Opinion: The severe stress on police officers | SierraSun.com

Opinion: The severe stress on police officers

Richard M. Reiter
Special to the Bonanza

Last week at a meeting of the seniors' Conversation Café, Dr. Andrew Whyman requested feedback to his articles published in the Bonanza.

I have read his articles this summer and often wanted to respond, but I was not sure of the correct forum. As a retired physician and public high school teacher, I had some significant disagreement with his methods of presenting the arguments about marijuana use to our school youth.

Other readers submitted many of my thoughts in responses to the Bonanza and I remained quiet.

In last week's column, "The stressful lives of police officers," Dr. Whyman, after reviewing some data for workers dying during the most dangerous jobs, he gave a synopsis of three of his former police officer patients who suffered severe mental disabilities more commonly associated with the post-traumatic stress syndrome of returning veterans.

While a minority of soldiers and police officers will suffer severe disability from recurring visualization of events, too many others have to live with varying degrees of recurring mental stress from revisits to horrors they witnessed.

Whether it is the statistics Dr. Whyman cited from Beverly Anderson or experience gained from other sources, the difficult active duty and post-job life struggles of police officers and veterans returning home are well documented.

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If there is a good measure of the psychological makeup or neurohormonal imbalance that can accurately predict which men or women would suffer severe PTS, it has not yet been implemented as a screening tool.

Is it possible to devise programs to desensitize an entire population of police and veterans either preventively or after experiencing severe stresses thus eliminating severe PTS outcomes? Can you really predict which people will react to a stress with such a dangerous response?

Then, jumping to the conclusions that our police officers acting as an occupying army armored with surplus military equipment only need a little more sensitivity training and continued counselling to prevent actions — "… stoking community, and in particular inner city rage and mistrust of policing…" — and that implementing programs which would, "… secure improved policing outcomes," Dr. Whyman disturbingly moved the continuity of his article in a direction 180 degrees from the expected trend of thought.

Instead of putting blame on police and their training, the article should have proceeded with thoughts relating to elevation of worsening pressures placed on every officer.

It would seem more appropriate to evaluate how we expect these already over stressed police officers to react to the recent continuous bombardment of political and media criticism and the despicable new threat of targeted police assassinations.

How about discussing that it is time for a nation to come to grips with the severe lack of a family unit instructing their youth as children to respect police, teachers, community leaders and ordinary citizens?

The societal horrors of abuse and death that police witness as they respond to emergency calls are a constant that is not going to magically disappear — but the lack of respect and decent behavior that the developing minds of the young should be taught can and must be changed.

Dr. Richard M. Reiter is an Incline Village resident.