Archive for the ‘Rank and Leadership’ Category

Police Psychology | Morale

by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D.  ABPP


My very first job and first elected office, I was voted president of the Mighty Mouse Club by the kids in my neighborhood.  Mighty Mouse was a cartoon mighty-mousesuper hero mouse character that beat up cats in the 40’s 50’s and early 60’s.  The club members talked behind my back and all got a penny from their parents and each gave me a penny for my being the president.  I was so honored.  They didn’t tell me I was going to be paid!  I remember I was about kindergarten age at the time.  I remember I snuck to the ice cream truck when it came by later in the day, and I spent that seven cents on seven ice cream cones and gave one to each of the seven kids in the club.  I remember I didn’t order one for myself because I didn’t think I had enough money, but the ice cream man gave me one anyway.  (When I look back, my mother probably really paid for the cones, she had to watch while I went into the street).  I thought I was doing something that made all the kids happy.  I remember a girl named Margery, who lived two doors down from me, saying before we left that day that it was the best club in the whole world.

I had a conversation this week with an officer from a Midwest state who called me out of the blue.  He said he was a reader and that he wanted to get it across to his superiors that morale was very low and the trainings they are having don’t seem to address this issue or things that were important to the officers.  He said there has been a little bit of research in their department that showed that job satisfaction was in the low 20 percentiles and that was a major issue.  It was heart wrenching to have a guy say that 80 percent of his department isn’t crazy about their job anymore, a job many of them probably dreamed of taking.  He asked me how do I get a training on something that really mattered to his officers doing the job.

I personally have seen low morale across the country lately and want to spend a couple of paragraphs to address this issue. (more…)

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Police Psychology | The TRIAD:  A Department’s Own Superheroes

Nancy K. Bohl-Penrod, Ph.D., San Bernardino, Calif.

Peer support has been around for ages.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s peer support programs began to emerge at the Chicago Police department, the Boston Police department and NYPD.  They called those willing XEERto be in the program “peer counselors”.   The programs were originally created, because of the increase in alcohol abuse and the disciplines surrounding the abuse.  Their programs followed the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step program.  The peer counselors (supporters) were in “recovery” and it was assumed the best fit to help others with their alcohol problems.

In the 1980’s, formalized, official, peer support   programs were developed by LAPD, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s department and the Long Beach police department.   It was at this time they changed their names from “counselors to supporters” because it appeared misleading. They were originally set up to assist existing mental health services.  Those designated peer supporters would help recognize those officers who were having personal and emotional problems. Similar to an “early detection” program.  These departments and their mental health providers, quickly realized the advantages to having trained peer support officers be immediately available. (more…)

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Officer Down

by Adam Pasciak PhD, LP, Clarkston, Michigan


Over the years a few people have asked me what is was like to get shot. To get it out of the way here, it hurt a lot—at first—but then when you start going into shock that helps. Having said that, I don’t recommend it.

As to how it was I got into the situation I ended up XATELCALin, it was a “routine stop”. My partner and I had pulled over a truck for a minor traffic offense and during the encounter noticed several gun stickers on the truck (not especially unusual in our city) and some odd behavior from the driver. Something about the man led to me wanting to have him exit the truck. As he did so I attempted to pat him down—which was when it went from “routine” to all hell breaking loose. (more…)

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Police Psychology | Officer Involved Shootings – Collateral Damage

Chief George Filenko, Round Lake Park Police Department

It was early New Year’s morning 2006. The phone rang jolting me out of a sound sleep. The gruff voice on the other end of the phone was then Task Force Commander Bill Valko. Commander Valko was a veteran Waukegan cop who had seen just about everything bad you could see in police work. We held a common bond in that we were both from Chicago eventually relocating to the “burbs”. Bill would call me “Humboldt Park” referring to my old stomping grounds on Chicago’s west side. 

“We’ve got an OIS (Officer Involved Shooting) in Beach Park that’s a real cluster.” Beach Park is a suburb located in Northern Lake County that borders Waukegan on the south and Zion on the north in the Lake County Sheriffs jurisdiction. (more…)

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Police Psychology | Mass Casualties

by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D.  ABPP


In light of the Orlando night club shooting this week, I wanted to give you some information on the effects this kind of tragedy can have on first responders and what can be done as a police police lineleader or psychologist to help the situation.  Unfortunately, I have worked on too many mass casualty situations, from TWA Flight 800, to the embassy bombings in Africa, to both World Trade Center bombings and quite a few in-between.  Being in the New York area I still have cops processing their work at 9/11 and Flight 800.

First off let me explain the concept of “burst stress.”  Burst stress is the norm for police officers and first responders.  Sgt. Friday of Dragnet said it best when he described police work as hours and hours of boredom surrounded by moments of sheer terror.  Burst stress is that sheer terror.  It is the amusement park rides that jerks you into the air and tosses you upside down to be caught just before you descend to your death (or puke in my case).  In the amusement park it is fun for many (I actually hate those rides) as you know that you will probably not die or else the amusement park would have closed years ago.  It is also over in a few seconds, then you go on.  Not quite that way when it happens in real life.  A first responder is in that situation, then he or she goes home and tries to get some sleep, wakes up the next morning and returns again to the same  situation sometimes for weeks.  It’s not just feeling the jeopardy, but also seeing the death that makes them confront their mortality.  When you handle mutilated bodies you picture yourself, your children and many others in that position and it is not pleasant.  It haunts you. (more…)

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