10 Ways To Help A Cop post-OIS

During my career in law enforcement I was involved in several incidents which, as I look back, could be classified as critical incidents including a traffic stop where one of the officers who came to back me up ended up having to shoot the suspect I had...

4) Don’t be the Monday Morning Quarterback“Don't grumble, brothers, against one another, so that you won't be judged. Behold, the judge stands at the door.” (James 5:9)

You weren’t there to make the call; you didn’t see the incident unfold as the involved officer did.  You might think that you would have done something different, but can we know that for sure?  We can’t really know how we’ll act in a life-threatening, split-second, decision-making incident until we’re in one.  Second guessing doesn’t do anyone any good.  So, you should also discourage the involved officer from second-guessing themselves. They probably had to make that split-second decision with a minimal amount of information.  Debriefing to hone and improve tactics is one thing, but second guessing now could lead to perilous indecision the next time out.  (Also, cf. Philippians 2:4; James 4:11; 1 Peter 3:8, 4:9)

5)  Touch Base“For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven ... A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing ... A time to keep silence, And a time to speak ...” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 5b, 7b)

Sometimes, because of the necessary investigation of the incident, officers are ordered to not have contact with the involved officer.  But, avoiding the officer after the critical incident can foster a feeling that he is guilty of some wrongdoing.  This can exacerbate his loneliness and anxiety (which are natural reactions in the wake of a critical/traumatic incident).  Even if you cannot discuss the incident; even if you are unsure of what to say, making contact – physical contact – a handshake; a hug can go a long way in showing your support.  (Also, cf. Romans 12:13; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Peter 5:14)

6)  Offer Your Unique Understanding“All of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” (1 Peter 3:8)

We in law enforcement can look at each other and say, “I know what you know, what I know, that you know ...” Yet, if you have been in an OIS or other similar critical incident, you have an understanding that others don’t.  You have the opportunity to show real empathy and share your experience.  You can help the officer to see that what he is thinking, feeling, and doing is normal.  If he is experiencing some difficult reactions, you can assure him that he is not crazy.  Instead he is reacting in a normal way to an unusual and extreme incident.  It would also be appropriate to share what counseling, if any, you pursued.  This can ease concerns about going to the “head doctor.” (Also, cf. Zechariah 7:9; Romans 12:15; Ephesians 4:32)

7)  Give Honor and Respect“Pay to all what is owed to them ... respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Romans 13:7)

The officer who has come through an OIS or other critical incident and has survived deserves to be given honor and respect. This should be done in an appropriate time frame as well.  The officer should not return to work after an extended time off only to unceremoniously find a certificate and medal in a manila envelope in his mail box.  The officer should be publicly praised as part of a department’s awards ceremony.  What he had to do was not a ‘necessary evil’ but was a ‘necessary good in the face of evil.’  Failure to properly acknowledge his good work fosters resentment and acrimony.  (Also, cf. Proverbs 3:27; Galatians 6:10; Hebrews 6:10, 13:16)

8)  Promote Dialogue“Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” (James 1:19)

This is less about the act of talking than it is about not allowing the officer to remove himself from friends, family, work, and from the world.”  Left only to his own thoughts about the incident can get overwhelming especially as they intrude on his daily activities and thoughts.  You may not be able to talk about the details of the OIS, but you can ‘lend an ear.’  You can actively listen without judging, letting the officer do a ‘data dump’ about what he is thinking and/or feeling.  The incident has the capability of cluttering the officer’s emotional and spiritual closet.  So, helping him to unburden himself from the emotional junk by encouraging him to talk and by being an active listener can be a great benefit.  (Also, cf.  Proverbs 18:13; Ephesians 4:1-3; Galatians 6:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:14)

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