By Leischen Stelter, editor of In Public Safety
Being a police officer has never been easy, but recent events have made it even more difficult to be an officer. Incidents like Ferguson and Baltimore have put officers and agencies under severe public scrutiny. These highly publicized events have served as a wake-up call for many agencies to enhance officer training, improve policies and procedures, and revitalize community relations.
The public cannot let these events overshadow the hard work, dedication, and sacrifice made by our nation’s law enforcement officers. May 10-16 is National Police Week 2015, a time to show gratitude for those officers who died on the job. It is also a time to thank current officers who continue to dedicate their lives to protecting our communities.
American Military University (AMU) has some amazing criminal justice faculty members, who are both law enforcement officers as well as respected academic professionals. Every week, In Public Safety features articles by these faculty members on some of the most pressing issues facing law enforcement today.
One of the topics addressed regularly is the ongoing challenge police officers face receiving help for their mental health. Many police officers suffer from mental health disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of trauma experienced while on the job. AMU’s faculty has written numerous articles about mental health challenges including how to recognize the signs of PTSD and those at risk of suicide, how to manage stress and chronic fatigue, where and how to seek help, and the need for agencies to develop robust mentoring programs for officers.
AMU professor Mark Bond has written extensively about how common police suicide is and how the police culture has kept officers silent about their struggles. He just wrote an excellent piece in recognition of Police Week about the need to recognize officers who took their own lives as a result of the damage caused by their jobs.
“When the names of the fallen officers are read aloud this year, not all our fallen brothers and sisters names will be honored,” he wrote. “As a profession, we recognize service and sacrifice but we have failed to recognize and honor our fallen brothers and sisters who have committed suicide brought on by mental health illness due to their faithful service as a law enforcement officer.”
“Until we have the courage to read aloud the names and engrave these brave heroes on our wall of heroes, we are not whole as a law enforcement community. To leave any fallen officer unrecognized is not what we stand for as a profession,” Bond wrote.
During Police Week, take a moment to remember those officers whose names will be added to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial (NLEOM) wall in Washington, D.C. But let us not forget those who died as a result of the stress and trauma of the profession.
In honor of National Police Week, In Public Safety will be posting articles written by AMU faculty recognizing the challenges officers face. Those articles will be compiled below for easy reference and sharing:
Preparing for a career in law enforcement requires more than just preparing yourself—you must also prepare your significant other and your family for the realities of a law enforcement life.
Research shows that police officers who do not properly manage their stress are prone to burnout, poor judgment, substance abuse, divorce, and suicide. AMU professor Nicole Cain writes about stress management and the need for officers to take responsibility for their physical and mental health.
Life of a Police Officer: Honoring the Sacrifices of Children and Families
In honor of National Police Week, it is important to recognize the sacrifices made by law enforcement families. AMU professor Michelle Beshears writes about how police officers can help their families manage the stress caused by a career in law enforcement.
To ensure that the good deeds of officers do not go unnoticed and in honor of National Police Week, here are just a few stories of officers who go above and beyond the call of duty for the citizens of the communities they serve.