Law enforcement has been through the ringer this year, both physically and psychologically.
A cycle of support, followed by increased tensions, then outright abuse, has taken place for decades. Law enforcement is the victim of both physical and mental abuse at the hands of American citizens, local politicians, and Washington, D.C. bureaucrats.
Following an officer-involved shooting in Philadelphia in which deadly use of force was likely warranted, over 30 officers were injured by rioters.
This "d****d if you do, "d****d if you don’t" mentality is actually only one typical characteristic of abuse.
In a cycle of abuse, there are three distinct phases:
First — tensions build, followed by an explosion, then a "honeymoon" period, before the cycle repeats itself.
American law enforcement has been trapped in this cycle for decades, with 2020 having even more deleterious effects. Officers were hailed as heroes for working the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Departments actually received thank you notes.
Some of our nation's cities displayed signs of gratitude.
Citizens showed gestures of appreciation.
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota created a period of tension, sparking protests and riots from coast to coast. Regardless of their race, department, or the fact that most officers are honest, have integrity, and act in good faith, law enforcement as a whole was blamed and punished by "protesters" for the actions of a few, along with alleged "systemic racism."
They screamed and fought hard enough, resulting in a blow to the morale and wellbeing of officers nationwide via calls for "defunding the police," even abolition, elimination of qualified immunity, even physical attacks.
A honeymoon period, one full of gratitude, is warranted — but it should be permanent.
The effects of the public’s betrayal and abuse toward American law enforcement are far from subtle. Requests to retire, applications for disability, and resignations are surging, and they are doing so especially in cities like Minneapolis, Seattle, and New York.
These are all cities in which protests and riots ran, and continue to run, rampant.
It's no surprise that a recent study estimated that over half of officers have considered quitting their jobs on a daily or weekly basis (See Lilly, M., and Curry, S., 2020).
Shame, fear, nightmares, anxiety, increased likelihood of burnout, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are only a handful of the effects of such psychological and physical abuse.
Police psychologists, nationally, affirm that they are seeing these symptoms increase.
Even more disturbing, is that these symptoms can contribute to suicidal thoughts and behavior in officers; a reality at epidemic levels.
Certainly, managing threats, dealing with angry citizens, and working to preserve life are all part of a police offer's job. However, the magnitude of recent emotional and physical abuse, which is a stark contrast to a period in which they were seen as heroes, is an immense betrayal to officers at the hands of the American public.
No human being deserves the mistreatment, attacks and vilification our law enforcement has endured.
The time is now, for the silent majority to speak up and support the men and women in blue. Our officers need to hear and see gratitude from the public.
We must voice our compassion and thanks, and take action by electing candidates at every level of government who back the blue.
Very real power is in the hands of the American people to minimize the effects of this egregious abuse on our law enforcement, and to maximize the respect and dignity law enforcement truly deserves.
Dr. Katherine Kuhlman is a police and clinical psychologist based in Scottsdale, Arizona. She has spent her career helping law enforcement and other first responders throughout their careers, including debriefings following officer-involved shootings, suicides, and mass casualty incidents. She is a national speaker on officer wellness and trauma. Dr. Kuhlman an expert in the field of behavioral threat assessment and targeted violence. She serves as an Executive Board Member for the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence. Read Dr. Katherine Kuhlman's Reports — More Here.
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