People continuously showing bad policing or videos of what LOOKs like bad policing are ignorant. There are always 3 sides to every video. And the thing is, these very people posting this shit would be the FIRST ones to scream if they were in a situation and caught on video that didn’t show the whole situation or they look like the bad guy.
No one is saying that we don’t need police reform. We do. And hell, I’ve been saying this for years. But the kind of reform we need looks like this:
- Better sleep hygiene for our officers, so their minds are fresh and can think clearly throughout their shift. There are a lot of studies based around sleep (or lack thereof) and how much a person needs in order to think properly. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute states “If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide, and risk-taking behavior.” (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency)
- Continuous mindset training, so they are always sharp and on their game. Mindset and mental toughness are a part of the job that few want to talk about, yet it is vital to the survival of the job. As simple as it is, just knowing how to control negative thoughts will have a major impact on officers. The public doesn’t realize it, but all first responders know that as a part of doing the job and seeing the negativity that they see, it will slowly skew their vision and make them a negative person if they are not highly trained on how to control their mind.
- Life Coaching held at the police department level. Every top performer in the world has a coach, the men and women who put their lives on the line every day, making split second life changing decisions, need someone on their side walking with them through the daily challenges. They also need to be able to talk to someone and process the trauma they see on a daily basis so that it does not create issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD, or suicide down the road.
- Mandated jujitsu classes, so they are skilled on the best hand-to-hand combat, making them less likely to reach for a tool on their belt. They will also learn how to maintain their composure when overloaded in a stressful situation. This is probably the second best tool (other than excellent communication and de- escalation skills) an officer can have. Many officers are not comfortable with their self-defense tactics because they are not highly trained in close quarter hands on combat. When they get into a confrontation they reach for a tool on their belt causing the situation to escalate. A skilled martial artist will breathe through the issue, use the other person’s body weight against them and can apprehend someone who is out of control (typically) without issue. This is not training that can be offered a couple times a year; officers must be training weekly in order to be effective.
- Mandated workouts at the end of shift for a minimum of 30 minutes, as this will help burn off the excessive stress hormones (cortisol) which occur when a person faces stressful situations. This also promotes better sleep and reduces the weight gain around a person’s midsection—a clear sign of excess cortisol (common in police officers).
- At least yearly psychological evaluations to help gauge where officers stand and if they are not fit for duty then let’s do what it takes to get them there. Merely having this requirement and nothing else listed above will not and has not solved the problem. As Dr Kevin Gilmartin put it: the problems with officers are biological not psychological yet we are treating them psychologically and expecting results.
- MORE training for our police—similar to what the military does to create top-notch warriors. Last year, Jocko Willink put out a video sharing how police officers need more training like the military, he stated he does not mean military training for the police, as they are totally different in their job purposes. However police need more extensive training. Jocko stated that his Navy Seals would go through 18 months of training and would do 8 hours or more of training based on one scenario. This would help take the emotion out of it for the officer (which would do the same for the person the officer is dealing with) and help officers handle situations routinely with systematic approaches across the board. For the video clip on Jocko, see https://video.foxnews.com/v/6166630898001#sp=show-clips
The problem is the unprecedented amount of stress our officers are going through—and the lack of support.
In order for this to sink in, let me put you in a scenario:
You are sleep deprived because you work all the time. When you do have time off, you mind doesn’t stop racing. And you have to go to work even while feeling exhausted. You’re emotionally drained because you had to pick up the pieces of a bad domestic dispute that left one of the people involved dead (while the children were in the house), all while you were answering hundreds of other calls that week. Your boss came down on you for something you said because you were frustrated and very emotional from the call I just described. Also, the public hates you. Everywhere you look on social media you see things that don’t represent who you are or why you signed up to do this job. You have a family to care for and your relationships with them are suffering right now as well. When you are off work, you have to somehow put all those things aside and try to be human.
How would you handle this? Could you even handle it?
You want your police officers to be happy and less aggressive? Support them.
Give them what they need to be high-level performers and function at the highest levels. It’s not defunding them, it’s funding the departments so they can have MORE officers and LESS “order-ins,” which equals more sleep. More officers would create space for departments to allow their officers to workout at the end of shifts, more money would allow for each department to hire a life coach so their officer’s mental and emotional well-being is intact. Consistent training on the topics listed above, and a life coach for the police department so every employee would have access to a professional who could help them with their mindsets, thoughts, and to help them navigate their lives more easily.
Many of you wouldn’t be able to function the way officers HAVE to every day. You would need counseling if you saw what police officers see and deal with daily, except cops can’t do that. Cops cannot go to counseling because they will get a bad rep. Then their PD might try to take their guns and badges. Not because they are actually suicidal but because they “are at high risk” to becoming that way.
Do you see how we are actually perpetuating the problem here?
All of this could have been avoided with the proper support of the police.
The police aren’t perfect, but the police need us now more than ever. And if we want to have officers who are high performers, who can easily navigate issues and function the way we expect them to, then we must give them the proper tools to do so.
Please note these strategies can easily be applied to all first responders, correctional officers and dispatch centers.
You can listen to Dr Gilmartin and Lt Col Davis Grossman talk about these points here on The Changing the Culture Podcast: https://changingtheculturefr.com/changing-the-culture-podcast/
About the author:
Autumn is a police officer from Maine who was injured in the line of duty and removed from full-time patrol. She is now employed in a part-time capacity as a community policing officer. Autumn is a life coach and has been focused on changing the culture within the first responder community to ensure healthier officers survive on duty and off. She is the founder of the Changing the Culture Podcast that has reached thousands of people worldwide. She is also an adjunct college professor teaching criminal justice.