Nine months ago, the sixth precinct of the Detroit Police Department (DPD) became a crime scene. On Sunday, January 23, 2011, according to the Examiner, an intruder was armed with a small, pistol-gripped shotgun walked into the DPD’s 6th precinct and started shooting. The shooter was killed, and four officers were injured.
In incidents like this, even when officers survive, psychological issues often persist. In a Sunday morning session at IACP 2011, LaMaurice H. Gardner, PsyD, clinical and police psychologist, described how this particular incident and others can affect officers in their personal and professional lives.
Noteworthy was Dr. Gardner’s point that it is an individual’s perception, not the event itself, that counts. Traumatic events set off an alarm in the limbic system of the brain, and humans become mobilized for survival at this stage. Following an officer-involved shooting, the brain’s alarm system becomes hypersensitive for threat during information processing. Anything that is perceived as a threat—even benign situations—thereafter sets off the alarm.
Several antidotes to anxiety resulting from a stressful event exist. These include a calm, reassuring approach; structure to combat chaos; thinking through dysfunctional emotions; catharsis to address tension and frustration; information to process a loss of control; acceptance and social support for perceived alienation; and action for helplessness.
IACP 2011 continues at McCormick Place West in Chicago, Illinois, through October 26. For information, visit http://www.theiacpconference.org. To receive notifications when new blog entries are posted, click the “Follow” button on the upper left of your screen.