04/24/2013

Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D.Passion for the Job
with Chief Joel F. Shults, Ed.D.

The law enforcement 'game changers' who were never cops

At this year’s ILEETA conference, I visited with some of the brightest stars in the officer survival movement whose impact on today’s police officer is pervasive but whose backgrounds may be different to yours

It is natural for us to find comfort and connection with those like us. That’s a good thing — but it’s not the only thing. 

Knowledge is power — and cops are all about power — so we take that knowledge from where ever it might come. 

Within the law enforcement world, there are a couple of great examples of game changers who weren't even cops. 

At this year’s ILEETA conference, I was once again convinced of a wise saying I made up once. You’ve probably never seen it, but on my PoliceOne bio page at the bottom is the tag line, “There is no knowledge in the world that is lost in police work.”  

During the event, I visited with some of the brightest stars in the officer survival movement whose impact on today’s police officer is pervasive but whose backgrounds may be different to yours. 

Chuck Remsberg’s name isn’t on the list of great gunfighters or great detectives. Remsberg is a writer. You may recognize him as a PoliceOne columnist, see his name on the Force Science Newsletter, or on his latest book Blood Lessons. 

His legacy may be most vested in the Street Survival trilogy that is still in police libraries across the country (including my agency), and used as a reference source for police trainers and academies. One might assume that the man that I credit with today’s survival awareness in the profession is a crusty, street worn police veteran. 

But Remsberg’s weapon was always the printed word. 

When asked by Motorola to write as part of their nascent police training efforts, Remsberg’s background in writing about persons who had survived dramatic events seemed to fit the need. Eventually taking the project on his own, Remsberg and his graphics partner used some speaking engagements to help promote the first Street Survival book. 

The demand for the topic grew and, with it, the awareness of a hunger for this kind of information in the wake of the public relations centered policing of the post-civil rights riot era in law enforcement.  

In other words, one of the most powerful figures for a movement that has saved thousands of police officers from injury and death was an artist whose words and pictures on a page transformed the law enforcement profession. 

Next, there's Dr. Alexis Artwohl, trainer and author of Deadly Force Encounters: What Cops Need to Know to Mentally and Physically Prepare for and Survive a Gunfight, who started her career as a psychologist with experience in dealing with persons, including combat vets, who had survived traumatic events. 

Through a series of serendipitous contacts, she began receiving more and more invitations to train police officers. Dr. Artwohl “clicked” with cops and her credibility was cemented by scientific research that contradicted some of the mythology about cops and their reactions during and after a shooting incident. 

A natural cooperation with Dr. Bill Lewinsky of Force Science Institute evolved later. 

Artwohl is a shrink (her word) with no experience behind a badge. But she has spent years inside the heads of thousands of those who invest their lives behind that badge. 

She is a true pioneer in normalizing the stress experience for police officers and undoubtedly has saved many careers, lives, and relationships with her training, counseling, writing, research, and advocacy. 

It's also interesting to note that there are cops who work to introduce outside ideas and concepts to our field; the venerable Buck Savage, Dave Smith, for instance. He's not found quoting from an introduction to a Criminal Justice text book in his articles or presentations. 

He’s more likely going to be citing research on human behavior or recounting great battles of history or quoting ancient Greek philosophers. After all, he wasn’t always patrolling the desert Southwest or making training videos.

He started his career as a coach with a degree in that field. It is an area of interest that has served him, and those of us under his influence, very well over the past few decades.   

I often will ask my wife to pick out something for me at the library that I would not pick out for myself. Her choices, even of fiction, often force me into new directions and perspectives. There are few things healthier for the mind and spirit than walking on new ideas. 

After all, as a wise man once said, “There is no knowledge in the world that is lost in police work.”

About the author

Joel Shults currently serves as Chief of Police for Adams State College in Alamosa, Co. Over his 30 year career in uniformed law enforcement and in criminal justice education Joel has served in a variety of roles: academy instructor, police chaplain, deputy coroner, investigator, community relations officer, college professor, and police chief, among others. Shults earned his doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from the University of Missouri, with a graduate degree in Public Services Administration and bachelors in Criminal Justice Administration from the University of Central Missouri. In addition to service with the US Army military police and CID, Shults has done observational studies with over fifty police agencies across the country. He currently serves on a number of advisory and advocacy boards including the Colorado POST curriculum committee as a subject matter expert.

His latest book The Badge and the Brain is available at www.joelshults.com

Follow Joel on Twitter @ChiefShults.

Contact Joel Shults

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