LIVING A BALANCED LIFE IN LAW ENFORCEMENT
BY JOHN D. HAMPTON| FBINA # 271
Historically we in law enforcement have been trained to be tough and different from other people. Police officers see things on a daily basis that affect their way of life in ways the normal person cannot understand. We have always realized that very traumatic incidents can cause issues, but we must now understand that the day to day job can cause issues. Everyday calls like breaking up fights and dealing with criminals over time can build up in an officer’s mind. There has to be preventive measures put into place to assist officers in dealing with these issues early in their career to alleviate negative, long-term problems. We have to find ways to create positive pillars of wellness in our lives.
Law enforcement officials need to find ways to live a spiritually balanced life. This does not mean they must be Christians, but that is the way the majority of officers believe. There are alternative religions and practices that can help the officer be spiritually balanced. For instance, meditation or mindfulness practices are beneficial in clearing the mind and relaxing. These can be used in addition to Church life as well.
Physical wellness is also very important for law enforcement officials. Obviously it is important to be in good physical shape to allow us to protect ourselves from assaults, and to make arrests on resistant suspects. Also, officers need to exercise and keep ourselves in good physical shape simply for the benefit of preparing us to live longer, healthier lives. Police officers have an average lifespan of about ten years lower than that of an average person.
Law enforcement executives and managers need to realize that officers need to have a positive environment to work in. The job itself is stressful enough without adding additional stressors from inside the workplace. We must find ways to create a “safe place” for officers to escape from all of the negative we deal with constantly. Though there are instances which call for disciplinary issues and other difficult tasks we face internally, they will be accepted and respected if they are handled in the proper manner.
We must encourage officers to be socially active outside of the job. We all have tendencies to stay to ourselves and only socialize with each other. Most police officers have enough in common with each other to bond quickly and to feel comfortable together. Officers need to build relationships with citizens as well. Activities like coaching little league recreation teams and joining community social groups are excellent ways for officers to make new relationships outside of the law enforcement realm.
Law enforcement officials have to maintain an emotionally healthy life. This may require managers having discussions with them individually, or a more professional approach like counseling. The career puts a deep strain on family life as is evident with high divorce rates for those in this field. There are also officers who tragically take their own lives at a rate of approximately 450 per year in a three year span according to the USA Today. One Hundred and Eight officers took their own life in 2016 according to Officer.Com. This is horrific. It is paramount for us to find ways and put actions into place to address this issue.
I have learned through training at the FBI National Academy that the issues of officers leading well-balanced lives is not only the responsibility of the individual officer, but police executives and managers have to share the responsibility of helping them live healthier lives. We must explore ways to put measures in place to address these issues. I know through my 24 years in law enforcement I have had ups and downs through each of the categories I discussed. I want to help the officers who are younger in their careers to be more balanced. They deserve it!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
John "Danny" Hampton
Danny Hampton of the Waycross Police Department began his career in 1994 as a police officer. As an officer he was assigned the task of being a Field Training Officer and Accident Investigator. In 2001 he was promoted to Sergeant where he acted as a Watch Commander until 2006 when he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant over the Administrative Unit. In 2013 he was promoted to Captain over the Administrative Section. Captain Hampton is the department’s Internal Affairs Officer, State of Georgia Certification Manager, and Accreditation Manager through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. He also serves the state as an assessor for the State Certification Program. He has a Bachelor’s Degree through Columbus University and is currently working toward his Master’s Degree. He is a graduate of the Professional Management Program and the Command College through Columbus University as well. He is a graduate of FBI National Academy #271.
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