agencies provide would not remain in the confines of their relationship with the professional.
The US Department of Justice recommended a variety of steps these programs could probed to the officer in order to manage their reactions to their job. They are:
1.      To provide a confidential, specialized approach to treating and reducing stress for officer’s and their families, and to improve their ability to cope with stress on their own (most officer’s do not-trust-or use-city or county programs).
2.      To increase officer morale and productivity
3.      To increase the agency’s overall efficiency and effectiveness
4.      To reduce the number of early retirements and worker’s compensation claims due to stress-related disabilities
5.      To reduce the number of on-the –job accidents
6.      To reduce the potential for civil liability due to officer’s stress-related inappropriate behavior
7.      To reduce negative media attention
8.      To improve the general well-being of police families.
Here are some of the individual coping and prevention strategies outlined in that government proposal.
1.      Learning skills to be as effective as possible in handling what are already stressful situation per se, such as domestic violence, serious traffic accidents, shootings, death notification, and dealing with suicidal and mentally ill individuals.
2.      Understanding human behavior and the psychological processes relevant to police work so that officers can recognize when their own reactions should be seen as normal, or as not normal.
3.      Maintaining physical health and well-being through diet and exercise
4.      Increasing body awareness and relaxation through biofeedback, meditation, or yoga
5.      Managing anger
6.      Learning to communicate effectively with family members, peers, 
Brain cell(s)
Brain cell(s) (Photo credit: jepoirrier)
supervisors, and citizens.
7.      Restructuring attitudes or thoughts that contribute to stress planning his/her career.
If law enforcement officers take the above strategies when coming into “The Red Zone” their longevity on the job will be positively affected. The training by law enforcement agencies need to make the above recommendations a daily priority. One troubled incident that an officer may face may affect the manner in which the officer performs their job thereafter.
In any given situation an officer may fail to deal with it psychologically and physically. In apprehending a perpetrator the officer may physically be hurt, but may keep the injury to themselves in fear that it may be seen as a sign of weakness by other officers and the administration.
In any given situation an officer may walk into a situation where a child has been injured or killed and the officer may have a child of the same age. These types of situations may be difficult for the officer to separate his personal feelings from his professional responsibilities.
The mental strategies an officer utilizes in any given situation has to prevent them from becoming personally involved with the scenario. The officer may find themselves in a situation where they have never seen a dead person who has been brutally murdered or respond to a situation where the situation may trigger memories of their childhood or current personal situation.
When an officer enters “The Red Zone” the type of stress and anxiety the officer will be different, each situation affecting them in different ways and the need to deal with the situation at the time and later after their tour ends.
It isn’t easy to turn on and off the feelings an officer may feel. If they carry the mixed emotions they are dealing with the officer’s life may be turned upside down where the end result of the relationship they have with their spouse, partner, children, family and friends is grossly exaggerated and cause disharmony. These types of scenarios do happen in any job but is a major aspect of being a law enforcement officer.
The methods and techniques an officer utilizes to deal with the highs and the lows will determine if they will be a ‘lifer’ or ‘short-timer’. Being a law enforcement officer is one of the most difficult jobs to perform. However, it is a job which is rewarding in that it provides many opportunities to deal with citizens in the community they work and live in. Further, there is satisfaction when the officer assists a victim of a crime and apprehends a perpetrator who has stolen or damaged someone’s property or hurt, injured, or murdered someone.
English: The Blue and Black ribbon is wore to ...
English: The Blue and Black ribbon is wore to support local law enforcement agencies. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If an officer cannot deal with the tragedies that occur in “The Red Zone” they may deal with substance abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, heart attacks, PTSD, and so many other potential psychological and physiology ailments.
Law enforcement agencies have taken great strides in dealing with the psychological and physiology difficulties officers have on a daily basis. Each day professionals who work in the field of assisting law enforcements continue to generate and create new methods and techniques which will eventually assist officers with dealing with those who work in and out of “The Red Zone.”


                       Lawrence W. Daly
Kent, WA

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