Local Law Enforcement Officers put on their “emotional armor” when they go to work.

When a local law enforcement officer (LEO) goes to work, he (or she) puts on body armor to protect themselves from assault.  The body armor is a barrier in case of physical assault.

The streets increasingly can be an unsafe place to work.

At the same time, whether they acknowledge it or not, they put on their emotional armor. A LEO, during the course of a shift, witnesses many situations which, all would agree, could easily be characterized as emotionally jarring.  As the LEO must maintain a certain amount of objectivity, or emotional distance, in order to be effective in handling the situation which exists, emotional armor enables him to be involved without getting overwhelmed. The emotional armor is a barrier to emotional assault.

The streets increasingly can be a messy place to work.

There is, however, a balance.  Too much emotional armor and the LEO comes across as cold and uncaring.  Too little emotional armor and the LEO takes things too personally and may act out aggressively or gets too involved and can’t make important decisions.

It is, at best, very difficult to suppress all feelings.  It may, in fact, be impossible.  The hero is not the person who feels no anger, anxiety or fear. Rather, the hero experiences these emotions and takes appropriate action any way.

We have seen many instances in which a LEO acts very aggressively against a citizen and what we see in the video seems totally inappropriate. Sometimes, on later review, we find that the LEO acted within his training and policy and we just didn’t have the whole “picture”.  In these cases, the emotional armor worked. At other times, later reviews confirm that the LEO gave in to the emotions of the moment and acted way out of line given the situation. Typically, it is the often misunderstood emotion of anger that is involved. In these cases, the emotional armor didn’t work at all.

There is another situation in which one’s emotional armor must be taken into consideration. This is when the LEO goes home to a spouse and kids after a shift.

When the shift is over, the LEO removes his body armor. It is no longer needed.

He, however, may forget to take off his emotional armor.  If this is the case, he goes home and his spouse and kids, understandably, want him to be husband and dad and, because he is still emotionally armored, he isn’t ready to switch roles from LEO to lover or loving dad. Under these circumstances, he may overreact and yell at the kids or push them away and give them the impression that they have done something wrong.

A possible solution is for the LEO to take whatever time is necessary to decompress from, and leave work at, work.  Knowing that this time is often (not always) necessary, the LEO can teach his spouse and kids to give him this space without their feeling that he is insensitive and, when he is ready, he can become lover and loving.

Please share this post with a LEO if you think it would be helpful.

And, share your comments with me.




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