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"I'm on a mission," Wimberger told a gathering of officers at the annual International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association conference in Chicago in April. "The mission is to bring emotional-survival techniques to first responders, specifically law-enforcement agents, because you don't really have much in terms of prevention."
She's found some interesting allies in that mission, including retired police officer Chris Dobratz, now an assistant professor at Minnesota State University; John Marx, a retired Westminster Police Department sergeant who founded CopsAlive.com; and Dale Graff, a physicist who's the former director of Stargate — the government program that investigated remote viewing, and upon which the film The Men Who Stare at Goats was loosely based. The four have been working together and individually to help relieve police stress and post-traumatic stress disorder, and even help officers tap into their own intuition; they joined together for the first time to present an eight-hour workshop at the ILEETA conference, holding the floor for two hours apiece.
During his portion, Marx polled the audience to find out how many people knew a fellow officer who'd committed suicide. Every single cop in the room had a connection to a suicide — including Marx himself. Someone he knew had killed himself just a year and a half after retiring from police work.
Marx started CopsAlive.com to help officers navigate what he calls "the hidden dangers of law enforcement" and start discussing those hidden dangers. Wimberger met Marx through the CopsAlive.com blog in January 2010, and is now a guest blogger on the site. "I think there's a problem, whatever the scope of the problem is," Marx notes. "And I think we need to do something about it."
Wimberger's blogging on CopsAlive.com brought her into contact with Dobratz, who teaches a class on stress management for police officers at Minnesota State. It's a subject near and dear to his heart: Dobratz himself suffers from PTSD, a relic of his work with the Hutchinson, Minnesota, police department. In 2001, after struggling with infertility, he and his wife had their first child; soon after, Dobratz was called to two scenes that had a major impact on him. One was a domestic-violence situation in which a three-year-old was stuck inside the house; another was a house fire in which three fourth-grade boys died. A Thursday-night pizza-party sleepover turned tragic when the host mother left the house; there were no batteries in the otherwise functional smoke detectors, and the boys died of smoke inhalation.
"The investigation was assigned to me, and it went on for eight months," Dobratz remembers. "I didn't think anything was wrong. And then, the first week in December of 2001, I remember driving home from teaching part-time at the college, and my mind just started racing about all these different things happening to kids, and I started thinking about my own daughter and how people could treat kids like that. By the next morning, I was in a complete state of panic." Dobratz's wife came home to find her husband — a ten-year veteran of the police force — curled up on the couch in a fetal position, sobbing uncontrollably.
That was the beginning of the end of Dobratz's career as a cop; although he went into counseling, physical issues eventually led to his early retirement in 2008.
Wimberger invited Dobratz to tell his story at a training she conducted for officers in Littleton last year. "Lisa asked them at the beginning of the session what their feelings were about attending the session," Dobratz recalls. "One guy said, 'Great, another hippie from Boulder here to teach us about our feelings,' and another said, 'I've got Rockies tickets, and Jimenez is pitching tonight.'
"Interestingly enough, one of those guys came up to me before the training was over and thanked me for talking," he adds. "I see it in my class, too. You hear a lot of negativity about it before they get the training, and then if they get good training, it's amazing how they open their eyes afterward."
First, though, Lisa Wimberger has to convince officers that, even though she's not in police work herself, she has something to offer them.
To do that, she starts a training session by telling her own story. She's no stranger to trauma and life-and-death situations, she'll tell the class, and meditation and creative visualization techniques have helped her cope. "On my fifteenth birthday, I was hit by lightning in the base of the spine," she explains. "That summer, I started blacking out and having seizures, most of the time when I was by myself." The episodes got worse as she grew older, but her condition wasn't diagnosed until she had a seizure and flatlined in a doctor's office.
He told her she was vasovagal: Her vagus nerve is hypersensitive and will stop her heart periodically, without warning. She's used her meditation techniques to help recover from these episodes.
"So when I talk to cops, even though I'm not a cop and I'll never have that connection or that credibility, I can speak to very specific trauma on a level that they can understand, because they understand life and death, and I deal with it every day," she notes. "That's my way into establishing some understanding with that group and myself. If I don't have that and I'm not one of them, then what I have to offer does not seem applicable."
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!