Alder Barbara Harrington-McKinney
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd
Madison, WI 53703
Phone: (608) 266-4071
Fax: (608) 267-8669
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Have You Had A Tough Week?
District 1 Friends
I thought this would be great to share. If you have had a tough week, somewhat like mine; I found reading Chief Koval's Blog sobering.
May 4, 2016 8:33 AM
A Tough Week for MPD
This past week was tough sledding for most of us at MPD. In addition to the "usual" calls that illuminate the human condition at the worst moments, our world turns upside down and sideways when the victims are children. One two-year old murdered, one six month old baby was admitted to a local hospital suffering from significant injuries, and the death of a three week old baby from a tragic accident will reduce grizzled veterans and rookies alike to tears. Given the innocence of children and their particular susceptibilities as vulnerable (and voiceless) victims, I believe that cops are truly caught trying to balance our "mission" of fact finding with the sensory overload of shock, disbelief, grief, anger, and sadness. And right when I think that we've hit rock bottom, MPD was dealt another unfathomable body blow when news came of yet another colleague (the second one this year) who had been given life-altering news of cancer. You must understand, cops who hope to not only "survive" but to "thrive" in this profession are conditioned to be control freaks to some extent. People expect that when the call for restoration to order goes out, the cavalry comes to the rescue to take hold of the situation and to bring back some degree of "normal." From an officer safety standpoint, cops learn that it is important to control a volatile scene and the subjects that are a part of that scene; once control is established, you can then begin the process of investigating the situation and considering the best possible resolutions. We are in the business of fixing things and making them better. But when you can't "fix" it, when bad things happen to young children, when you can't "fight" a diagnosis of "terminal," it rocks your world and leaves you searching and questioning for answers that may never be known or revealed . . .
As police officers, detectives, and forensic investigators, there are seemingly times when the litany of victims and incidents we respond to are not easily reconciled. The protracted exposures to graphic sights/sounds/smells and experiences stay with you. There will be times when you can't sleep, can't eat, don't feel like doing anything, and you feel like getting up from the couch takes too much energy. It is times such as these when it is critically important that the Department AND the individual employee(s) must commit to developing and enhancing a multi-pronged infrastructure of coping strategies in order for us to press forward. We are fortunate to have an excellent employee assistance program led by Tresa Martinez, who has cultivated a niche of support initiatives that is specific to protective service workers (i.e. police and fire).
You can't be a good guardian to the community without also being a good guardian to those who provide services. Thus, our people are terrific in activating a series of safety nets (critical incident debriefings, peer support, administrative leave, check-in's, counseling, etc.) for those who are in need of additional support or for those who just want to talk about their feelings and experiences as a means of constructive self-help in furthering their own health and wellness. And recognizing that an officer's family also has needs that cannot be taken for granted and knowing that someone close to an officer should be aware and alert to subtle changes that may surface, a grass roots movement began last year from within the Department. Calling themselves "Families Behind The Badge," the group is something of a support group to one another as well as to their family member or partner.
It is also important to have a support system surrounding our cops away from the workplace. Every recruit class I have ever taught gets "the talk" about maintaining and expanding the network of people you associate with who are NOT in any way related to policing. Not that there is anything intrinsically wrong with fraternizing with cops . . .but don't make this practice exclusive. The dangers of only associating with other cops is that there can be a "we" vs. "them" mindset that can evolve, if not properly checked and balanced with the perspectives of others.
I also ask potential hires about what they do for themselves when dealing with stress. I am encouraged when many I speak with say that they have a friend/partner/spouse who they can talk to about anything and everything. No filters. It so important to open up and talk about the feelings that are being experienced---while not necessarily sharing the graphic nature of the "call." Vigorous exercise comes up frequently. Relaxation therapies and mindfulness practices have been invoked with increasing frequency. And many of these aspirants cite their close ties with family to help them navigate turbulent times. One potential recruit turned the table on me during this past hiring process and asked what I did to try to stay centered given the demands of my job?!? I told them that walks with my wife (Jane) help me to clear the cobwebs, I call my Mom every day for a dose of unequivocal love and support, and my faith (particularly when I make the time to reflect and pray) all contribute to helping me "rebound" and face the next day and it's unique challenges.
While mental health and wellness programs are essential mainstays in keeping our employees properly centered and positive, don't ever underestimate the value of what it means to these officers to receive positive feedback from our constituents! Who doesn't like to be affirmed in their work from time to time?!! When an officer receives a thumbs-up, a "thank you," a card, an email or a phone call placed to a supervisor, it means a lot and validates the incredible effort it takes to do this job. It's easy to find fault. . .how about "catching" someone who is more than meeting and exceeding your expectations?
(Go to Chief Koval's Blog to read the entire story)
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