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 (www.copsalive.com); Mark Sherwood of Oklahoma (www.live4c.com) 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 (www.ODMP.org) 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: www.safecallnowblog.com