I’ve discovered that you can play a role in preventing police burnout. I’m no expert in this area but here’s what some of the best practices include. We look at 4 groups who can contribute to solutions.

Helping Your Colleagues

  • Be supportive of new people. Your goal is to build them up to be the best they can be. Don’t make it a competition but a collaboration. Assist them in every way possible. If it ever comes up, don’t be a part of ostracizing for any reason. And watch if they begin to withdraw themselves from the daily camaraderie. Make them a part of a positive, forward moving community.
  • Watch for how someone cares for equipment and vehicles. Pride in the tools of your trade shows pride in yourself. And it projects pride and order to the community. When it deteriorates, something is wrong. Ask questions.
  • Encourage a fellow officer with physical ailments to get them checked out. Bear in mind that stress shows up in all sorts of ways, oftentimes with small unexplainable physical symptoms. While they are checking out the symptoms, pay attention to what the causes might be. If you see physical, emotional or performance deterioration in a colleague, ask questions. Be bolder sooner. Would you rather see them perturbed by your questions or overlook it and attend their funeral after suicide?
  • The Organization
  • Recognize the whole person. To the degree allowed, do not separate their on-the-job problems from off-the-job problems. The two are connected and acknowledging this is the first step to solutions. That doesn’t mean solutions will be easy, but it does mean you are dealing with the whole reality in that persons life.
  • Maintain a team, made up of active officers and support staff, to provide employee assistance for whatever the officer needs to discuss, whether from on the job or at home. Always create a forum to discuss high stress incidents to help prevent post traumatic stress disorder.
  • Define allowable ways to deal with boredom. This often happens on night shift where there may be a struggle to stay awake. What may the officer do to deal with the situation? Use the latest information on shift work to create the healthiest and best possible rotation for your people.
  • Provide psychological and chaplaincy assistance for officers in an environment of complete confidentiality. If necessary, cover this with adequate and immediate insurance provision.
  • If there are job or family problems and it’s indicated an officer would be better doing something else, somewhere else for the time being, make that move possible. Create policy that would make such temporary placements acceptable. Make this a part of a healthy culture that focuses on having a cop be at their very best.
  • Minimize duplication of procedures. Minimize having to do the same thing over and over for the very same incident – paperwork, interviews etc.
  • Have all personnel take a course in dealing with stress, overload and burnout. Raise awareness, train, provide tools for detection and support. Make this training widespread and work on adjusting it until you know is is meeting the need.
  • Provide psychological and chaplaincy support for spouses and families when they need it.
  • Keep families informed about the policing. Use any means that will involve and inform them. Keep them abreast of the latest information that would be relevant for them to know. Create occasions to acknowledge the work of their spouses, dads and moms who work on the force.
  • Administration and Public Officials
  • Be your force’s biggest supporter. They are doing one great public service. Take every opportunity to thank them publicly. Build them up before the public. Forget politics. Just give credit where credit is due. Those things we tend to, tend to do better.
  • Appreciate your people. Do not contribute to a ‘us versus them’ mentality. Wipe that out in every way possible.
  • Support the police in seeing criminals get the justice they deserve. Criminals are the bad guys. Police seem frustrated by the easy ride those who commit crimes get.
  • Cultivate personal interaction with police. Create an environment of trust and support. They need to know that officials are behind them and care enough to stop and know them personally.
  • Be collaborative. Don’t create policy affecting policing without the input of the very people it will impact the most. Take advantage of their on-the-street knowledge and wisdom. Partner together to really achieve forward moving reforms that work.
  • Provide certainty. A huge stress involves what will happen for their family if the officer is left injured or killed. Like the military, these men and women put themselves in harm’s way. Provide for the ongoing care of them and their families if something goes badly wrong. And don’t drag it out for years. Support them for real.
  • Recognize that mistakes will be made. Should they be eliminated or reduced? Absolutely. Policing is all about people. Fallible people. Provide the training and support needed to minimize possibility of error but recognize that officers live with split second decision making often within a charged atmosphere and sparsity of information to go make those decisions on. It’s a tough call. Just know that many errors are probably honest errors.
  • Raise the profile of policing in the community. Officially support community endeavors that police are a part of. Encourage your people in this type of contribution and involvement.
  • Communicate. Communicate. Keep the doors of communication open. Stress and burnout is spawned in a vacuum. Not hearing from you can be translated to mean, ‘not interested’, and ‘don’t care’. Never let this happen. Like tending a superb garden, cultivate communication.
  • We The Public
  • Take some time to think about what the police do and the constraints they are under. Time pressures, increasing demand for services, tight resources, expanding population, shifting territories, changing assignments, changing forms of crime and sentencing, your own expectations and those of a whole community, shift work, overtime and court appearances … and much more. Like you, change doesn’t stop. If anything it increases at a demanding rate for police forces.
  • Support officers and their families. Marriages are more likely to break up in policing families. Problems with alcohol are more likely. And suicide has a greater chance of happening in policing families. It’s stressful. Do your part as a citizen and as a community to exert a positive influence in support of those involved in this profession.
  • Say thank you.
  • Check your attitudes. If you have it … get rid of the ‘we/them’ attitude. These are the people who keep you safe.
  • We trust you have found these few insights gleaned from policing organizations and professionals helpful. Preventing police burnout does have solutions.