First Responders & the Battle of the Bulge

This is a reprint of the Safe Call Now Blog

Saturday, July 4, 2015

#1stresponders & the Battle of the Bulge


Interview of Sgt. Mark St. Hilaire for Force Science Institute Ltd. by Chuck Remsberg

Wisecracks about cops and donuts are annoying, but how far are they from the truth?

Sgt. Mark St. Hilaire, one of a half dozen instructors who spoke on wellness topics at the latest ILEETA annual training conference, cites two pertinent items from the news of late:

• In the US, more than 40% of police officers, firefighters, and security personnel are obese, the highest prevalence of all professions, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Obese was defined as having a body mass index of 30 or above.

• In England, despite a nationwide drive to slim down frontline officers, a major police equipment store recently reported selling out of XXXL duty belts, designed for waists of 50-56 inches, according to London’s Daily Mail website. Before a fitness campaign was launched, 64% of that city’s bobbies and police staff were said to be overweight, obese, or morbidly obese.

“Health and wellness take a back seat in law enforcement training,” laments St. Hilaire, a 24-year veteran of the Natick (MA) PD in the Boston metro area. “As trainers, we need to be the change agents within our agencies.”

In the absence of administrative commitment to a full-scale fitness program, St. Hilaire urges that every supervisor and instructor begin integrating “brief, light-hearted tips” about health benefits into roll calls and in-service training, to raise awareness and, hopefully, ignite motivation for multigenerational audiences.

“These might be as simple as suggesting that officers pack a ‘tactical lunch bag,’ a small cooler with healthy snacks and meals to bring with them to work so they have an alternative to a doomsday diet of fast-food or have nutritious energy boosters if they get stuck at a post,” St. Hilaire says. “Small improvements add up.”

In the interest of generalized wellness, these short briefings can be expanded beyond weight control, he says, to include practical information about emotional health, fatigue and sleep problems, physical fitness for duty, addictions and substance abuse, officer suicide awareness, and other law enforcement-related mind and body concerns.

To capture officers’ attention, he likes to point out that even in urban areas backup is often at least two minutes away…and then ask for a candid self-assessment: “Are you in good enough shape to go hands-on with a resistant, combative subject for two full minutes?”

(Force Science research has proven that that can be a tough standard. In experiments with street-level personnel, FS researchers have found that today’s average officer can be physically depleted in less than 60 seconds of full-out exertion.)

Good conditioning is much more than purely a vanity or image issue, St. Hilaire stresses. Heart attacks are the third greatest cause of line-of-duty deaths, he points out. And among other consequences of poor fitness, he foresees a day when legal problems will arise.

“What will happen if a citizen is hurt because an officer was not fit enough to prevent or stop an attack?” he asks. “Will the officer be liable because he or she wasn’t able to perform their duty correctly?”

The current state of police wellness, he warns, is “a wakeup call for our profession. We’d better hear it and do something about changing our culture.”

St. Hilaire can be reached at: He is willing to share lesson plan ideas and resources for quick-hit topics that can promote healthier habits on the job.

Our thanks to “Coach” Bob Lindsey, a graduate of the certification course in Force Science Analysis, for helping to facilitate this report.





I was preparing recently for this follow up article on health and wellness when I had a telephone conversation with my good friend and mentor Robert Lindsey who is known intimately by many in law enforcement as “Coach”.

I discussed my suggestions for steps a public safety professional may consider when they are restarting their own wellness plan.

When I shared with Coach a situation I encountered many years ago when I truly became SICK AND TIRED OF BEING SICK AND TIRED, Coach politely responded with his thoughts for my consideration and I am honored to share this with all of you.

Both Coach and I come from backgrounds in law enforcement in which our personal lives declined out of control with our physical health out of control at over 300+ lbs. in body weight, substance abuse and addictive behaviors and a deep spiritual decline which bordered upon total hopelessness.

Coach brought up Dr. Elisabeth Kuber-Ross’s 5 stages of the grief cycle from her book, ON DEATH AND DYING.  







Coach uses this point when he teaches others on discovering our personal inner self.  He challenges all of us to consider this:

  • We would never allow the bad guy to hurt us or our loved ones BUT why won’t we take care of ourselves when it comes to our own health, well-being or our own personal sense of safety?


  • When we encounter pain, whether physical or emotional, it is a signal that something is wrong AND the real test is addressing the cause of this pain.


  • Whether it is physical, emotional or spiritual WE need to take action.


  • The real question is WHEN DO WE TAKE ACTION?




Coach brings up Dr. Kuber-Ross’ 5 stages in the sense of self-examination that if we discover an issue with our well-being in that DENIAL stage and if we can progress over toward the ACCEPTANCE stage, we can implement a plan to move forward in our life.  To address the cause of the pain that is personally afflicting us while hopefully by-passing the middle stages of frustration, chaos and more pain.


From our personal experiences, Coach and I are trying to help our brothers and sisters avoid the frustration and pain that denial along with the pain of frustration of the non-realistic decisions we make up in our minds when we attempt to deflect a bad situation or avoid the personal issue all together.  When we are honest with ourselves taking a serious inventory of where are and the impact the issue has on us, we are hoping that you will not suffer the pain and embarrassment of continuing living in present problem but have the honest courage to move along to a positive and healthy solution.


Later that day, I looked onto for their analysis on Dr. Kuber-Ross’ work which they noted that this emotional cycle is not exclusive to the terminally ill but others effected by sad news such as losing a job or other situations negatively affected by change.  Whether the change is good or bad, it is perceived as a negative event. goes on to publish her cycles to include 2 additional stages (noted *):

*SHOCK: Paralysis of hearing bad news.

DENIAL: Trying to avoid the inevitable.

ANGER: Frustrated outpouring of bottled up emotions

BARGAINING: Seeking in vain for a way out.

DEPRESSION: Final realization of the inevitable.

*TESTING: Seeking realistic solutions.

ACCEPTANCE: Finding the way forward.


They noted that people sometimes get stuck at the Denial stage or they may move on too quickly or move backwards (through Avoidance).


What our message is for you reading this article while you reflect personally on your own present well-being is that you recognize the present reality of poor health, declining physical fitness, weight management problems, that secret addictive behavior you may struggle with that we tell ourselves that no one else knows (trust us they do) or that mental anguish that continues to replay in our minds which continues that emotional beat down of in-security, loss of confidence and poor self-esteem.


What Coach and I are asking you is consider the following actions:


  • Admit and confirm with yourself the issue at hand.


  • Tell someone you trust and can confide with about the issue.


  • Ask for help for resources to help you address the issue.


  • Be courageous and willing to accept the help and be willing to change by addressing the issue.



Our roles in public safety place huge demands on us which affect all of us in a variety of ways as our careers progress.  Recognizing that most fictional super heroes have their weakness too.  We need to take the proper positive self-care to survive our careers, maintain and develop our relationships with others and keep a mentally positive outlook in our lives.  We need to work towards a sense of physical, emotional and spiritual balance. Our loved ones, our peers and our communities we served deserve it.



Retired Colonel Robert “Coach” Lindsey of Jefferson Parish in Louisiana is a founding member of ILEETA and ASLET. He is a well-known law enforcement trainer and mentor to many public safety professionals.


Sgt. Mark St.Hilaire is a 30 year veteran police officer in a busy Metro-west suburb of Boston, Mass.  He is a volunteer police peer on a regional CISM team.  He is a passionate trainer and writer on public safety health and wellness. He can be contacted confidentially by email at: Follow him on Twitter @NPD3306  or Linked-In.

1st published SCN

What’s really killing law enforcement

Recently I had the honor to present at the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association 2015 Conference in Chicago.  This year’s conference brought close to 800 law enforcement and military professionals and trainers from around the world.

This year, SAFE CALL NOW was included in the 6 day of the best training on topics of self-defense, tactical training, legal issues, and inter-personal communications.  The topic that has expanded over the past several years is officer health and wellness.  Capt. Brian Nanavaty who is the Education Director for SAFE CALL NOW and a well-respected member of ILEETA did a great job educating our peers about SAFE CALL NOW along with members of his staff from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Office of Professional Development and Police Wellness. The Advisory Board of ILEETA created booth space in the conference exposition hall for SAFE CALL NOW. A special thanks to ILEETA’s Director, Harvey Hedden for this opportunity.

The ILEETA Advisory Board has been very open and cooperative with a dedicated work group that is continuing to develop a Basic Health and Wellness Curriculum for any law enforcement trainer to use to help educate and change the culture not only in law enforcement but all areas of public safety professionals.  I am grateful to retired officers, John Marx of Colorado (; Mark Sherwood of Oklahoma ( and Colonel Robert “Coach” Lindsey formerly of Louisiana who have encouraged me along with hundreds of peers at ILEETA and world-wide to help educate our brothers and sisters of the real threats to our health, safety and well-being on and off duty.

My presentation at ILEETA was an overview of the real dangers facing law enforcement today.  According to the Officer Down Memorial Page ( between March 2014 and April 12, 2015

The top 3 causes of Line of Duty Law Enforcement Deaths in the U.S. were:

  1. Gunfire which took 52 lives
  2. Vehicle crashes which took 52 lives
  3. Heart Attacks (health related) which took 25 lives

There is a larger threat facing the law enforcement profession in greater numbers than the total of line of duty deaths combined: Police Officer Suicides.

Heart attacks and health issues are taking a huge toll on our peers everywhere in public safety.  The statistics indicate the line of duty deaths so we must ask ourselves how many of our peers succumb to health issues off duty.   As the BELOW 100 program is working diligently to reduce police deaths we must remember that through education and peer support, we can reduce these tragic numbers.  As our friend, Gordon Graham states often: “If it’s predictable, it’s Preventable”.

Our good friend, Sean Riley has motivated me to discuss in a series of future articles about the health and wellness issues which not only impact our work performance but our relationships and our retirement years following our public safety careers.

From my own personal experience as a 30 year veteran police officer and supervisor, I have witnessed and suffered the effects of trauma both on and off duty, the day in-day out grind of serving a demanding public, disappointments, agency politics, interpersonal relationships at work and at home.  I have struggled like many of you over the years to stay motivated not only professionally but more importantly with my life outside of law enforcement.  The most important role in my life today is that of a loving Dad, Husband, Son, Brother, Cousin and an active community member.

I have been blessed with many individuals both on the job and in the real world who have counseled and guided me toward continual emotional, spiritual, physical growth and all around health and wellness. To give back what I have received, I continue to train as member of a volunteer CISM team serving public safety. I make myself available as a police peer to listen and guide my fellow public safety professionals toward a healthy resolution for the burdens that trouble them. I am honored by their trust and confidence and I am blessed by the growing resources such as SAFE CALL NOW that are serving the needs of our public safety peers.


Sgt. Mark St.Hilaire is a 30 year police veteran serving in a Metrowest suburb of Boston, Massachusetts.  He is a volunteer police peer with a regional CISM team.  He is passionate about health and wellness education.                He writes for several public safety publications. The views in this article are his own.

1st published:




By Sgt. Mark St.Hilaire and Ret. Col. Robert “Coach” Lindsey

Recently, I had a bi-weekly telephone call with Bob “Coach” Lindsey.  Many LEOs know Coach as a well-known trainer, mentor and visionary within the corrections and law enforcement field.  He is the Patriarch of many professional organizations like the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA).  When Coach raises his hand and graciously requests to add his thoughts in a discussion, everyone carefully listens to his wisdom of experience and his passion.

Coach opened our conversation with a sad commentary that we have lost our 13th LEO to an on-duty heart attack this year, the first week of November. In his southern Louisianan voice he asked me if we could do something together to address this growing cop killer.  So here we are writing this article together for all of you as Coach humbly refers, “Our Brothers and Sisters of the Shield”.

During the 2014 ILEETA Conference in Chicago, Coach and I were part of a L.E. Health and Wellness Project along with Retired Westminster, Colorado Senior Officer John Marx and Retired Tulsa, Oklahoma Sergeant Mark Sherwood.  With the in-put of over 75 L.E. Trainers affiliated with ILEETA world-wide and many other public safety professionals, we have been developing a basic wellness curriculum for any law enforcement trainer to help educate and guide our peers from the real dangers facing law enforcement today. Part of our research indicates that serious health issues are a major factor in LEO deaths and disability both on and off duty.  As a profession we have worked hard on our defensive officer survival skills from the criminal element that our own poor health and well-being are now contributing to the top 5 reasons of L.E. line of duty deaths.

Since 2008, the Officer-Down Memorial Page has indicated that heart attacks have been between the 3rd and the 5th cause of L.O.D. deaths in U.S. Law Enforcement. (#1 killer of Firefighters).

In 2013, U.S. Law Enforcement lost 111 to L.O.D. deaths (lowest since 1959):

  1. Vehicle crashes
  2. Shootings
  3. Heart Attacks

What we ask you now is to consider this:


We are asking you as LEOs to be willing to change your lifestyle if necessary.  We’re all smart, conscientious and reasonable adults who may work in a large city, a rural area and many places in between.  The fact of the matter is that our health and fitness is vital for survival and performing our duties efficiently.  Other people are depending on us.

Just like wearing your seatbelt and watching your speed which reduces the chance of a crash or wearing your ballistic body armor that increases your chances for survival from a gunshot or a stabbing, getting a health checkup, eating good whole foods and participating in job specific physical exercise increases your chance against heart disease, stroke, injury and other illnesses.

Coach and I testify before you as individuals whose own lives were out of control as LEOs.  We share with you our past experiences of being grossly overweight trying to do this job.  Somehow we had the courage to look at ourselves (and by our loved ones) that we needed to change. Today we are both maintaining healthy bodies, minds and spirits and we are willing to help anyone who wants to get well.

We know what you’re thinking: There are no guarantees against a sudden illness while we agree that if you look at the real odds, it is much better to take some preventative measures toward an improved and healthy lifestyle.

We want to highlight 10 tips recommended by Dr. Gordon A. Ewy M.D. who is the Director Emeritus of the University of Arizona: Saver Heart Center.

  1. Take responsibility for your health.
  2. Know your health risks.
  3. Don’t smoke or expose yourself to second-hand smoke.
  4. Maintain a healthy blood pressure.
  5. Monitor your cholesterol.
  6. Limit your calorie intake.
  7. Make exercise a daily habit.
  8. Pick your supplements carefully.
  9. Reduce stress.
  10. Stay informed as science changes.

In addition, Coach and I want to encourage you as LEOs to:

  1. Get proper sleep (7-8 hours a day).
  2. Develop your personal relationships with family and others outside of L.E.
  3. Do something besides work (hobby, relax, spiritual worship).
  4. Seek peer assistance, visit your chaplain or seek professional counseling to maintain your emotional balance and stress management.

We are asking each of you to honestly look within yourself and assess where you are health-wise.  We believe that any change that you are willing to make will help you live a more  balanced life toward a great retirement while honorably serving your community as peace keepers and help us as a profession reduce these sad and tragic health statistics.


Stay safe and be well!


Sgt. Mark St.Hilaire is a 29 year veteran LEO working in a busy Metro-west suburb of Boston, Mass.  He is a volunteer police peer with a regional CISM Team.  He is a member of ILEETA.  You can follow him on Twitter: @npd3306 or Linked-In.  You can contact him by confidential email:

Colonel Robert “Coach” Lindsey is retired after 34 years of service with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff Office in Louisiana.  He is an active teacher in retirement working with law enforcement and corrections world-wide.  Coach has received numerous awards and honors for his role as a tactics trainer, martial artist, Verbal Judo Instructor and a mentor to many individuals world-wide.


1st published L.E.T.

2014 Law Enforcement Fitness and Wellness Project Survey


I am participating with other law enforcement trainers at the 2014 International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (I.L.E.E.T.A.) conference in Chicago in March.  We are reaching out to other law enforcement professionals around the world to provide us with your observations and feedback on the current state of Law Enforcement Officer Health, Fitness and Wellness.

This is an anonymous survey.  If you would like to discuss this issue further with some of the project facilitators, please send a confidential email to: (Health & Fitness) or (Emotional wellness).

We appreciate your participation. Thank you!

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Resilient and Stronger

Resilient and Stronger


Resilience: The ability to recover or adjust easily (1); the ability to become strong, healthy or successful again after something bad happens (2).

2013 has been a year which has tested many First Responder’s resiliency, mine included.

The test for me began on Monday April 15 while I was attending the ILEETA conference in Illinois.  I received a text message from an out of state friend telling me that a bomb had gone off at the Boston Marathon.  The Boston Marathon comes straight through the middle of my community.  I started calling home, calling some of my officers who were back home working to find out what was going on.  At the same time, I started getting barraged with more text messages from out of state family and friends checking up on me.  The initial reports were confusing but I soon found out that my community 14 miles west of Boston was safe.

I experienced a lot of mixed feelings through the rest of that week.  Many friends at the conference, my family and personal friends assured me that I was where I was supposed to be.

My anxiety kicked up on that Thursday night as the news of MIT Police Officer Sean Collier assassination, the ensuing chase and the midnight shootout in Watertown, Mass.  By early Friday morning, I watched on television with others around the world as the Metro Boston region was locked down as the search for a terrorist(s) was underway.  As a LEO stuck in Chicago, I felt like a helpless benched player on the day of the big game that I have prepared for over the past 28 years.

My family and friends once again reassuring me that they were fine, it wasn’t until a lunch time telephone call with my 14 year old daughter that Friday which brought me back into reality.  In a nutshell, she reiterated to me the next evening when she told me that she was glad I was in Chicago.  She went on to tell me as we sat alone in my car, “Dad, knowing you, you would have gone to Watertown and you would have gotten shot”.  What a gift it was to hear my daughter tell me for the first time ever that she was scared about my safety on the job.

I was able to contribute in the following weeks as a volunteer member of a regional CISM team which still continues to assist many First Responders in the Greater Boston area today.

As for the Boston area, well if you haven’t noticed, we are bouncing back stronger than ever.  The victims and the people involved in this tragedy are remarkable and they are the real examples of resiliency.  They are truly, BOSTON STRONG!

As I entered the summer, I became frustrated with some work issues.  I had the opportunity to attend the Trauma in Law Enforcement conference in Albany, N.Y. which was previously rescheduled due to Hurricane Sandy.

One of the many LEO speakers discussed his personal experience dealing with his own professional frustration and how he sought out the assistance of professional mental health assistance.

When I returned home, I made a decision to contact a police psychologist who returned to my community after serving nearly two decades within the 3rd largest police agency in the U.S.

Working with this gentleman has been an eye opening experience as he set up various exercises for me to look at the sources of my frustration.  Within several weeks, I was amazed to learn about my job performance through feedback with subordinates, peers and others.  My agency does not conduct performance evaluations which I have come to realize are vital for an individual to set goals and make positive changes in performance.

I had the opportunity to meet this same conference speaker again in July while I was attending additional training. At lunch, I had the opportunity to thank this gentleman personally for sharing his story.  He thanked me for utilizing the suggestions he presented earlier.

In late July, our family experienced an event inside our home that caught us totally off guard.  This incident disrupted the various beliefs and values I’ve had as a LEO.  For 28 years, I’ve been going to other people’s home to assist them in a crisis.  Now, the crisis was inside my own home.  This incident threw me off emotionally and I needed to take some time from work to regroup and reprioritize what was really important.  Many of my activities changed suddenly including my semi-annual studying for our promotional exams.  For the first time in 20 years I did not register for this exam.

During this time, I learned so much about myself while asking for more help.  My family and I were blessed with the assistance of our neighbors, family and friends who stepped in to assist us.

When we are resilient as First Responders, we become flexible and we learn to adapt to the constant changes in our work environment and our personal lives.  To develop this resiliency, we must be open to continuous training while building our personal safety net.  It is up to each of us to develop our safety net consisting of family, friends, peers, clergy, CISM Team and a mental health professional who understands the LEO and public safety culture.  I am asking you to prepare this safety net now before events such as a critical incident, natural disaster, family illness or death; any situation that can overwhelm us occurs.  Plan out and discuss your expectations of how these individuals will assist you.  These people will be holding the ropes to your safety net up.

I was very fortunate to get through the fall season while meeting weekly with this clinician.  The various discussions and exercises reminded me of the things I have no control over and what I do have control over.  These new skills prepared me for a recent action professionally that left me disappointed but more emotionally resilient.  I have received many compassionate and complimentary messages from friends within my community which have validated and reinforced my desire to serve within this honorable profession.

I am a grateful and wealthy man.  I don’t have much money but I am blessed with many invaluable family and friends.  They are all part of my resilient safety net.

Happy New Year!


Stay safe and be well!

(1)     Merriam-Webster Dictionary 1995.     (2)     Merriam-Webster (on-line) 2013.

First published: L.E.T. 













The Cops Amaze Me by Bob Lonsberry of WHAM 1180

I read this commentary from a Police Spouse website and I appreciate Bob’s understanding what law enforcement officers face at the time of danger.  The real story is how the officers the officers responded to the Navy Yard Shooter.- Mark

Tuesday, September 17, 2013 (1st published by )

The Cops Amaze Me

The cops amaze me.

Some days I honestly don’t know how they do it.

Like yesterday, at the Navy Yard.

We know about the bad guy, we know about his military record and his criminal record. And we know what he did.

But we don’t know much about how he came to stop doing what he was doing.

We don’t know much about how they took him down.

But what we do know is impressive.

Which gets back to the cops.

Yesterday morning about 8:20, the first 9-1-1 call came in of trouble in Building 197. Moments later, an alert was broadcast and officers began speeding toward the Navy Yard from across the District of Columbia.

Regular patrol officers.

Some from schools, some from speed-enforcement details, all from the first hour a new shift and a new week. Old, young, male, female, black, white. They just came. Primarily from the Metropolitan Police Department and the Federal Park Police.

Officers whose lives were going from zero to 60 in the blink of an eye. Officers who went from the sleepy good morning of a Monday dawn to the real-world battlefield of an active shooter.

They began to arrive almost immediately.

And quickly formed up into an assault team.

They didn’t wait for the SWAT team. They didn’t stand back and wait for the armored personnel carrier. They formed up and went in.

Specifically, seven minutes after the first call, an ad hoc team of park police and district police with AR-15s ran into the building in their patrol uniforms.

They ran to the sound of the gunfire.

They closed with the enemy, and engaged him, and killed him.

And by every account some 10 minutes after the first word of trouble had breathed across the police radio, regular patrol officers had killed the gunman and ended his assault.

He fought the law, and the law won.

It’s impossible to calculate how many lives that saved. It’s impossible to calculate how much expertise that took.

It’s impossible to grasp the mindset of readiness that must permeate the men and women of law enforcement. Without notice, the police can be thrown into life-and-death situations where every second and every decision counts.

And sometimes, like yesterday, they must operate in an environment that is heartbreaking and troubling. The responding officers at the Navy Yard ran past the dead and dying, their blood pooling where they lay, in order to press their attack against a monster.

And that was just yesterday.

Every day it is different, every call it is different. Sometimes they are comforting heartbroken children, other times they are knocking on the door to inform someone of the death of a relative. Sometimes they are spat upon, other times they are vomited upon. They are hated and loved, cursed and praised, sometimes on the same call.

They see the carnage of the highways, the sorrow of abused and neglected children, the collapse of a battered wife. They talk the despondent off bridges, they catch the drunk drivers, they try to mediate family and neighbor disputes.

And half the time they do it while being cussed by one group or another. Maybe it’s the neighborhood people. Maybe it’s the pastors. Maybe it’s an activist with a cell-phone video.

The politicians trash them, the residents trash them, the police brass trashes them. They’re ready to lay down their lives for strangers, but heaven help them if anybody thinks they were impolite to a citizen. Heaven help them if they disrespected somebody’s culture.

They fight crime all day, every day, and usually it is a pretty low-key affair. Until there’s a glint of sunlight or a stumbling drunk or a dispatch on the radio.

That’s when it’s Superman time.

That’s when the next 10 minutes of your life are going to be some of the most important in your life.

Like yesterday at the Navy Yard.

Across a big city, the routine of the morning worked its way out. Until there was a cry for help, and the sirens began to roar, and a crew of men and women from at least a couple of departments ran toward the danger.

And killed it.

Before he could kill anybody else.

The cops amaze me.

1st published by

PTSD-WHAT IS IT? A Guest post by Robert Rabe

Friday, August 30th, 2013  1st published by COPSALIVE.COM


EDITORS NOTE: the following is a guest post from Robert Rabe a Vietnam Veteran who also has 39 Years of Law Enforcement Experience.

PTSD- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a new name for an old story and there are many complexities to its definition. The name, recognizing a medical condition, was coined several years after the onset of the Vietnam War. Similar symptoms demonstrated by soldiers following the Civil War were called nostalgia. GIs during WWI were said to have shell shock. Military personnel from WWII and the Korean Conflict were suffering combat fatigue. No matter what term is used, the symptoms are the same.

There are many descriptions of PTSD: PTSD – a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma. PTSD – is a set of symptoms that surface following a dangerous, frightening and uncontrollable event including: sleep disturbance, flashbacks, anxiety, tiredness and depression. PTSD – is a condition recognized by the prevalence of one or more symptoms affecting people who have experienced severe emotional trauma such as combat, crime or natural disaster. PTSD – a person may demonstrate symptomatic behavior after seeing or experiencing a traumatizing event where grave injury or death is involved.

You can find the most recent clinical definition… and other changes from the new DSM-5 by CLICKING HERE

Some factors can increase the likelihood a traumatic event may trigger a PTSD response: the intensity of the trauma, being physically injured, losing a loved one, physical proximity to an event, and lack of support after the event.

One of the first known cases of PTSD is recorded in the Bible in Genesis; chapter 4. Cain killed his brother Abel and tried to discount the severity of his crime. He explained the denial of his guilt by saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper”. As a result he became restless and overwhelmed with fear. He wandered about aimlessly. The symptoms described were no different than those experienced today.

The observation that “we are the sum total of our experiences” is especially relevant. For some law enforcement personnel, the sum total of their experiences can become too great an unsupported burden and result in symptoms of PTSD. The mental and emotional symptoms frequently lead to unwanted behaviors if left unresolved.

To prevent this from happening three areas of PTSD should be addressed: TRIGGERS, TRAITS and DENIAL

Typical triggers include sensual elements like the smells, sounds, sights and resulting feelings experienced at the time. The smell of diesel fuel or ethnic foods may bring back memories of the traumatic event. Hearing a siren or a noise like squealing tires of a crash may be triggers to revive the event. Identifying such triggers is a vital first step in gaining control and “peace with your past”.

The most common traits indicative of PTSD are: intrusive thoughts and flashbacks, imposed self-isolation, a feeling of emotional numbness, depression, unwarranted anger, substance abuse, guilt, or stress. Frequently denial or the inability to admit having any of the above symptoms, and an unwilling to seek help may indicate PTSD.

THESE ARE ALL SYMPTOMS OF P.T.S.D. (by Oscar D. Ramirez, Ph.D. of Crossfire the National Veterans Assistance Corporation.)

Is it possible you may be experiencing PTSD? How many areas can you check below? SLEEP DISTURBANCES [ ] Unable to remember dreams? [ ] Watch TV until late into the morning? [ ] Do you stay awake as long as possible? [ ] Wake up often during the night for no reason? [ ] Wake in the morning still feeling very tired? [ ] Have nightmares: dream of being shot at or pursued?

AVOIDANCE OF FEELINGS [ ] Feel “hollow inside”? [ ] Feel “emotionally numb”? [ ] Feel detached, aloof, “emotionally dead”? [ ] Seem to be cold, uncaring, even ruthless at times? [ ] Unable to feel love or compassion for others? [ ] Unable to experience either the sorrows or the joys of life?

RESTLESSNESS / LISTLESSNESS [ ] Numerous changes of address? [ ] Don’t know why you even exist? [ ] Ever drive about aimlessly when angry? [ ] Chronic job-hopping/unstable work history? [ ] Desire to seek refuge by moving away from the problem? [ ] No feelings of direction, meaning, purpose, or significance in life? [ ] Have you lost interest in work or other activities that you used to enjoy? [ ] Ever feel like nothing’s been going right, and “it’s been like that for a very long time”?

ISOLATION / ALIENATION [ ] Had many broken relationships – divorces? [ ] Desire to live a life as a hermit? [ ] Experience lack of social contact? [ ] Have few acquaintances, even fewer friends? [ ] Desire to seek refuge by moving away from the problem? [ ] Feel isolated, or distanced from spouse, parents, children, brothers, peers or others?

MISTRUST-SUSPICION [ ] Unable to feel secure in intimate relationships? [ ] Do you frequently find yourself questioning the loyalty of friends or relatives? [ ] Are you suspicious of managers, supervisors, and work peers? [ ] Have you had numerous broken relationships, divorces? [ ] Distrust yourself and your ability to “keep it together much longer”? [ ] Always feel suspicious of being “exploited, used, or abused”? [ ] Intensely concerned with issues of justice, “right or wrong”? [ ] Can’t deal with “gray” areas? [ ] Have feelings of mistrust towards the government, government officials, and mistrust of “The System” in general?

FINANCES [ ] Is your wife usually the source of financial stability? [ ] Do you resent promotions and breaks that others got who did not go to war? [ ] Do you feel frustrated because of inability to provide for the family?

ANXIETY REACTIONS [ ] Do you possess numerous weapons? [ ] Sleep with weapons within easy reach? [ ] Ever feel uncomfortable standing out “in the open”? [ ] Feel uncomfortable when people walk or sit behind you? [ ] Hyper-vigilance: repeatedly check doors, locks and other security devices? [ ] Do you feel most comfortable with your back to the wall, or in a corner of the room? [ ] Do you have a tendency to react under stress with “survival tactics”?

RAGE [ ] Generally irritable? [ ] Ever destroy inanimate objects? [ ] Verbally and or physically abusive? [ ] Punch holes in walls with your fists? [ ] Fantasize about retaliation and destruction? [ ] Strike out at others for no apparent reason? [ ] Invent several elaborate plans to “get even” and dwell on them for long periods?

IDENTITY ISSUES [ ] Desire to live a life as a hermit? [ ] Lack of confidence in your own abilities? [ ] Do you ever feel like “a reject” from society? [ ] Feel “hollow” like “an old man in a young man’s body”? [ ] Do you like motorcycles because they give feelings of independence, speed, light travel, high maneuverability, low profile, solitude, exposure to the elements, instant acceleration, very loud noise, high vibration, feelings of raw power, feelings of courting danger, and an “adrenaline rush”?

REDUCTIONIST THINKING [ ] Give away material things easily? [ ] Able to easily strip away all non-essentials? [ ] Feel the need to “get to the point” in all conversations? [ ] Irritated easily by insignificant chatter (small talk) and all non-essential conversation? [ ] Hoard material and supplies that might be necessary for survival? [ ] Able to leave the area at the drop of a hat knowing exactly what you need to take with you, and exactly where you would go?

GUILT [ ] Ever feel guilt for surviving the war when others (who may have had more to live for) did not? [ ] Feel guilt that perhaps if you had stayed a little longer you could have “made a difference”? [ ] Feel guilt for acts committed, or acts observed without making an effort to stop them? [ ] Feel guilt for returning to the relative safety of home and leaving friends behind that were still engaged in combat?

INTRUSIVE THOUGHTS [ ] Ever have ‘flashback’ episodes? [ ] Intense thoughts of “what might have been”? [ ] Ever experience strong reaction to certain sights, sounds, or smells? [ ] Have feelings of being somewhere other than where you really are? [ ] Memories of traumatic events ever interrupt your routine thought patterns?

FEAR & CONTROL ISSUES [ ] Try to control everything that happens around you? [ ] Fear of people around you trying to control you? [ ] Fear of dying and afraid to go on living? [ ] Fear of surprises or situations over which you have no control? [ ] Fear what might happen if you ever lost control of yourself?

DEPRESSION [ ] Ever feel worthless? [ ] Substance abuse? [ ] Self-medication? [ ] Difficulty concentrating? Easily distracted? [ ] Feel a sense of helplessness or futility about your condition?

DEVELOPMENTAL DISCONTINUITIES [ ] Feel that there are “holes” in your developmental stages? [ ] Feel like you “lost something” when you were growing up? [ ] Feel that you will never be able to regain what you have lost?

DEATH IMPRINT & CONTAMINATION [ ] Think about death a lot? [ ] Feel that you will never, ever get close to anybody again? [ ] Feel that everyone that you get close to is somehow “contaminated” by you, and dies?

DENIAL [ ] Unwilling to seek help, don’t trust anyone? [ ] Ever feel like “It’s no big deal, I can handle it.” [ ] Do you ever deny that “your experience” could have anything to do with your attitude? [ ] Are you unable to admit that you have any of the above symptoms or that you may have post traumatic stress disorder, (PTSD)? [ ] Do you deny even the possibility that there may be spiritual solutions to the problem of Post Traumatic Stress?

Sudden changes or critical incidents have dynamic effects on your emotional, psychological, physical, and/or spiritual well-being. Some people experience reactions immediately, others at some date in the future. Individuals can take basic preventive strategies to help themselves recover faster and avoid PTSD.

The goal of any treatment or support plan is to help create structure out of chaos, identify and better understand the emotions, and to create a reasonable and positive action plan. A peer support group is most effective in the treatment of PTSD for several reasons. Peer support group means just that, obtaining help from someone at your own level. Peer support is provided by those who share similar backgrounds. Officers in times of crisis

Providing peer support groups for police officers and other first responders, helps to recognize the problem of PTSD exists and provides the vehicle to talk of solutions. This peer group must be readily available above all else. A peer support program might be thought of as a training program that teaches a more effective way of listening to another person. Peer training is a crucial factor for a peer support program to be effective. Officers should receive 3 to 5 days of training from a skilled practitioner, which focuses on developing listening skills, assessing problems and determining the need for referral to professionals.

Peer support team members are not therapists. They are just officers, who have taken it upon themselves to be better prepared to be of support for other officers. They don’t solve problems for others nor are they expected to take on the responsibilities of or for others. They simply try to be supportive as the individual officer helps him or herself to a successful solution.

No one wants to believe tragedy can occur at any time in their careers, but it can and does. Don’t be pessimistic, but realistic. Your job, income, health and well being are not guaranteed. Your focus has to be on being as proactive as possible. Resources have to be in place to help all involved. When the unexpected occurs be as prepared as possible. That is why it is crucial to recognize and immediately deal with the situation and the potential related problems that can multiply traumatic stress and create PTSD. Do what is necessary to reduce stress and remain a healthy strong person.

Bob Rabe is a Vietnam Veteran, with 39 years of law enforcement experience.

CLICK HERE to contact Oscar D. Ramirez, Ph.D. of Crossfire the National Veterans Assistance Corporation.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bob Rabe, is a Vietnam Veteran (military police), with 38 years of Law enforcement experience. He has been involved in Critical Incident Stress Management for over 20 years. He developed stress Seminars – 14 years. He has volunteered his time to over 50 debriefings Involving law enforcement.

We at like and support the Peer Support Team Training provided by Jack Digliani, Ph.D., Ed.D. You can find his free materials available for download here on or you can visit his website to learn more about his training at:

Jack A. Digliani is the police psychologist for the Loveland Police Department and Larimer County Sheriff’s Office (Colorado). He provides psychological services to department members and their families, and is the clinical supervisor of the agencies’ Peer Support Teams. He has worked with numerous municipal, county, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. He specializes in police and trauma psychology, group interventions, and the development of police, fire, and other emergency service peer support teams.

1st published

Staying Sharp in Our Honorable Profession

By Mark St.Hilaire

I recently read an article by Lt. Chris J. Cole: Improving Your Command Presence 1. A great article which reminds me of the basics for every person to succeed within our Honorable Profession.

Every one of us has an opportunity and an obligation to mentor each other constructively whether you are an experienced, well trained and problem solving veteran like me (THE OLD GUY) or a new recruit, cadet, Explorer or volunteer. We all have the rare opportunity to guide, show and teach our peers within this ever changing profession.

The veterans can explain why we conduct business in a certain way along with some examples (easy on the war stories) and our younger generations can help many of us with things like technology (patience, as I need to be shown a few times for me to catch on).

Our command presence is key to being an effective and successful LEO.  We certainly have it in the recruit academy, field training and some of us live by this code on and off duty through their careers.

I’d like to highlight some of Lt. Cole’s article to point out the three tenets he describes in Command Presence that I believe in.

  1. LOOK SHARP – When we are well groomed and wearing a clean-pressed uniform we present a great image not only to our community but to our clients.

Many years ago, I heard the story during an officer safety class about shining your shoes and boots.  The story discusses an interview with a cop killer.  He stated that he sizes up an officer by looking at the officer’s shoes.  If the shoes are dirty and not polished, he figures he can take this officer on as he shows no self-discipline.  When he encounters an officer who is dressed sharp and wearing clean polished shoes, the man stated that he is not going mess with that officer because if he is squared away in appearance then he is squared away tactically.

  1. ACT SHARP- Our behavior on and off duty is a reflection of our profession.  We encounter people in many situations and behaviors.  In our modern day of cameras everywhere along with the internet and social media, we need to be on top of our game with our communication skills and our own conduct.  We must project a strong image in the way we walk and talk.  Acting and speaking like a professional while showing respect to everyone may help keep us alive and avoiding a professional standards investigation.
  2. BE SHARP- Everyone of us has the opportunity to change and improve ourselves.  This includes our work performance.  We must take care of our bodies and minds by eating healthy foods and getting the proper rest.  We need to exercise our bodies not only to help us look sharp by maintaining a proper weight but preparing us for the stressful situations we will face especially hand to hand combat skills with someone who may want to hurt or kill us.

Our communities and our peers deserve these basics from all of us. As a profession we do and should expect a lot out of each other and our communities expect a lot from us too.

Let’s work together as a team to help revive and improve the basics of Command Presence within law enforcement.




  1. 1.       Lt. Chris Cole, Improving Your Command Presence.


First published for: L.E.T.