(Always) Thinking About Wellness
with Dawn-Elise Snipes
Spiritual Effects of Stress on Employees and Police Officers
Spirituality can loosely be defined as a set of values or principles that guide people to purposeful action and help them recognize and promote their connection within an interactive system. Constant victimization and exposure to negativity from a relatively small part of that system leads many officers down a path of cynicism and isolation.
Officers are the primary victims of psychological and physical assaults everyday, but the impact is denied. They are hit, shot at, rammed by suspect vehicles, and verbally attacked. Verbal assaults are usually not documented unless they represent viable threats of bodily harm.
In a survey of reports from a mid-sized law enforcement department in Florida for the month of July, 1999 there were 53 reports filed for battery on a law enforcement officer, and three cars were rammed in separate incidents. Although the officers involved qualified for victim's assistance in most of these cases, the impact of these are often chalked up to “All in a day’s work” and dismissed (Finn and Tomz, 1996). Officers have to be able to block their emotions and stay functional for the next call regardless of how much they were in fear for their life or bothered by a scene (Finn and Tomz, 1996; Jones, 1998; Darnell, 1999).
Officers are told “If you need help, ask for it.” In the same breath they are also told “If you cannot deal with your emotions any better than that, you need to go get a job selling sporting goods at Wal-Mart.” In the context of the law enforcement subculture, LEOs know better than to show distress or ask for help (Alexander and Walker, 1994; Violanti, 1981; Reiser and Geiger, 1984; Moyer, 1986; Alexander and Walker, 1994; Ansen and Colon, 1995; Violanti,1999).
“… Every cop maintains that detachment is the key, but the truth is that he gives up a section of his soul and dies a little death at the beginning of every case. If he were truly detached, he could never see what has to be seen. The key to the thing is intimacy without emotion. Even the ones who have the quality never keep it for long. A few years on the job and you are either out of homicide or well into the process of freezing solid forever... Now and then you kill a glass of Johnny Walker Black and follow it with a .357 chaser... (Sewell, p 568)”