Recently, I was conversing with the mother of a police officer. We were discussing how real-life policemen were different to the ones you read about in books when she told me she had attended a presentation on measures being taken to help police officers keep a healthy perspective on life.
One of the dangers of working in an environment where you see the dark side of life, and witness all the depraved behaviours humanity is capable of first hand, is that you start to think everybody is like that.
I told her I was consciously writing my Inspector West character as an ordinary guy, with the intention of illustrating that policemen lead the same kind of lives as everybody else, and have to deal with the same relationship issues we all face. We agreed that, as in many professions, there are some aspects of policing that only insiders appreciate, and the narrowing of focus to seeing only the negative was probably one of those.
It reminded me of conversations I’d had with my wife when she was the behaviour management deputy principal of a school. She was facing a similar perspective challenge because her day was filled with managing those students, who for one reason or another, were having a bad day. When you do that every day you start to think that all the kids are like that, when, in reality, they are only a small percentage of the total student population.
Police officers face a similar challenge but in much more demanding circumstances, where the potential consequences can be personally debilitating.
So it was good to hear that Police Departments around the world are addressing the issue, in an attempt to help their officers maintain a healthy perspective on life and be able to cope with the stress that comes with their job. It can’t be easy. It’s often not easy for their families either.
Here are a few links to articles on the topic: