In January 2021, my department experienced its first officer-involved shooting that resulted in the death of a suspect.
Within 16 hours of the knife-wielding individual being shot during a domestic violence incident, activists from the neighboring metropolitan area wrenched the narrative away from the police via social media. They called for justice through a “direct action” march on the city hall complex, declaring police had “executed” a man during a mental health crisis.
After the 31 hours following the shots-fired radio call and explosion of violence that damaged our police facility, I experienced the greatest health scare of my life. This had me question my continued role as a leader in policing.
In recent years, law enforcement has started addressing the internal struggle for physical fitness, work-life balance, and mental health care for line officers dealing with day-to-day conflict. Gone are many of the old mindsets of police leaders and mentors who said “suck it up” or encouraged, with a wink and a nod, younger officers to drink away their stress. Many organizations have replaced harmful practices like these with employee assistance plans, mental health counseling, and physical fitness programs and incentives. Additionally, personnel receive a general education on recognizing the stressors leading to harmful behavior.