Issues of officer health and wellness generally relate to the survival stress response system. The survival stress response system involves two nervous systems: the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. When a threat is perceived, the sympathetic nervous system releases adrenaline and cortisol. When the threat is perceived to be over, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated to decrease adrenaline and cortisol and all necessary physiological responses.
In the early days of my term as chief of police for the Fayetteville Police Department, I attended a weekend roll call to speak with the officers. At that time, members of my department admitted there wasn’t a strong relationship with citizens and openly acknowledged a feeling of disrespect and not being liked. I wanted to do something to help them feel more supported in their jobs and increase morale.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) officers arrested nearly 2,000 human traffickers and identified over 400 victims across the United States. Human trafficking is the illegal trade and exploitation of people for commercial gain. Forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation are the most common forms of human trafficking and can occur in a variety of scenarios and industries.
Trauma compels us to protect ourselves from threats both real and imagined; it encompasses any event that makes individuals feel their lives or the lives of someone they love are in danger. Any traumatic event represents a broad spectrum of situations that transcend race, age and socio-economic status. The complexity of trauma is why there are many terms to define it.
One of the greatest assets a police department has to reduce crime is an engaged community. Citizens who cooperate with and support their law enforcement agency are more likely to call, tweet, message or text officers when something is amiss; they will work with officers to prevent and solve crime. This critical problem-solving partnership is the foundation for improving public safety. In many cases a police department relies on information from community members to solve serious and violent crimes, and the flow of that information is best when the community is positively engaged with the law enforcement agency.
Concern for law enforcement officer safety and wellness has grown markedly over the past several years—and with good reason. Reports of officer risk, vulnerability and injury from ambushes and attacks are on the rise.