“This is a difficult subject for early in the morning, huh?” Detective Mike Margolis asks, to some quiet laughter. “What we’re talking about here is making bad decisions.” He looks out at the group: some 35 men and 7 women who have been promoted or are about to be promoted to the rank of sergeant or detective with the LAPD, each of them on the force maybe ten years. They’re sitting at long tables in a conference room at the police academy in Elysian Park.
Margolis has been on the force for 28 years; he’s got fewer than 3 left, he’ll tell you. He’ll also tell you he’s a recovering alcoholic, sober 16-plus years, and if you do the math you’ll realize he had a serious drinking problem while he was on the job. A tall, intense man, he chooses his words carefully. “You wouldn’t have wanted to go through the door with me during a search warrant, due to my inability to focus,” he says, eyeing the group, “because I was hungover.”
Addiction prevention units focused on treating officers aren’t routine in police departments, and the LAPD’s is the only one west of the Mississippi run by two cops who are in recovery: Alongside Margolis is Sergeant Gus Marroquin, compact, soft-spoken, and ten years sober. As part of the department’s Behavioral Science Services Division, they work with 16 psychologists to reach out to 9,900 sworn police officers, 2,800 civilian employees, and their families, providing one-on-one therapy and treatment for addiction, domestic violence, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and depression.
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