Is the delivery method of your training setting officers up for failure in the field, or predisposing them them to experience PTSD?
Are the the comments made in press releases setting officers up to hesitate in the field oror have emotional problems following events?
When you train officers on how stress affects the mind and the body are you teaching officers about the types of stress responses and perceptual distortions they may experience, or are you telling them what they will experience under stress? Stress is subjective and the level of stress and degree of response will vary from officer to officer.
While educating officers about PTSD are you explaining the signs and syptoms along with strategies if an officer experiences these signs and symptoms, or are you telling officers if they are in a deadly force encounter they will have these problems? If you are teaching them they will have problems, then expect it to happen.
Expectation is a powerful tool. Be careful of the expectations you create through the way you deliver your training.
The following was a comment made by a well meaning Sheriff regarding a shooting where one of his officers died and the subject was killed. “You deal with a lot of guilt,” he said. “Guilt for not saving their fellow officer and the guilt for having to take the life of another person. It’s hard on my officers.” These comments were made shortly after the event. While the Sheriff appears to care about his people and the comments are well meaning they may set officers up to believe they should feel guilty.
Every day officers are in situations where they could lawfully justify shooting subjects, and do not. In some of those situations officers place themselves at huge risk to ‘give the subject every opportunity to put down the weapon and give up’. Following many of these events we hear a representative of the organization comment to the media, “Our officers used great restraint today in not shooting this person.” While well intended, these comments can get other officers hurt. The next day an officer may be at a very similar call and feel they need to shoot the subject to protect themselves and others. They may hesitate however, as they are thinking if Officer Smith showed great restraint yesterday, what does that mean if I shoot this person today? That hesitation may cause them or someone else to get injured or killed.
The people in your organization who have the responsibility to conduct press releases must be aware of the importance of the words they choose.