Police officers face challenges that can have a direct impact on who they are as individuals. These challenges can directly impact the family that is connected to that officer.
We had the privilege of attending a Law Enforcement conference this fall. It was designed to support couples and teach them how to thrive as a law enforcement family. The concepts that we would like to share are to encourage and to inspire you in your journey in creating healthy family outcomes.
One of the speakers shared his personal journey as a police officer. He used the analogy of policing as “digging a hole”. The shovel and dirt were the stresses of the job and how after many years of negative calls, sleep deprivation, politics of work, finances, negative habits and family stresses. The hole became so large that he found himself standing at the bottom looking up. He realized he had no idea how to climb out. There were many resources that were offered from above. He saw these resources as a ladder but he lacked the ability to take the first step on his own.
The pivotal point for his recovery out of the hole was when a fellow officer not only reached down to offer advice but he jumped in the hole and assisted him to take the first step on the ladder. He climbed the ladder with him until he was out and was able to fill the hole with dirt (resources that gave him the ability to fill the hole and make sure the hole stayed small and manageable). All of us were able to relate to needing that one person to walk beside us in times of trouble and jump in the hole with us.
As we discussed this analogy we came up with three C’s that we feel would encourage us to action to see police families not only survive but thrive.
Compassion is about seeing, feeling and then acting on a need. Police officers are called to action on a regular basis; however, sometimes when it comes to personal relationships or fellow officers they can become jaded or do not have the energy to act. They may feel as though it is not their problem and do not want to interfere. We believe the analogy of the officer being in the “hole” needs to stir us to action. The fellow officer who jumped in the hole played a vital role in his road to recovery. We are called to act.
We say a person who is courageous did something incredible. For example, a courageous person stepped out and saved someone in a life threatening situation. We would say police officers on the job are courageous. When the uniform is on they are trained to have courage. The kind of courage to speak out, ask for help or reach out when you see a fellow officer in need is sometimes more difficult. Author Brene Brown says that “it takes courage to build and sustain strong relationships, the courage to make ourselves vulnerable, to speak from our hearts, and to admit when we’re wrong. She calls this “Everyday courage.” “You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you can’t have both”. We are called to get in the “hole”.
There are not many people in society who can live in isolation and thrive. It takes relationships to allow us to grow, flourish and be healthy. Police officers often struggle with creating community outside of the police family which in turn can isolate the officers own personal family. Our officers need to be encouraged to seek community with their peers but also to develop community beyond the police walls. They may need to be reminded that they are first a husband, wife, friend, father, mother, sister or brother. Their title of Police officer does not and should not define all of who they are. Community examples outside of the police family can include sports clubs, family gatherings, neighbors and church groups. Cultivating non- police friends may help provide a balanced perspective on life and family. We are called to develop community.
The call to act, have courage to move forward in the midst of uncertainty and develop community is unique to each officer and their family. There will be different times on this journey that circumstances will call for different actions. We cannot force this on others but each one of us can act as we feel inspired. We are all thankful to that someone who had enough compassion, courage and created community with us to jump in the hole.