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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

145 N Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20530

December 2019 | Volume 12 | Issue 11

On every shift officers are faced with a set of unknowns. These unknowns could be completely harmless or life threatening. Add to this never-ending shiftwork schedules, a diet based more on convenience than nutritional health, repeated exposure to things that the mind simply cannot unsee, and it is no surprise that law enforcement has one of the worst health profiles of any profession. As noble and rewarding as police work is, balancing a career that inherently involves violence, sleep deprivation, vicarious trauma, hypervigilance, social isolation, poor eating habits, and extreme adrenaline spikes is not for the faint of heart.

Reflections on Self-Care

John L. Buchanan

Early in my career, I thought my highest priority was just to get through every shift in one piece. Over time, I realized that there was another priority, rarely discussed in the locker room: how to cope with the troubling, even damaging experiences I had almost every night. Those experiences were changing me in ways that I did not notice until my family brought it to my attention. That’s when I began to understand the emotional price cops pay. Overall, I have no regrets about my police career. But I know that without strong, fulfilling relationships and interests outside the job, my story might have been much different. Cops owe it to themselves, their peers and especially their families to do whatever it takes to resist and overcome the toxic effects of police work.

Surviving the Job is a three-part podcast series that address issues related to overcoming a line of duty wounding, reducing the increased risk for heart disease that officers confront, and engaging in emotional support services as a form of maintenance required to balance the unavoidable stressors that are part of the profession. There is growing realization within the law enforcement community that the traditional approach of ‘grinning and bearing it’ is a suboptimal way to endure the highs and lows that come with a career in police work, and Surviving the Job was produced to increase awareness, reduce stigma, and share perspectives on issues that too often go undiscussed.

The guests for the series are Brody Young, a Utah State Parks Ranger who was shot nine times, left to die in a remote location, and is back on the job today. Ranger Young speaks candidly about the incident, his recovery, and how the experience has changed his life. The series also features a discussion with Lieutenant Jon Sheinberg from the Cedar Park Police Department in Texas. Lt. Sheinberg is also a practicing cardiologist, and he has a passion for increasing awareness about officer heart attack risks and how to overcome them. The final podcast in the series is a discussion with Mark Kirschner, a clinical psychologist who has spent his career working directly with law enforcement officers. Dr. Kirschner is the past chair of the Psychological Services Section at the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and he shares information about how officers can mitigate the unavoidable emotional stress that comes with wearing the badge.

Surviving the Job is part of The Beat monthly podcast series produced by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office), which features more than 100 episodes on issues ranging from active shooter response to policing immigrant communities. You can listen to Surviving the Job or other podcasts by visiting the COPS Office The Beat podcast website. The Beat will also be available on iTunes in 2020.

John L. Buchanan
Assistant Chief of Police (Retired)
Phoenix Police Department

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