THE IMMORTALITY OF A COP: WHAT WILL YOUR LEGACY BE?
A LOOK INTO THE MENTAL HEALTH AND LONG-TERM WELLNESS OF POLICE OFFICERS
BY BOBBY MARTIN| FBINA # 272
The immortality of a cop is the imprint on people’s lives that a police officer leaves behind when they have finished their careers. Whether good or bad, all officers leave a lasting impression that outlives them, for years. How then can an officer ensure that the impression he or she leaves, their legacy, is one of excellence and dedication to this, the most noble of professions? They can do this by understanding the side of police work that no one talks about, their own mental and emotional health.
Every cop desires to leave their mark on the community they serve. It is, after all, why we got into the business in the first place. For some, however, their impression is not so much an everlasting mark as it is an everlasting stain. They lose sight along the way of what legacy they will leave behind. We all know someone in our departments who everyone cannot wait until they retire. We also know someone whom we cannot imagine doing the job without. How then do we ensure we are one of those officers that people cannot live without; versus one that cannot leave fast enough?
What I’m referring to is something I learned when I became an instructor for the Blue Courage course. Blue Courage is a learning experience designed to get officers engaged in what we neglect far more than anything else as cops; our emotional and mental wellness. In one of the modules I teach as an instructor of Blue Courage called “The Immortal Cop,” I ask the toughest question of all to officers. I ask them to take a look at their career, an honest look at what they have accomplished, what they have done and what they think their legacy will be when they leave this most noble of professions.
For some it is a realization that they are on the right path, that they are moving towards not only a successful career, but a meaningful one as well. For others however, it is a punch tothe gut. The realization everyone is waiting for THEM to leave. Inevitably this leads to questioning how they got to this point and what they can do to fix it.
What causes great officers to become the burden of their agency, and sometimes even their community, is losing sight of the reason they became a cop to begin with. As time goes on, cynicism sets in. As Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) once said in his book Beyond Good and Evil, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back at you.”
So, how then do we ensure that as we stare into the dark abyss of emotional stressors, violence and seemingly endless amounts of heartache, that we do not allow the abyss to do more than stare back at us? The answer lies within our original desire to become a peace keeper. We must return to our roots and remember why we took the oath of office, why we swore to protect complete strangers even to the point of giving our lives for others.
It happens to some of the best of us. We all know or have heard stories of fantastic Officers who allow the abyss to grab a hold of their very being and drag them into the darkness. They lose their way and lose sight of what it means to be a Peace Officer. The end results are generally not pretty, and in some cases, absolutely life changing and devastating at the same time.
To become the officer that no one can picture doing the job without, we must first remember why we became officers in the first place. We must remember the responsibilities wehave accepted and understand that each time we come in contact with someone, we are leavingour legacy behind. We are imprinting something of ourselves onto everyone we meet no matter what the cause for the interaction. Due to this, we cannot lose sight of what we represent or who we are, not even for a brief moment. If we have lost our way, we must acknowledge that we are on the wrong path and that we need help finding our way back. We must seek out the assistance of loved ones, fellow officers and mental health professionals. We must strive to acknowledge our emotional and mental health and learn ways in which we can have a staring contest with the abyss, and win.
Nila, M. (2016) Blue Courage Facilitator Guidebook: The Immortal Cop pp145-152.
Nietzsche, F. (1886) Beyond Good and Evil, 146
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
ROBERT "BOBBY" MARTIN
Robert “Bobby” Martin joined the Snowflake-Taylor Police Department in 2007 and has severed in many positions within the department including Dispatcher, Patrol Officer, Detective, Detective Sergeant, Lieutenant, Public Information Officer and is the current Chief of Police. He has worked with the Navajo County Drug Task Force as an Undercover Narcotics Detective and is a certified General Instructor for NALETA as well as a certified Sniper with Utah County. Lt. Martin is a graduate of the FBI National Academy Program.
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