Law Enforcement Technology

MAR 2017

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By Frank Borelli M any would argue that stress is a natural part of the law enforcement career field and that managing that stress is imperative for good physi- cal, emotional and mental health. Such need for train- ing is so obvious that most (if not all) police academies have academic cours- es specifically dedicated to teaching stress management techniques. Sadly, that training—all too often—is just a minor effort to acknowledge the man- date for such and doesn't truly provide the knowledge required for an officer to get through a more than 20 year career without being negatively impacted by the stress of the job. Thankfully, across the span of the past two or three decades, the focus on stress, its impact and the need for increased stress man- agement techniques and training has grown appreciably. The necessity to recognize Stress is a reality in everyday life. It's as much a reality for law enforcement as it is for firefighters (although we hate to admit it), teachers, students, moms, dads, priests, baristas and everyone else. Life itself is a collection of experi- ences and circumstances that can either increase or decrease the level of stress we feel. Due to the frequent negative circumstances law enforcement has to deal with by virtue of the nature of the job, stress can build up faster than we can manage it. That buildup of stress can have a toxic effect on our health. Ultimately, and unfortunately, it can reach a point where an officer can't manage it any longer and commits sui- cide. Thankfully, if recent data is a reli- able indicator, we're doing a better job of managing stress and helping officers learn the skills necessary to better manage it through their careers. In her article "Police Suicides in 2016", Pamela Kulbarsh—a long time trauma nurse and contributor—cites a reported 108 law enforcement suicides in 2016. That's down 14 percent from the 126 reported in 2012 which was also down from the 143 reported in 2009. While this trend is promising, the law enforcement com- munity must not become complacent about the topic of stress and stress man- agement. That 108 law enforcement suicides in 2016 represents more law enforcement deaths than those caused by gunfire and traffic accidents com- bined and averages out to one suicide every three days. The community has to continue its efforts to do better. Given that it's impossible to change the nature of the job (until we learn how to change the nature of people), the focus for stress management isn't reducing stress on the job, but managing that stress until it can be reduced during off duty hours. There are a plethora of theories about the best way to manage and reduce stress, but there are several techniques agreed upon by most psy- chologists, psychiatrists, law enforce- ment trainers, veterans and those whom we refer to as stress coaches. Identify stressors The first and largest chal- lenge faced with stress management is the simple recognition of stress impact. Many officers view it as a sign of weakness to even admit to trauma or stress. W hile many public safety S T R E S S M A N A G E M E N T for Law Enforcement Professionals Stress Management Training MARCH 2017 LAW ENFORCEMENT TECHNOLOGY 37

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