Calling All Cops: Do You Know Who Has Your Back?

By Ellen Kirshman, Ph.D

Wisdom from a pioneer cop about connecting to your family during hard times.

Dr. Al Benner was a retired police captain, a pioneer in police psychology, co-founder of the West Coast Trauma Retreat for first responders with traumatic stress, and a mentor to many “cop docs” who followed him into psychology. He was also my friend.

Al died of cancer in 2009. He wrote the following words a long time ago. I repeat them here, in this time of turmoil and social unrest, because they are as true today as they ever were.

“To function effectively in our job, you must annihilate, smother, and suppress normal emotions like fear, anger, revulsion, and even compassion. To do otherwise is to invite overwhelming doubt or hesitancy when decisive action is required. The penalty for your achieved competence is a mindset that might as well be a foreign language to your social contemporaries. We are…victims of our own success. When these same normal and appropriate emotions…surface in personal relationship, we automatically shut down and wonder why, over time, the people we care about the most complain that we are aloof, cold, and uncommunicative.”

The key to riding out the current wave of bitterness and division is to stay connected to your friends and families. To do this, many of you have to stop doing what you have previously done (or been taught to do) to manage strong emotions; suck it up, withdraw, isolate, and push away the very people who can help you. Many of you are angry. Many of you feel betrayed and helpless. Your family feels these things too, but not in the same way you do, unless they’re also cops. Take the time to listen. Don’t dismiss them, discount their feelings, or offer false … [READ MORE]