|March 2011 letters to the editor|
Keeping fit while on patrol
Thanks for running my article on keeping fit while on patrol. Below is a description of the stretches you can do while working.
2. Spotlight Pull: stand with right side bladed towards the spotlight; with your arm fully extended, place open palm on the spotlight closest to the window, push your shoulder forward slightly and feel the stretch to the front part of your shoulder an area your vest usually rests.
Confronting police suicides
Thank you for running the article by Gary Delagnes last month on police suicides. Here in San Francisco we have had three of our fellow officers take their own lives in the last year and each death creates a terrible sense of loss and pain.
I cannot even begin to imagine the devastation and grief engulfing their immediate families and friends of these three individuals. The deep sense of sadness and loss are often coupled with feelings of anger, anguish, fear, doubt and concern. Suicide is a short-term solution that leads to lifetime of grief and sadness for those left behind. Many of those closest to the suicide victim will forever be questioning himself or herself, wondering if they had done enough to prevent such a loss.
The national average of police suicides number approximately 300 in a year. There are many barriers that discourage troubled cops from seeking help for themselves. First of all, we consider ourselves to be the caretakers. People come to us for help, not the other way around. We are trained to be strong, resourceful, and resilient. We are trained to "man up" and deal with chaos. We are trained to discipline ourselves not to show weakness or emotions out on the street when things are going to hell.
We are taught and cautioned to "keep it together" and "move on." We can sometimes lose our own sense of humanity after witnessing man's inhumanity to man day after day and year after year. It is absolutely amazing the amount of sadness, anger, fear and despair we encounter over the years of our careers and even more amazing how we keep all that crap inside of us.
We have not been very good at being able to confront these feelings and often turn to unhealthy substances to get us through the pain or the daily rigors of surviving the trails and tribulations of this job. We don't want to be seen as "nosey" or intrusive into fellow officers' personal lives. There is also the fear among cops that if they seek help for a rather sensitive issue that the administration will learn about it and they will now have a "jacket" as being a "nut" or "unstable," or a person that "needs to be watched" or, even worse, they will have their star and gun taken away and sent away to "Siberia" or to the "rubber gun squad" never to be heard from again.
Cops fear they may lose their jobs if their bosses or the police administration learn about their situation. We often hear that our jobs and the madness related to it, coupled with substance abuse, stress, poor health, and all the other negative features in our lives, is a recipe for disaster, especially when you consider the access we have to guns and the opportunity to use them at a point of utter despair. In the San Francisco P.D. the Behavioral Science Unit is doing its best to address the private and sensitive concerns of our members in a professional, responsible, and respectful manner.
We have an outstanding PEER Support program within the department comprised of almost 300 members who are specially trained by professionals to listen and to communicate with our members and offer resources of help and hope. We also have a top notch Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) that responds care and assist members who themselves have been involved in a critical incident such as an officer involved shooting, an officer injured, etc.
We respond to such scenes to offer support and encouragement to those members and attend to their needs. We see them through the incident and do post incident follow-ups to check on their well-being. For those of you in other agencies, please remember that help and hope are often just a telephone call away. If working together we can save the life of even one of our fellow officers, then all of efforts will be incredibly worthwhile. Please take care of yourselves and please take care of each other.
Our lives depend on it. I will leave you with one of poet John Donne's greatest meditations. It is absolutely an appropriate passage with which to close this discussion. "No man is an island, entire of itself...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." - John Donne -Kevin Martin San Francisco Police Dept. San Francisco Police Officers Association
My name is Jim Harris. I have been a part time officer for the Ashdown Police Department and a part time deputy for the Little River County Sheriff's Department, both in Arkansas. At present, I am a part time Deputy Marshal for the Foreman, Arkansas Marshal's Office. I enjoy expressing myself through writing. Recently I was inspired to put down on paper my feelings when I put on my uniform and look at my badge.
Editor's note: This blog post was sent to us by a subscriber to American Police Beat. This posting and the comments that follow about the Camden, New Jersey layoffs, give law enforcement a good idea of the change in attitudes they are facing from the public when it comes to their pay and benefits.
Such a restoration would undo much of the cuts to the police force enacted when more than 160 officers were laid off. The reduction, affecting nearly everyone hired in the past 12 years, leaves about 200 officers on the job. The reduction thus cuts the police force nearly in half.
About a third of the city's firefighters were also laid off, as were many other city workers. The police pay cut would have come in the form of unpaid furloughs. Police officers would keep their jobs, but lose a certain number of days a month as unpaid days off. Factoring in those unpaid days, their annual salary would decrease. Both the mayor and the police union head agree that such reductions would allow 100 officers to be brought back.
But union officials said the membership voted 300 to 1 against taking the cut in salary. Let's forget for a moment that a few extra days off a month, even if unpaid, is not a bad perk. In a high-stress job such as law enforcement, getting some extra time to chill - or be with the family - doesn't seem like such a bad thing. And for those who absolutely must work 40 hours a week or more, there must be part-time jobs with which to make up those extra hours. But the union's refusal to take, in effect, a cut in police salaries to save jobs shows a lack of basic knowledge about economics.
Consider. If gas prices are artificially raised, for example, people will cut down on some trips, and purchase less gas. Similarly, if the Camden police union insists that the city "purchase" officers at full price - a 40-hour work week, at full salary - then the city consequently must limit the number of officers it can "purchase." The result is great for those police officers with jobs, because they are paid above what they would otherwise make. But the result is bad for the city, which must make do with fewer cops.
In Camden, as in most cities, the labor union representing the police has raised the "price" of police officers far above the market rate with the average salary, before benefits, has is now $77,000 a yearWe can't be sure what the market rate is, but surely many qualified people currently not employed would be willing to join the Camden police for less. If the police union was willing to reduce all salaries to the market rate, the city would then be willing to hire more officers.
But the police union has resisted this sensible economic step. That has put the city in an impossible economic situation. The city collects only $21 million in local taxes on a $138 million budget. The state provides much of the remainder, but the city still falls $26.5 million short. So at current police salaries, and with the city's limited budget, the city cannot afford as many officers.
At a press conference, there was agreement on base salaries, but not on how much extra each police officer costs the city because of insurance and other benefits. Mayor Dana Redd said that benefits bring the annual cost of each officer to $140,000, nearly double the base salary. John Williamson, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Local 1, disputed that figure.
At the same time, police officers were hoping to get a court to trump economics. Unions representing both officers and higher-ups argued that the Civil Service Commission did not follow all the required procedures before it okayed the layoffs. A Superior Court judge was having none of it. He told the attorneys to take their complaints to the commission, or to an appeals court. Meanwhile, Camden's mayor said she will try to raise additional money by making an appeal to Trenton. But Gov. Chris Christie said he was not inclined to turn the taxpayers into an "open checkbook."
Everyone at the Los Angeles Police Protective League has reacted with shock and anger upon learning that there was no gunman in the shooting incident involving Los Angeles Unified School District Police Officer Jeffrey Stenroos who claimed he was shot in the chest in late January after confronting a suspect attempting to break into cars near El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills.
The law enforcement community is disgusted upon learning that Mr. Stenroos filed a false police report and apparently may have shot himself. His lies set into motion the largest search for a suspect in recent history and inconvenienced thousands of people for hours including thousands of innocent school children.
While Mr. Stenroos is a disgrace to the badge, his individual and dangerous actions should not reflect on the hard working men and women in law enforcement. On behalf of all of us in law enforcement, we want to apologize to the public that a police officer would intentionally betray all of our trust. If these allegations are proven true, Mr. Stenroos is now where he belongs, behind bars." - Paul M. Weber, President Los Angeles Police Protective www.LAPD.com