Hard times - we're in them. Regardless of the issue or threat: the economy; real budget issues causing lay-offs; or local governments using the economy as a political opportunity to thin the herd and inflict contract concessions and givebacks; upticks in violence against law enforcement; societal decay; or personal loses like serious illness or death in the family. If these or any other non-street threat endangers you or your agency you must prepare.
Yes, the lemons of life seem to be coming in bumper crops nowadays. Much of the stress in law enforcement comes from admin type incidents or issues, not violent encounters on the street. Make no mistake about it, over the long run your body does not perceive the difference between stressors and reacts accordingly. The damage caused by non-street stress is just as injurious. That said, winning is an all-the-time thing, as is the preparation to win, regardless of the threat. The lessons of how to mitigate if not avoid the impact of a serious situation and to work through the trauma post incident remain the same regardless of the incident.
Ain't No Fuzzy Dog
First, you must accept, now and forever, that the department is not a fuzzy dog that is waiting to meet you at the end of the day. Whether it's a lay-off or any other incident the department you work for is a machine. It's cold, unfeeling and incapable of loving you back. So don't expect it. That said, feelings of I can't believe they're doing this to me! or other thoughts that you're somehow special only lead to thoughts of persecution. Understand it's a machine and will exist long after you're gone.
Don't get me wrong, there are some great folks on this job that are worthy of your love and will love you back in turn. They are your true Brothers in Blue and will be there for you. But also remember this police family can be quite dysfunctional...
Positive Action Beats Adversity
Sitting back, sitting on your Lazy Boy recliner and popping the top on one cold one after another will not improve your situation and is the curse of our profession. Alcohol is a depressant and although it may temporarily deaden your feelings it destroys rather than strengthens.
It is better to work through the stress by engaging in positive forms of therapy. Be it going for walks, hitting the weights, running, whatever the form - take this negative energy and as British martial arts instructor and motivational author Geoff Thompson says, transmute it into something positive. This takes effort but as someone wiser than I once said, Don't let the bastards get you down.
Get a Life
Pre-incident one of the things you can do to prepare for life's speed bumps is to engage in activities outside of LE. There really is more to life than being a police officer. There's a whole world filled with positive people and non-law enforcement activities in which you can thrive. This job can be consuming, so branch out - get a life and introduce positive social interactions outside of LE into your world. Whether Church, club, hobby, or family, regardless of the positive form life is not just cops and mopes. By being a multi-dimensional human being you gain balance which is all important to your long term quality of life.
It is a reciprocal universe. By that I mean by putting forth positive karma you will as the Bible says, Reap what you sow. There are plenty of charities and civic organizations that need volunteer assistance. It's almost a selfish thing, by giving to others, by tithing to your fellow man; you will reap the benefits both spiritually as well as monetarily. From working with a local victim advocacy group to volunteering for a veteran's organization by helping others and offering a hand up not a hand out, the focus is outward versus inward and helps put life in perspective.
In short, engage in more activities that put a smile on your face and introduce some joy into your life. Interacting and laughing with your Boy Scout troop for instance is a win/win - you get to be a part of their infectious enthusiasm and they gain exposure to a positive mentor and role-model.
Think Outside the Box
Also known as taking the parallel track, many officers enter into entrepreneurship as a means to guarantee additional income should they be laid off. No, you don't need to fork out a lot of money to start a side business nowadays. Many micro-businesses can be started on the internet or with little capital investment. I always liked the advice that I am the chairman of my own company, not literally but figuratively. I contract my services to my agency or others but I am my own corporation providing services for my customers. This article and my contract training business are the result of my attempt to parallel track. My partner owns and operates his own gym. I've found that this method has allowed me to both socialize with persons outside LE as well as interact with the private sector which is sometimes more rewarding than working for local government.
Tough Times Don't Last, Tough People Do
Whether it's surviving an unmeritorious internal affairs investigation, the death of a parent, a lay-off, regardless, adversity can strengthen us. Tough weather breeds strong timber, is not just a saying but building upward from what can be perceived as a destroyed foundation takes work and focus. How you proceed is up to you.*As I write this 40 of my home agency Brothers and Sisters were laid off. This column in dedicated to these hard-core street warriors and I pray a quick return to work for them!