I recently read a book called ‘CopShock,’ by Allen Kates. It is by far one of the best books I have ever read dealing with the everyday lives of officers. I have never read a book with so much truth, honesty, emotion and addiction association. Reading CopShock is an important step toward understanding what happens on the job, and the book can help the countless walking wounded to move further along in the healing process.
Allen Kates is an author who broke barriers involving police officers with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He interviewed about 200 officers who were willing to tell him everything. This was surprising because of the notion that officers do not like to talk about their experiences with counselors, their family, or journalists, so that they do not appear weak.
Kates stated that in each interview, every officer who was willing to talk, broke down. Many had never told anybody else what they had experienced and felt. For me, reading CopShock was a healing process. It can be for countless active-duty officers and possibly for you and your family members.
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LAPD Detective William H. Martin (Ret.) was the inspiration for CopShock and wrote the Foreword for the book. In part, here is what he says:
“For most of my police years, I was addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs. I often had suicidal thoughts and once tried to kill myself. I didn’t realize that my exposure to frequent trauma was causing PTSD. Fortunately, I have benefited from counseling and am now in recovery. But if I had had this book when I was a rookie cop, maybe the quality of my life would have been better.”
Detective Martin goes on to say: “Some officers have decades of service left to perform, yet do not know that the cumulative effects of PTSD have taken a heavy toll on them. Even retired officers, once they identify their symptoms, will begin to heal.”
Andy O’Hara, from the Badge of Life, spoke very highly about the book: “CopShock… is, without a doubt, one of the most valuable books available for police officers, families, suicide prevention personnel and veterans on the topic of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
He says: “Kates is concise and to the point as he discusses what PTSD is and how it occurs from internalized reactions of horror to a critical incident or from an accumulation of events. The confusion into which officers are thrown in many situations is well laid out, e.g. the officer who ‘doesn’t shoot’ experiencing trauma like the officer who does, for example.
“What to Do About CopShock…” is a tremendously valuable chapter. Kates encourages officers to set up a support system before a critical incident occurs, which includes friends and family, peer counselors and therapists and support groups. “Preparing for the inevitable,” says Kates, “puts officers in control during a period when control is sometimes taken away.” This is life-saving information. Along with sound observations, he offers several excellent self-tests and evaluations and an extensive list of resources available to officers.
One attention-grabbing story that stuck with me was about a retired ATF agent. The Agent needed a liver transplant, despite having no history of alcohol use or illness. Kates stated it was not surprising, nor unusual. He said that stress affects us physically and, “Whatever we feel needs to go somewhere.”
Kates also told me that a detective showed him crime scene photos and said that he should only look at them for three seconds each. The Detective did not want the pictures to traumatize the author. The detective wanted him to gain a better understanding of what law enforcement officers see every day, and how the images may build in their minds and become overwhelming.
This book would be a great gift for recruit and veteran cops everywhere. CopShock easily explains how the stressors of the job affect the family of officers. He explains how important it is to treat the entire family system of an officer battling stress, depression, isolation, etc. And it also made me even more curious about the concept of intergenerational trauma.
In addition, this book exposes the numerous maladaptive coping mechanisms officers use. The most common one is alcohol. Drinking is widely accepted as what a cop does after a hard day at work. However, as we know, this only exacerbates the severity of the many issues going on, underneath the surface.
For those in law enforcement, the war never ends. The men and women in blue are out there twenty-four hours, seven days a week to protect and serve. Now more than ever, officers are expected to be combat-ready at all times, while remaining normal and socially adaptive when away from the job.
Why is it that we help countless people every day, yet fail to help ourselves? Let’s continue to encourage officers who are afraid to admit they are hurting to seek help and find a better quality of life.
At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.
Brian enjoys hearing from his readers – EMAIL
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