Code of Silence

stressThe burden of dealing with tragedies associated with the day-to-day duties of police officers, coroners, and medicolegal death investigators, often remains unspoken and follows the officers into their off-duty and personal lives. Failure to recognize and provide an acceptable outlet for the disappointment and frustration felt by officers and investigators  at the end of their shifts can lead to:

  • Alcohol and/or drug abuse
  • Problems with personal relationships
  • Self-rejection,
  • Disillusionment and Depression
  • Job loss
  • Even suicide.

If asked what bothers them the most about their profession, many  will offer concerns such as a lack of public respect, lack of manpower or equipment to do their job effectively, or a general frustration over the perceived ineffectiveness of the judicial system. Seldom will officers open their hearts to discuss the pain and frustration that stems from dealing with the injury, anguish, and distress suffered by the victims. Many officers are haunted by the effects of trying to resolve problems they encounter in their communities and with their victims only to find that the solution is beyond their control.

Officers do not discuss the sorrow they feel after having to notify loved ones about the loss of their spouse or child because of a vehicle collision. Nor do they discuss the tears that follow officers after having held an infant in their hands trying to breathe life back into the tiny body only to find that despite all of their training and practice their efforts are futile. Or the frustration of dealing with the children of a crack addict or an abusive parent who time after time evades the help of a system overburdened with cases that, left unresolved, ensure continued problems for generation after generation to come.

These unresolved and un-dealt with feelings will lead an officer or investigator to suffer a form of PTSD called ‘Secondary PTSD’ or compassion fatigue.

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About the Author
Darren is a 30 year veteran of law enforcement and criminal investigations. He currently serves as an investigator for the Crawford County Missouri coroner’s office. He holds credentials as an instructor for the Missouri Sheriff’s Training Academy, has served as president of the Missouri Medical Examiners and Coroners Association, and is certified and credentialed in numerous fields of investigation. He holds the position of lead instructor and facilitator for the Coroner Talk™ community as he speaks and writes in the area of death investigation and scene management.

One comment on “Code of Silence

  1. John says:

    Excellent article and webinar. As one who worked as a firefighter/paramedic for 38 years, I dealt with my share of death, devastating fires, distraught family members, violence, pronouncing citizens dead to the emotional family and friends, etc. The major difference is there seems to be a much more involved and in-depth Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) available for us than for law-enforcement. Even though I always considered all LE brothers and sisters in Public Safety and many times have assisted them during the job, it is still a completely different world. We all see people during the worst times of their lives, but typically they are glad to see us show up but not so much LE.

    I would rather run into a raging fire or have someones life on the line dependent upon my actions than what LE goes through. Split second decisions that affect someones life along with their own life and sometimes their career is only for a select few and I could not be one of them. I am used to getting respect and smiles in the business and I have seen the venom aimed at LE just for doing their jobs. LE has a much more serious issue with long-term PTSD than in my line of work.

    I am so sick of the politically correct politicians, media, etc. automatically taking sides against LE when they have no clue what they go through. I find it quite simple as a citizen that when confronted by LE you follow their direction without question, be honest with them, assist when able and all will go well. If you are told multiple times to drop a weapon and don’t, expect to get shot. If you aim a weapon at an officer, expect to get shot. If you fight with an officer, expect to get your butt beat and arrested. Pretty simple. If you have nothing to be worried about when confronted by LE, it will all work out.

    My sincere praise to those still working in the business and those going through the academy. It takes a special person to put up with all of the negativity they are surrounded by all the time and still have a normal life. I thank you.

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