4 Keys to Living in Police Reality (not police fiction)

In Lifestyle by rapsheet

Living your life based on police stereotypes sets you up for failure — look to those police officers who are successful professionally and personally and use them as your guide, because that is the real world

Are you deceiving yourself? Are your beliefs of what a police officer are supposed to be setting you up for failure in your professional and personal life? As a profession, we have an image of ourselves that is partially created by the characters on TV and in the movies.

Don’t believe me? How many times have you or another officer used a cool line you saw on the big or small screen out on the street? How many times have you seen cops copy “tactics” they’ve seen in the theatre?

The media has a strong influence on how we see ourselves. How is the average police officer portrayed in the entertainment world? Divorced, cynical, problems with addiction of alcohol or drugs, anger management issues indicating a need for some kind of intervention, a loner who neither needs nor seeks help for their problems.

In several articles and videos here on PoliceOne —such as this one — Dr. Alexis Artwohl has exposed the myths that so many police officers believe about themselves and the profession. Those beliefs are continually reinforced by the entertainment media and as a result a lot of cops believe them and end up living those lies.According to Dr. Artwohl, the divorce, addiction, and suicide rates for police officers are about the same, if not a little lower than the “normal” population. In response to her article, some readers vehemently argued that her facts were incorrect. One responder basically said she was wrong about alcoholic rates among police because on the department they worked for, everyone drank heavily. In this situation I think we have a case of the officers buying into the “cultural” stereotype created and propagated by the media and the police culture itself.If you believe the “cultural” stereotype, you are living a lie and setting yourself up for failure. To quote an old cop saying, “This ain’t the movies and you ain’t John Wayne.”1. The solution to your problems will never be found in the bottom of a booze or pill bottle
Self-medication will result in a failure to improve your situation. If you need help, go get it from a professional. Your buddies don’t have the expertise to help you. If they did, they wouldn’t be urging you to go out and tie one on to solve your problems.2. Making a marriage work takes work 
Sorry to break the bad news to you but a happy marriage requires a lot of effort on your part, just like your profession. All officers need to ask themselves: “What is more important, my job or my relationship?” Where you decide to put the majority of your time, effort, and energy has a major impact on the success of each.

You should be trying to be the best cop and spouse you can be. If you are spending all of your time working and give little or no attention and effort to your relationships, don’t expect to them to last. Look around at the cops you know that have good marriages and ask yourself, what are they doing that makes them successful?

If you want your relationships to be successful, use these colleagues as your guide; maybe even seek them out as a mentor. Open and honest communication is an absolute must, so the image of the cop who never talks about work with their spouse is not the example you want to follow. Kevin Gilmartin’s “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement” is an excellent book that both you and your spouse should read.

3. Admit when you need help 
“I’m a cop, I don’t need anyone’s help.” Bullshit. Every day you go to work you spend a large portion of your day helping others, what makes you different than anyone else? Everyone needs help from time to time. If you need to talk to someone about what’s bothering you, talk it out with your significant other, a trusted friend, or partner.

The longer it takes you to acknowledge and deal with a problem, the bigger and tougher the problem becomes. A situation that gets talked out in its early stages doesn’t fester and grow into a bigger problem later. A warrior understands that he is human and needs to be physically, mentally and spiritually sound.

4. Remember this ain’t Hollywood and your life isn’t a script
Hollywood isn’t real, but your life is. In the movies, the good guy always wins in the end — and lives happily ever after — because that is how the script is written. What do you need to do to write your own successful family and career script? Shouldn’t you start doing that today? If your choices in your relationships or lifestyle aren’t what they should be, remember, your personal script can be rewritten at any time.

Being honest with yourself can be difficult, but it’s required if you want your life script to end the way you want it to. You are the author of your life and your legacy, write it and live it with honor, integrity and truth.

About the author

In February 2014, Duane Wolfe retired from his career as a Minnesota Peace Officer after more than 25 years of service (beginning in 1988). During his career he served as patrolman, sergeant, S.R.T., Use of Force and Firearms Instructor, and is currently employed by the Parkers Prairie Police Department. He is also a full time instructor in the Law Enforcement Program at Alexandria Technical College, Alexandria, Minnesota. Duane has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Bemidji State University, and a Masters Degree in Education from Southwest State University. Duance has previously published articles on Calibre Press and IALEFI and served on the Advisory Board for Lt. Col. Dave Grossmans book, On CombatContact Duane Wolfe