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How Law Enforcement Culture Plays into Stress and Wellness

John Violanti, Professor, University at Buffalo; Wendy Stiver, Major, Dayton (Ohio) Police Department; Dan Grupe, Associate Scientist, University of Wisconsin

John Violanti, research professor at University at Buffalo’s School of Public Health and Health Professions; Wendy Stiver, major at the Dayton (Ohio) Police Department; and Dan Grupe, associate scientist at University of Wisconsin’s Center for Healthy Minds, speak about how the law enforcement culture of not showing weakness might deter some officers from getting help if they are suffering from mental health issues. The subject matter experts recommend listening to officers and conveying that it’s okay to express emotions.

The speakers in this video took part in the NIJ Research for the Real World Seminar "Protecting Against Stress & Trauma: Research Lessons for Law Enforcement."

JOHN VIOLANTI: The culture demands that officers not be weak, that they not show weakness, that they not admit to weakness, and this is very unfortunate because what happens is when they do get in trouble, when they do have mental health problems they're not gonna ask for help.

WENDY STIVER: It may sometimes be difficult for police leaders to hear when other officers are telling them that we might need to look at things a little bit differently. But that's the most critical thing we can do in our agencies on any issue is to listen to the people that are doing the job and give them voice and allow them to-- to tell us when we might need to correct our course a little bit to do a better job of caring for, not only them but the community. Because the way we treat our officers reflects in the way that they treat the community.

DAN GRUPE: I really think the culture of policing needs to change around just the issue of emotional awareness, emotional recognition, recognizing that when you're exposed to the kind of intense human suffering that police officers are exposed to it's acceptable, it's understandable, it's-- it's normal that you would experience some suffering because of that and that there would be difficulties. And we know from a lot of research on the way that people express their emotions and regulate their emotions that when you take on a strategy of avoidance or not expressing emotions that has a lot of negative long-term health consequences both for physical and mental health. So-- so I think it's really critical to, in whatever way we can, we can start to shift the culture of policing, and to make it just more normative to be able to express emotions, to express difficulty, and-- and to try to convey to officers this doesn't make you weak, I think it makes you human.

Date Modified:
Date Created: January 14, 2020