Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement by Kevin M. Gilmartin, Ph. D. is a book that seeks to inform and instruct those seeking to be in law enforcement, law enforcement professionals and their families of the realities of a career in law enforcement- professionally and personally. And how to best prepare for emotional survival of “on-duty and off-duty” life. It also compares and contrasts what happens to officers at the beginning of this journey and what typical happens to officers overtime; focusing mainly on what happens to officers that don’t know the techniques of emotional survival.
Though it does give some examples of officers who have emotional survival skills, it focuses on exemplifying the officers whose lives suffer from the lack of these skills and what great detriment it causes. Gilmartin begins by describing the early years of one’s law enforcement career. How typically- idealistic, enthusiastic and driven rookie officers are. And how quickly this world can change from positive to cynical and emotionally charged. How these long term behaviors if uncorrected, exacerbate, leading to mental and physical changes.
Gilmartin uses personal experiences and stories to relate the topics addressed in this book, in a way that of? cers can readily see some of the same characteristics in themselves. Gilmartin also discusses psychological changes officers endure that can be caused by frequent exposure to horrific events. The most important definition made by Gilmartin describing officers on and off-duty is Hypervigilance; “the necessary manner of viewing the world from a threat-based perspective, having the mindset to see events unfolding as potentially hazardous. ” (Gilmartin Pg. 5)
According to Gilmartin this- “permits the on-duty of? cer to develop a subjective state of increased alertness/awareness of his/her surroundings required for maximum of? cer safety. ” (Gilmartin Pg. 36) Gilmartin elaborates on his term of “Hypervigilance” and how it becomes problematic when he introduces the concept theory of the “Hypervigilant Biological Rollercoaster. ” Stating that the on-duty of? cer is “alert, alive, energetic, quick–thinking, involved and humorous,” And the off-duty of? cer is “tired, isolated, detached, apathetic and angry. (Gilmartin Pgs. 48-50)
Gilmartin goes on to illustrate; If law enforcement of? cers want to survive emotionally, they must examine their on-duty and off-duty life. Taking control of the events in their lives they can control and survive and move on from the events they cannot control. Gilmartin describes how officers can become equipped professionals of emotional survival on and off-duty. On-Duty; knowing as an officer there are only three things you can control; integrity, professionalism, and how well you do the job you are assigned to do.
Off duty; proactive goal setting (outside of police work), exercise, and developing and nurturing other roles in life besides the hypervigilant police role; enabling of? cers to manage their lifestyle healthy. I believe this encapsulates Gilmartin’s books main points and demonstrates his goal; to help keep law enforcement officers healthy, by providing skill sets physically and emotionally, to survive the career. By not losing all of ones identity to just being a cop, while remaining committed, engaged and productive on and off-duty.
Now I would like to analyze Gilmartin’s books strengths and weaknesses. This work is well organized, written and easily read. To the point that I believe that it would keep anyone engaged no matter if the reader was part of the intended target audience. For audience the book does target, I believe it clearly demonstrates the internal and external assaults officers will experience both personally and organizationally. And how officers can train themselves to perceive and act as a victim in everything they do and in every way they think.
Or how they can emotionally survive these assaults by balancing their identity and by acquiring healthy outlets to be proactive and engaged in personal affairs. This is clearly demonstrated by various case study examples throughout the book. Examples of officers that fall directly in line with Gilmartin’s Hypervigilant Biological Rollercoaster theory and how some of these studies show the result of an officers application of emotional survival. This is what makes the book so strong.
Gilmartin’s ability to give validity to his concepts by comparing and contrasting officer action and reaction of similar situations. Then applying his theory of those who fall victim to the Hypervigilant Biological Rollercoaster, have the victim mentality and the unbalanced identification with solely being a cop. To those officers that display emotional survival techniques. By doing this Gilmartin shows clear distinction; drastic outcomes of similar situations. Reinforcing the importance of acquiring emotional coping tools and exemplifying the devastation in an officer’s life lacking these skills.
The weaknesses I encountered in this book where; little if any emphasis was placed on teaching of? cers how to avoid the other dangers they will ultimately face. Mainly focusing on the Hypervigilant cycle of officers and their loss of identity. I would have liked Gilmartin to explain how an officer handles a tough situation in the matter of life or death. And I would have liked Gilmartin to have more than one chapter that focused on the emotional survival of law enforcement personnel.
I believe it leaves the targeted audience waiting and wanting more instruction on how to become an emotional survival. Lastly I would have loved to have understood the compilation of data retrieved by Gilmartin. Discovering how he came up with his concepts and theories. Over what period time did he construct these particular studies and how many agencies did he work with to compile this data? What where the percentages of officers that suffered from a lack of emotional survival skills to those that had these skills? What percentages of officers fell in the middle?
I believe knowing the quantitative component to this research would have further qualified his findings. Overall this book was fantastic. I believe this book will help those interested in law enforcement as well as of? cers and their families. I believe this book can help plot a path through a dif? cult journey in a law enforcement career. Helping sustain relationships, families and positive professional attitudes. Though I hoped for some addition information in this book it does not lack in quality or clarity of its messages.
It is a strong book and I would recommend it to anyone interested in law enforcement, anyone currently in law enforcement, family members of law enforcement personnel and those who have been in law enforcement. I believe the goal of this book is to provide officers the information of how to recognize the deterioration of core values (personally and professionally) and what can take place in their lives if gone uncorrected. Then provides specific strategies that can be utilized to reduce the negative emotional and physical impact of a law enforcement career. I believe the book succeeds in doing this.