Resource Type: Article

So often we forget as a society that there is a price to be paid to ensure our freedoms and protection. Those of us who love our law enforcement partners live with the impacts of that sacrifice.  That impact can be so profound that some of us lose our partner in the line of duty, that is the ultimate sacrifice and one that should never be diminished or forgotten.

However, most of us lose parts of our partner slowly, almost imperceptibly through small changes, which take place in our relationships, with our children, our home life, and shifts in the day-to-day lens of our partners’ view of life. I experienced a clear example of this about 5 years ago when my partner invited me to the DRE National Conference in Seattle for an overnight stay. Part of the evening’s events included a dinner cruise out on Puget Sound. We couldn’t have chosen a more beautiful day in the Northwest. The sun was out and all of the beauty of Seattle and the surrounding landscape was breathtaking.

As the evening wore on and the cruise ship turned to make its journey back to the port, we were able to watch the sunset over the familiar Seattle skyline. This included watching the darkness settle over the city and observing the well-known skyline including the Seattle Space Needle, the Carousel over the water, the many city skyscrapers, lights, traffic, and everything! My partner and I had the privilege of being out on the bow of the boat alone and watching as the skyline came closer and closer as we headed toward the shore.  I turned to my partner and commented, “Isn’t that an amazing view?” After a few minutes, without turning to look at me, he continued to look straight forward, and shaking his head, he responded “Do you have any idea how much crime, sleaze, and filth is going on in that city right now?”

WOW! His life experience at that moment was different than mine, after 25 years together and 10 children, we still saw something as simple as a skyline, completely different!

How does this happen? Why does this happen? Could it be that because our loved ones have a passion to serve and protect, without realizing it, they lose parts of themselves, and they change?

Actually, current research validates all of this! Their very biology changes, this includes their brain and their body. These changes determine the way information is processed and creates new unexpected responses.  Studies have shown us that due to experiencing stress, chaotic sleep schedules, and witnessing traumatic events, brains literally change…our Law enforcement partner changes…

Effects of shiftwork:

Physical Health

  • Increased risk of cancers
  • Heart disease
  • Ulcers
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Obesity
  • Lack of light exposure suppresses melatonin which disrupts sleep patterns
  • Out of sync circadian rhythms (circadian rhythms regulate chemical releases in our bodies. Disruption of these chemical releases can contribute to depression and other mental illnesses)

Mental Health

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • The feeling of isolation (out of step with family and community)
  • Difficulty concentrating – harder to focus
  • Slowed reaction time and difficulty problem-solving
  • Neuroticism (tendency towards anxiety, self-doubt, depression, shyness, and other similar negative feeling

Social Impacts

  • Social marginalization (working evenings and weekends disrupts interactions with the greater population, impacting religious worship, sporting events and other activities)
  • Family dysfunction (disruption in family responsibilities such as childcare,  housework, shopping, and leaving family alone at night)
  • Marital strain due to not being present to attend to support and marital connection