Surviving a Career in Law Enforcement through Wellness
Throughout their career in law enforcement, law enforcement officers will face a number of challenges and difficulties. Many are addressed in the law enforcement academy and during field training in the form of tactics; however, there is one key issue that has largely been ignored. Law enforcement as a whole is failing to prepare officers for the long term mental and emotional effects that the profession can have on the individual (Gilmartin, 2002). Job stress, trauma, shift work, and many other adversities can deteriorate the officer’s emotional and mental wellbeing, which can affect the officer’s work performance, cause misconduct issues, alcohol abuse, home life problems, health related concerns and/or suicide (Gilmartin, 2002). If this issue is left unaddressed, the profession will be doing a disservice to the officers and the communities the officers are sworn to protect. Training and mental/emotional wellness programs must be implemented to help law enforcement officers endure the long term effects of a career in law enforcement. Training should begin in the earliest stages of officer development as well as throughout the officer’s career to prepare the officer for the mental and emotional challenges they will face. Training and education will also help mitigate treatment barriers to include: stigma, mistrust, and confidentiality (Allen, Jones, Douglas, & Clark, 2014). Additionally, many law enforcement agencies have procedures to assist the officer when critical incidents occur, and more agencies are beginning to address the needs for continued physical fitness. However, complete wellness and employee assistance programs are still lacking.