The following article was co-authored by Bobby Kipper
In a nation that has always honored and cherished first responders, we now are witness to a compelling and disturbing twist. One group that seems to be missing from television ads or public media notoriety is our nation’s law enforcement community.
A recent television ad from the Ford Motor Company celebrated first responders that drive Ford vehicles by focusing totally on the fire department. While we certainly honor and respect our nation’s firefighters, the fact is, police departments are a major market for Ford.
The proof of this that Ford's vehicles can be seen in communities across America on patrol.
Firefighters, paramedics and yes, police officers are all acknowledged as first responders.
Yet, now it doesn't seem trendy, relevant, or even acceptable to show the same industry who lost 71 heroes in the burning twin towers on 9-11 as being worthy of our current praise and adoration.
There has been a definite shift since the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Interestingly, while there has been a wide paint brush to smear our nation’s law enforcement as bad and callous, we can't find one officer or law enforcement leader who supports the way officers acted in that situation.
Most law enforcement management will not justify poor decisions or training in policing.
America is at a crossroads.
Where do we go from here?
How do we base our cries of policing reform on real solutions?
We can and must first start by providing a sense of healing to a necessary arm of government and society that has been driven, in many cases, to the breaking point.
The U.S. must once and for all move away from its "occupational shaming" of law enforcement — individually and collectviely — and begin aa conversation about a sense of wellness for both officers and the communities they serve.
This will be a process and not an event. It will take time.
The Oxfor English Dictionary defines shame as "a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior," or as a verb, "making someone feel ashamed."
American citizens, the media, and corporations have shamed the entire profession of policing.
Even officers are shamed by their superiors.
Shame attacks character, is demoralizing, and causes people to see themselves in a negative light. The impacts of shame can be profound — negative self-esteem, depression, and exacerbation of PTSD symptoms.
For example, shaming a child because they did not hit a home run in their last ball game has the reverse effect, and will likely cause the child to perform worse.
We have learned over the years that shaming children or employees for perceived poor performance simply does not work.
Why, then, do we think it would work on police officers?
Perhaps we could start by not telling police officers what they cannot do, what they are doing wrong, or pass judgment based on limited knowledge — but what they could do and do it better.
Defunding or cutting budgets will not lead to additional or better training; continued hostility, blame and shame will not lead to safer communities.
Investing in community and officer wellness is the first step.
We should all pledge to regain our way back to good solid community policing.
The absolute cessation of shaming of police is an impossible task.
We simply cannot control all actions of the public.
However, departments can mitigate the negative consequences of shame by investing in the wellness of their officers.
Because shame is linked to increases in depression, substance abuse, anger, and PTSD, having a well-rounded wellness program to include competent mental health resources, stigma-reducing policies, and well-trained peer support, is paramount.
Bobby Kipper is the founder and executive director of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence, and a 30-year law enforcement veteran.
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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