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But she found almost no preventive well-being programs for police.
It doesn't take a statistician — or an expert in transcendental meditation — to recognize that police work is one of the most stressful jobs. Researchers use three basic statistics to measure professional stress: divorce rates, alcoholism rates and suicide rates. Surveys of police officers estimate the divorce rate at around 75 percent; rates of alcoholism (estimated by the treatment of officer alcohol addiction) are about twice that of the general population.
But while the FBI tracks the number of officers killed feloniously (in some kind of altercation or assault situation) as well as accidentally each year, it doesn't look at police-suicide numbers at all. In fact, no agency collects comprehensive data on police suicides. In 2009, the most recent year for which data is available, 48 officers were killed in the line of duty in the United States; another 47 officers were killed accidentally. Some groups estimate the number of police suicides as high as 400 per year — more than four times the number of officers killed either in the line of duty or accidentally. And that number does not include retired officers who commit suicide, just current cops.
Colorado has just three officers listed on the Tears of a Cop website, a digital memorial for officers across the country who've committed suicide, as well as a source of suicide-prevention information for police departments.
Wimberger has had to fight to get police departments to consider her work, and once in the door, she's had to continue fighting to get participants to take her seriously. In October 2007, she put together a program comprising four techniques she'd learned at the Inner Connection Institute, approachable techniques with no dogma attached that she could easily teach to others. Then she reached out to the Denver Police Department and offered a a free pilot program: She would give thirty officers an eight-hour, one-day training, and based on their response, she'd talk with the DPD about coming back for more training.
"The feedback was overwhelming," she remembers. "I had officers come up and say, 'If I had learned these techniques, I might have saved my marriage, had a different path in my career, be in a different place than I am now.'"
So far, the DPD has brought Wimberger back twice — once for an opt-in academy session, once for a mandatory session with the department's peer-counseling group. Wimberger has also trained a small group at the Lafayette Police Department, done work with the department staff in Wheat Ridge, and helped officers in Westminster, Glendale and Littleton. To date, she's worked with about 500 officers across the metro area.
DPD Lieutenant Steve Addison attended one of her Denver sessions. "It's witchcraft kind of stuff to a lot of police officers," he acknowledges, "but it works. It's just something that really relaxes you; it focuses your mind. For police, it's really relevant. All the trauma we deal with constantly, whether it's stuff that's occurred to us or stuff we've witnessed, if you can learn to use these techniques, you'll deal with it better."
According to spokesman Lieutenant Matthew Murray, the DPD offers several psychological resources for officers, including city-subsidized counseling with Dr. John Nicoletti, which officers and their families can request; in addition to a suicide-prevention class, there are also peer-support and chaplain-based resources, as well as a wellness program that includes a mental-health class each officer must take every three years.
But psychologist Leigh Sinclair, who was hired by the DPD in 2004 after the tragic death of developmentally disabled fifteen-year-old Paul Childs to help train officers to recognize mental illness and deal with the mentally ill, doesn't think the department's offerings are adequate. "When I was there — and I was not there to do therapy with them — officers would often come and ask me for a recommendation, for somebody else to help them," she remembers. "They wanted to have it completely separate from the department. I think they would sometimes be concerned about whether or not it would come back to bite them in the butt."
And Nick Rogers, the president of the Denver Police Protective Association, thinks the situation is dire. "We don't really provide any kind of stress management," he says. "We don't do a lot of anything to assist our guys and gals when they have problems." Although the DPPA has a fund that can help officers who are dealing with financial troubles, that only stretches so far. "Emotionally," he notes, "the department really doesn't do much to help our people out."
The lack of resources doesn't just affect officers in their private lives; it can also affect their professional performance, leading to instances of police brutality. "I think there's probably always going to be an element of that kind of officer anywhere," notes Sinclair. "I think, though, that when you have a culture embraced from the top down that advocates communication, de-escalation, and helps officers de-stress and supports them getting help, then you don't have this escalation so quickly."
Wimberger agrees. "It's easy to judge the police as a civilian, and it's easy for police to judge civilians — each perspective can slip into a very one-sided view of what's right and wrong," she explains. "But what I can say is that I haven't encountered another vocation that so quickly callouses and wears away at one's sense of vulnerability, humanity and compassion. And it doesn't surprise me that some of those individuals may be cracking under the pressure and making poor decisions, decisions that hurt others, their families and themselves. These types of headlines are exactly what keep me committed to my mission: bringing help to those who might not know a healthy way through it."
this has got to be one of the hardest jobs in the world,do you know how much death they see a year ? and are placed in other stressful situations.
Every people needs to de-stress themselves one way or another. Good thing there are a lot of de-stressing methods out there to do. Putting yourself into trance is good but it needs a lot of concentration, focus, and repetition.
For this stress relieving system to work, you will have to break the KKK behaviors handed down from the past....YES the DPD WAS the KKK iin the 20s and the 30s in Denver, along with the mayor and the Governor for the State.
It's ingrained; to relieve stress, just pick someone at random, beat the S#it out of them ( or even KILL them ) with no real consequences for your behavior, thanks to the union and the spineless REMFs sitting in the City & County building.
This has the added benefit of the DPD " showing who is the boss in Denver....BOY "
Just like they lynched the Ni....they still have that mentality today, only PC made EVERY CITIZEN a target for a beatdown.
The fact that the city has already shelled out a cool $MIL this year to settle police brutality claims, says much to prove what I have said is true...Checkout the SKINHEAD roster in the DPD....check out the 'roid ragers in the department....check out the deafening silence from the thin blue line...and the threats from the union if someone does try to break that line.
Yes, I'd say your work is cut out for you here in Denver.....
Unless you would rather deal with the " touchy feely " cops up in Boulder....
I'm so excited to get this topic out to the public. Police Stress is considered by some to be an epidemic--so any awareness we can bring to it is much appreciated. Don't hesitate to contact me with direct questions about my firstname.lastname@example.org
Yes, they really do. With suicide rates off the charts, they need this type of training more than most.
Yes, I do. And I agree, it is one of the hardest jobs in the world. This is why I'm so committed to helping where I can. Thanks for your comment.
Feel free to reach me email@example.com
Yes, my work is cut out for me here in the city, and in many places all over the country. I have private clients who have crossed the thin blue line and it's very ugly. . .dangerous. . .deadly. It's why I do what I do. One step at a time!