ANS/AHS: A disease running rampant in law enforcement
Fortunately, there is a simple, three step program which serves to ‘cure’ most of those officers afflicted by this unfortunate, sometimes career-ending affliction
We all remember the H1N1 scares, but there is a disease that has infected officers for years and is currently infecting the law enforcement community. It is often a disabling disease and has even caused numerous officers to take their own lives. The disease is called “Anus Numerous Syndrome” but is more commonly known as AHS (A__ Hole Syndrome).
Having been a victim myself, I would like to relate the causes and the cure.
Depending on the community and your personal circumstances as a cop AHS can begin as early as two years into the job, but generally takes hold between five and ten years. The way it begins to spread is from the day to day encounters we have with the public. It does not necessarily have to be felony stops or child abuse, but can be as simple as auto accidents, domestic disputes, neighbor disputes or problems with teenage children. You see, the continuous and constant exposure to these negative incidents and people who are in distress and abnormal circumstances gives an officer the impression all people are A__ Holes.
The police are not called to the homes of a couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, a youngster who got an “A” on their chemistry exam, a wife who just got promoted at work or a husband who just donated a large sum of money to a needy charity. All these events happen in every community every day, but officers are not dispatched to intervene, or even to take reports on those events. Instead, we get called to the wife who split open her husband’s head with a golf club, a child who is abusing drugs, the disgruntled driver who is the victim of a traffic accident, or the executive who defrauded his company.
From a statistical standpoint, we know that the majority of people — about 98 percent — are kind, hard working, decent people. “What?!” you say. “Are you on Crack?” you ask.
That’s right... Thank God it is only about two to three percent per cent of the population who have criminal intent or commit crimes. Of course that two percent keeps us plenty busy, but it is they, as well as those in the 98 percent who from time to time are either a victim or witness to a crime which puts them in very abnormal situations, all of which we get called to see and deal with.
When AHS struck me I remember the feelings — almost like a depression — where I wondered if there was anybody in the entire world who was sane other than the officers I worked with. You see, AHS has a tendency for us to surround ourselves with only those that think and act like us. We become the only ones who understand each other. It develops into sort of a hubris that we are the only ones that understand society — who really understand that society is crazy.
For me, AHS became more and more pronounced and severe until I went to work as a security manager for a major corporation. I recall the total amazement when I learned there are really nice people who come to work each day, have families, get along with each other, and lead law-abiding lives. Although, this may sound trite — or maybe too obvious an insight — it was a very welcome relief and contrast to AHS.
Of course in my new job protecting the corporation, I would come across employees who had criminal intent or committed crimes against the corporation. However, the more I was immersed in a more positive environment over time, I was able to immediately and rapidly identify those employees who were not like those who were displaying normal behaviors. Let me repeat this, The more I was immersed in a positive environment, the more able I became to immediately and rapidly identify those who were not displaying normal behaviors.
The reason this is important is that when we suffer from AHS, we approach situations looking at all people as more of the same of what we constantly deal with.
I am not suggesting that we do not approach all people with caution or that we drop our guard by any means — what I am suggesting is that when we can rapidly differentiate the difference between normal and abnormal behaviors we can more readily and rapidly spot those who might harm us or those who have criminal intent.
There’s a Cure
Step 1.) Realize that you have been infected with AHS and admit it is a problem that is affecting your thinking.
Step 2.) Force yourself to become immersed in more positive environments (In this step you can take a class, join a club, get on a sports team, go to church, join a charitable organization, anything that will get you away from the law enforcement environment and surround yourself with people who are not in law enforcement).
Step 3.) Make a conscious effort to realize that 98 percent of the people who you swore to protect and serve are good and law abiding citizens. Make every interpersonal encounter a learning experience by watching the behaviors of all those with whom you have contact and look for normal vs. abnormal behavior.
You might ask, “Will the cure make me soft or weak?”
The answer is an emphatic no!
What happens is you develop a mental “Trip Wire” in your brain. When we have the ability to better recognize the difference between normal behavior and aberrant or criminal behavior, our mental trip wire gets hit when we see aberrant behavior and we become as aggressive as necessary to control the situation within the use of force continuum. What may also happen is we develop more empathy toward the people which will help to improve police and community relations. But most importantly, it will be positive to your own mental health and your attitude with family and others.
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