The Importance of Officer Resilience Training in Tough Times

Fundamentally, resilience training is about "self care" and "buddy care" and is fortunately being de-stigmatized across American law enforcement.

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It's not "news" to report that cops across the country have come under withering political and physical attacks in the past decade and a half.

Not since the 1970s have police come under the constant criticism that they're enduring now. According to the COPS Office at the Department of Justice, approximately 200 ambush attacks have occurred each year against law enforcement officers.

To the betterment of law enforcement everywhere, training in officer resilience—the ability to endure such attacks is becoming more common. The wellness and welfare—holistically—of the officers that are out there on patrol and working the streets is substantially increased with such training, as well as the vocal support from law enforcement leaders.

Here are some thoughts on the increasing interest in resilience training and the postive effects it can have. 

Warriors Caring for Warriors

When we talk about the warrior spirit or the warrior attitude or the warrior persona, one of the components has to be self-care. Ancient warriors didn't just sit around the campfire and sharpen their swords; they also tried to be prepared as a whole person, mentally, spiritually, and physically for the next battle, whenever that might come.

We know about physical fitness. We know about stress control a little bit, and we're now getting to the point where, after a huge traumatic incident such as a mass casualty incident or shooting incident, agencies kind of "force" thier people to go see the chaplain or a counselor and debrief.

That's after the fact—"right of bang," if you will. It's important and effective, but there's opportunity to add a layer to that mental health care that can help officers before something happens. 

Resilience training is an inoculation—a word that's been tossed around a lot in the past year or so—against post-traumatic stress. It's what authors Patrick Van Horne and Jason A. Riley would call "left of bang."

Until fairly recently, the mental and emotional preparation for police officers over the years was not particularly good.

Agencies made a little progress in that regard, but the responsibility also needs to be on the individual officers and their colleagues—and the police trainers providing resilience training. It's a concept that can be integrated into all kinds of other training—square range, EVOC driving, and just about every other type of training.

Fundamentally, resilience training is about "self care" and "buddy care" and is fortunately being de-stigmatized. It's about peer monitoring—particularly for supervisors—but for everybody that has a friend in law enforcement.

It's about learning to ask questions like, "What's my health like? What are my sleeping habits like? Are people complaining about my attitude? Are my ethics starting to slip a little bit?"

It's about asking those questions of your colleagues. "Are you OK? Can we get some time together off duty?"

Triumvirate of Self-Care

There are three basic categories of self-care.

First—and probably most popular among police officers—is physical fitness and general maintenance—and that's all about being are aware of your bodies. Working out on a regular basis enables officers to endure the physical pressures of patrol, from foot pursuits to taking resistive subjects into custody.

Further—as I've previously written—officers should ensure that your off-duty time is filled with fun and family—making sure that spouse, offspring, parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and even that strange woman who married your brother—know that they're loved. Take the family to dinner. Take the kids fishing.

Finally, there is officer mental heath—the category into which resilience training best fits. It's medicine for your heart and your head. It's a natural outgrowth of an overall physiological process—it's understanding and better controlling that little lizard brain squeezing out those adrenaline chemicals all the time.

Final Words

Resilience training is available nationwide from private companies, government agencies, and police organizations such as the local FOP.

Another resource is the IACP, which offers the Law Enforcement Agency and Officer Resilience Training Program.

It is one of the seven programs currently within the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA)s Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement Officers and Ensuring Officer Resilience and Survivability (VALOR) Project.

The fact is that resilience training can make your life happier and your career longer. It's great to see that it's spreading in popularity among line officers and support from command staff.

I hope that everyone in law enforcement keep that momentum going.


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Doug Wyllie Crop Headshot
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