Tag Archive for: police officers


“Officers who deal with human trauma might not recognize its toll till too late.”



  • Repeated exposure to trauma can weaken the ability to cope, resulting in cumulative PTSD (CPTSD).
  • Since it’s not linked to a specific incident, CPTSD can go undiagnosed.
  • Educating police officers about CPTSD can inspire preventative treatment that benefits the whole organization.

In the Boston Globe recently, Nicholas DiRobbio described a disabling condition that forced him out of his job as a cop. One day, something just seemed to come over him. Common noises like kids shouting jarred him. He grew scared to leave his house. Some days he sat in his cruiser and screamed. He didn’t recognize himself.

“As a cop, you struggle with your identity,” he told the Globe. “You can’t reform, and you’re broken—you’re not that person and that hero you used to be.” Finally, he quit the force and sought counseling. He knew something was wrong, but he didn’t know what.

DiRobbio learned that he suffered from cumulative post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), or the sum reaction to a build-up of trauma over time. It’s like piling one too many bricks on a scaffold that finally collapses.

The Effects of Cumulative Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD)

“I never anticipated that it feels physical,” he said. “It feels like a weight. You get pressure on the chest area, you feel this heavy burden like a pain, and you feel physically uncomfortable in your own body… I was shaking a lot, uncontrollably… Someone who is a police officer and faced all kinds of stuff, I’m not afraid, but my body wouldn’t physically let me leave the house.”

He describes his experience in Invisible Wounds, insisting it’s not a weakness of character as it’s often portrayed but a process beyond one’s control. Dr. Michelle Beshears, in the Criminal Justice Department at American Military University, agrees. “Cumulative PTSD can be even more dangerous than PTSD caused from a single traumatic event,” she states, “largely because cumulative PTSD is more likely to go unnoticed and untreated. If untreated, officers can become a danger to themselves and others.”

We hear a lot about PTSD but not much about this more nebulous condition. Yet, those on active duty who routinely deal with human trauma are vulnerable to it. Law enforcement is one of the occupations at greatest risk, given how much they’re exposed to conflict, trauma, and death.

“I went to 30 incidents of dead people,” DiRobbio recalled. “I remember every single one of them…. There [are] sights and smells and people crying; that sticks with you.”

Cerel et al. (2018) examined the results from 800 officers who’d completed a survey about their exposure to suicide incidents. Almost all participants (95 percent) had responded to at least one such scene, with an average of 31 over a career. One in five reported a scene that had triggered nightmares, and close to half reported seeing things that had stayed with them. The researchers found a significant association between frequent exposure to suicide and behavioral health consequences, mostly depressionanxiety, and sleep disorders—all signals of potential CPTSD.

Supporting First Responders With CPTSD

This mental health injury appears to be a growing issue for first responders. Valazquez and Herandez (2019) reviewed research on police mental health. “Working as a first responder,” they write, “has been identified as one of the few occupations where individuals are repeatedly placed in high stress and high-risk situations.” Typical coping strategies show a failure within organizations to recognize a developing issue like CPTSD. One of the most persistent barriers to seeking help is the stigma attached.

“It is evident that officers unknowingly advocate negative attitudes about seeking mental health support based on the organizational stigma. Organizational stigma manifests in the way the agency prioritizes officer wellness and provides supportive services.” They argue that for the greater good, organizations must address the stigma directly, diminish its impact, and encourage the use of services.

Among the types of experiences that can negatively affect cops are officer-involved shootings, vehicle pursuits, volatile domestic situations, and witnessing the aftermath of rapes, accidents, suicides, and homicides. Symptoms of CPTSD include intrusive thoughts, sleep or eating disorders, adverse mood shifts, withdrawal from friends and family, agitation, physical deterioration, and disorientation.

However, few departments have effective support in place. It’s no secret that the police culture has traditionally dodged the topic of mental health, an approach that has only added to the rise in depression, CPTSD, and suicidalthoughts among officers. They feel guilty, embarrassed, and ashamed about asking. They think their peers will now view them differently. So, instead of expressing their feelings to relieve the pressure, they withdraw. Although some departments now include critical incident debriefing for this purpose, many do not.

Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) is a peer-support process that aims to erase stigma and encourage seeking help. Watson and Andrews (2018) found that in military populations, this instrument has shown beneficial effects. Studies with TRiM in police departments in the UK are ongoing, but early reports indicate a positive reception.

Ignoring mental health problems in cops won’t erase them. Education, training, and support are needed to ensure the welfare of those who keep us safe.



Beshears, M. (2017, April 3). Police officers face cumulative PTSD. Police 1.https://www.police1.com/health-wellness/articles/police-officers-face-c…

Carlson-Johnson, O., Grant, H., & Lavery, C. (2020). Caring for the guardians—Exploring needed directions and best Practices for police resilience practice and research. Frontiers in Psychologyhttps://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01874

Cerel, J., Jones, B., Brown, M., Weisenhorn, D. A., & Patel, K. (2018). Suicide exposure in law enforcement officers. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior.doi.org/10.1111/sltb.12516

Velazquez, E., & Hernandez, M. (2019). Effects of police officer exposure to traumatic experiences and recognizing the stigma associated with police officer mental health: A state-of-the-art review. Policing: An International Journal,42(4), 711-724.

Watson, L., & Andrews, L. (2018). The effect of a Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) program on stigma and barriers to help-seeking in the police. International Journal of Stress Management,25(4), 348–356. https://doi.org/10.1037/str0000071

Velazquez, E., & Hernandez, M. (2019). Effects of police officer exposure to traumatic experiences and recognizing the stigma associated with police officer mental health: A state-of-the-art review. Policing: An International Journal, 42(4), 711-724.

Watson, L., & Andrews, L. (2018). The effect of a Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) program on stigma and barriers to help-seeking in the police. International Journal of Stress Management, 25(4), 348–356. https://doi.org/10.1037/str0000071


This article originally appeared in the October 18, 2021 of “Psychology Today.” It is published here with the permission of the author, Katherine Ramsland Ph.D.

Cover photo by Katherine Ramsland.


Katherine Ramsland teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University, where she is the Assistant Provost. She has appeared on more than 200 crime documentaries and magazine shows, is an executive producer of Murder House Flip, and has consulted for CSI, Bones, and The Alienist. The author of more than 1,000 articles and 68 books, including How to Catch a Killer, The Psychology of Death Investigations, and The Mind of a Murderer, she spent five years working with Dennis Rader on his autobiography, Confession of a Serial Killer: The Untold Story of Dennis Rader, The BTK Killer. Dr. Ramsland currently pens the “Shadow-boxing” blog at Psychology Today and teaches seminars to law enforcement.

Police officers, especially those working patrol assignments, are typically the first officers to respond to emergency situations. Not only are they called to scenes involving criminal activities, they are often the first responders to show up at scenes involving medical emergencies. Therefore, it makes sense that officers would possess, at minimum, a basic knowledge of first aid procedures.

When I attended the police academy part of the curriculum was a mandatory 40-hour First Responder certification course (not to be confused with the broadly-used, generic term “first responder,” meaning police, fire, and EMS personnel). To avoid confusion the name “First Responder” was eventually changed to “Emergency Medical Responder” or “EMR.”

The First Responder certification course offered training in the skills needed to provide emergency medical care, such as patient assessment and care, diagnostic signs, and how to treat life threatening emergencies, such as severe bleeding, seizures, choking, broken bones, and more.

In addition to the First Responder/Emergency Medical Responder certification course, each recruit was required to complete and pass an Adult CPR and Pediatric CPR certification course. The only exemption to the training was to have current CPR certification and a current certification at the First Responder level or higher (EMT, Paramedic, etc.). At the time, I was an EMT and a CPR instructor for both the American Heart Association and Red Cross. I taught taught CPR at law enforcement and jail training academies, and at the Virginia Department of Corrections training academy. I also taught CPR at local hospitals and churches, rescue squads and ambulance services, and fire departments, etc.

Unfortunately, in many areas, if not most, First Responder/Emergency Medical Responder in-service training is not required. Therefore, without refresher courses many of those lifesaving skills and bits of valuable knowledge eventually fade from the minds of officers (If you don’t use it you lose it!).

Fortunately, help has arrived! Yes, the Comprehensive Trauma Kit is just what the doctor ordered. It’s a medical toolbox packed with an assortment of medical supplies designed to help police officers address critical emergencies. The kit is also available for businesses, or anywhere it may be needed.

Some law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have assigned these trauma kits to their officers/deputies.

Each kit contains:

  • First aid supplies
  • A built-in integrated tablet that includes the Mobilize Rescue app
  • The Mobilize Rescue app guides users with on-screen real-time step-by-step instructions
  • Clearly organized and color-coded supplies with alpha-numeric labels that correspond to the instructions in the app
  • OSHA-compliant medical supplies
  • The ability to create a time-stamped summary of actions to share with EMS

Trauma Supplies

4 | SOF-T Wide tourniquet

2 | QuikClot bleeding control dressing

2 | 6″ flat emergency trauma dressing

2 | Hyfin chest seal

2 | Water-Jel universal burn dressing

2 | triangular bandage

2 | 4.5″ sterile conforming stretch gauze

4 | 5″ x 9″ sterile combine ABD pads

2 | 10″ x 30″ sterile multi-trauma dressing

1 | 36″ SAM emergency splint

2 | 4″ elastic wrap bandage

1 | 4″ x 5″ cold compress

1 | adhesive tape 2.5 yd


Medical Supplies

1 | CPR face shield with bite block

1 | 81mg chewable aspirin (bottle)

1 | 12mg dissolvable allergy tablets (box)

1 | 15mg Insta-Glucose

2 | emergency space Mylar blanket

1 | portable charger and charging cord

1 | USB charging cube

1 | inspection card

12 | proof seals

2 | bag with biohazard markings

1 | trauma shears

10 | nitrile gloves

1 | user manual and inventory card


OSHA-Compliant First Aid Supplies

2 | eye pads

16 | adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)

10 | burn cream packets

10 | triple antibiotic ointment packets

10 | antiseptic wipes

1 | tweezers

10 | hand sanitizer packets

1 | eye wash

1 | first aid guide


To view the kit, its contents, and how it can be utilized during a medical emergency, please click on the video below.


Cops truly see and experience the odd, weird, and often dark side of society, and this experience is not limited to dealing with criminals and all the lovely things bad guys offer their communities. For example:

  • The preacher who killed his lover, a woman married to another man. The reverend shot her dead because because she was sleeping with another man, a fellow who was also not her husband. During the fit of jealous rage the murdering minister also killed the “other man.”
  • While checking what was thought to be an abandoned vehicle parked at the end of a deserted, cracked asphalt stretch of dead-end country road, a deputy was surprised when he discovered a local government mental health professional inside the car engaged in frantic sexual activity with a young girl under the age of 17. One of the official duties of the professional person was to counsel victims of sexual abuse.
  • A 911 call from an area by-the-hour motel led law enforcement officers to a room rented by a known prostitute. She dialed the police when her “client” began to get a bit too rough for her liking. The client was a prominent business leader who also taught Sunday School at his church.
  • A probation officer was shot to death when he was caught having sex with a probationer’s girlfriend. The recently released offender arrived home early from work, discovered the pair in bed, and then quickly grabbed a gun and proceeded to fire rounds at the man who was in charge of his supervised release. Well, the shooter’s aim was pretty good because he shot the nude man in the back as he climbed out of the couple’s bedroom window with his clothing in hand.

The probation officer managed to stumble a few steps before collapsing onto the sidewalk. When police arrived they found the probation officer’s naked body curled in a fetal position. Lying next to him were his clothing, including the shiny badge that was still attached to his belt.

  • While working graveyard shift, an officer parked his patrol car on a side street where he began to complete a bit of paperwork. While there he witnessed a state law enforcement agent park his government vehicle in a dark area of a neighborhood. The agent opened the car door and shut is slowly and quietly and then trotted to the side door of a house. The door opened and a woman let him inside. The woman was the wife of a corrections officer who worked night shift at a prison. The agent’s wife who was most likely at home asleep, had no idea that her husband was cheating with one of her friends.
  • While running radar late at night on a lonely stretch of highway, an officer stopped a car that was swerving from side to side. When the officer had a look inside the vehicle he saw that the male driver wore a corrections uniform.  His passenger, a totally nude (male), was handcuffed to the car door. His corrections uniform was on the backseat in a crumpled pile. The pair of COs said they were merely out for a late night, relaxing drive to unwind after finishing their shift at the prison.

Most of you know that we’ve been busy for the past two weeks since our daughter and her family were left homeless and without belongings after a devastating house fire. Once they were settled into suitable shelter and after they were able to purchase a few articles of clothing and other basic needs (thanks to your generous contributions and support), Denene and I headed home.

Along the way north we learned that my uncle, the last remaining uncle on my mother’s side of the family, was rushed to a hospital where he was to undergo emergency heart surgery. The first hospital was not adequately suited to perform the surgery so he was transported by ambulance to a hospital in Delaware, just a few miles from our house. Of course, we were in North Carolina at the time, dealing with the fire situation.

Unfortunately, as the surgical team started the tedious operation, they quickly learned that they, too, were not equipped to handle such a delicate procedure as the one before them. Therefore, once he was again stabilized they rushed him to a hospital in Philadelphia. This hospital, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, is said to be one of the best in the country for the type of procedure needed for my uncle.

We arrived home late at night/early morning from the trip to Ellen’s, and the next morning I was off to Philadelphia where I sat for several hours, making the usual nervous small talk with my aunt and cousin—the stuff people babble about while waiting and hoping for encouraging words from surgeons.

During our wait a paramedic flight team rushed a patient down the hallway directly in front of where we sat. The two EMS professionals were surrounded by a gaggle of police officers, both uniformed and several others wearing plainclothes. Then came family members of the patient.

I told my aunt that the mere presence of so many police officers could only mean a few things. One: The patient was a dangerous criminal who needed lots of security. Two: He was a witness to a terrible crime and needed lots of security. Three: An important public figure and needed lots of security. Four: The patient was a police officer who’d been injured or fallen seriously ill while in the line of duty.

Before long, the hallway filled with even more police officers—motorcycle cops, K-9 officers, patrol officers, detectives, supervisors, and, well, you name it and they were there, and all with wrinkled brows, a serious and intense lack of smiles, and the absence of the usual cop-type joke-cracking and hospital humor. Had to be an injured police officer. No doubt about it.

While anxiously awaiting news about my uncle, a man walked over and sat in the empty chair beside me. He nervously twisted and intertwined his fingers, stopping occasionally to rub a hand over the fingers of the opposite hand and then after a moment or two switched to rub the fingers of the other hand, and then back to the finger twisting. His brow was deeply furrowed and he glanced around the room, obviously focusing on nothing in particular. I’d been there before, in that same mental state, when Ellen was undergoing cancer surgeries and when my parents and grandparents were nearing the ends of their lives. His heart-shattering, emotional pain was almost palpable.

He soon turned to me, a stranger, and said, “My son is a police detective and he and a couple of his coworkers were knocking on a door to speak with someone about a case when he suddenly collapsed. It’s his heart.”

Needing to talk to someone, anyone, he went on to explain how the other detectives did all the right things and, as a result of what was later learned to be a major cardiac event, the young detective, a man half my uncles age, was flown to the same Philadelphia hospital where he underwent the same procedure as did my uncle.

Both operations were performed at the same time, in separate operating rooms.

The anxious father and I chatted for several minutes, with he asking about my former career and I about the career path of his son. Then the man, Mr. Moretti, told me about an officer who’d once served with his son (Detective Andrew Moretti) at the same Pennsylvania agency, the Plymouth Township Police Department.

It was seven years ago, he said, when the officer about whom he spoke, Officer Brad Fox, was shot and killed on the eve of his 35th birthday. At the time, Officer Fox’s wife was expecting the couple’s second child.

Nick, a Belgian Malinois and Officer Fox’s his K-9 partner, was also injured in the shooting, but survived.

I remembered including Officer Fox in my long-running Friday’s Heroes column, the posts that recognize the officers who’d lost their lives in the line of duty during the week of the posts. I’d written those articles for eleven years and, yes, I recall most of the names and many of the faces. A few I’ve known personally. One was a former coworker.

So I pulled up the post on my phone and showed it to Mr. Moretti. As he read it, Detective Moretti’s wife entered the waiting room and her father-in-law introduced me as a retired police detective. Then he walked out into the hallway, wading into the midst of his son’s co-workers, work partners, and peers.

I nodded toward the mob of police officers standing in the hallway leading to the operating theater of the cardiac care unit, and said to her, “Were you aware that when you married a cop you married an entire department as well as thousands of law enforcement officers all around the country?”

“It’s true,” I continued. “We’re a family, you know.”

She said she’d entered into their marriage with eyes wide open and knew exactly what was in store for her, and that I was correct, their extended family was one that reached the four corners of the country and all areas between. They’d seen evidence of that when Officer Fox was killed during the ambush attack.

It was then when the surgeon came out to deliver news about my uncle. His condition was serious but he’d survived the operation. There was much to be done in the days following the surgery … one step at a time.

When I finally left my uncle’s room that night, the elder Mr. Moretti stood in the hallway. The smile on his face told the story that his son, too, had survived the surgery. Relief had eased the worry lines that had earlier shaped his forehead and the area around his eyes. His jaw was relaxed and he displayed a cheek-to-cheek toothy grin. His wife stood at his side, tired but happy. The detective’s wife was ecstatic.

I wished them all well and headed toward the elevators, still limping from my recent hip replacement, and with the weight of worry for my own family members resting heavily on my shoulders. On the other hand, I was happy for the Morettis.

The next day, Detective Moretti was up, sitting in a chair, chatting away with his smiling wife and a group of police officers, a crowd so large that many were forced to stand outside in the hallway. I felt extreme joy to know that he’d “made it,” even though I’d never met him. Hey, we’re all family, right?

A few doors down from the happiness inside Detective Moretti’s room, my uncle, still basically unresponsive, was in the process of experiencing a heart attack and severe respiratory distress.

I’d just entered his room when the event began and the room quickly filled with doctors, nurses, surgeons, respiratory therapists, anesthesiologists, and more. Total but highly organized chaos. An hour later he was once again stable and that’s the situation today—stable.

So, my uncle, Pete, a veteran who’d served in Korea, is currently in a Philadelphia hospital room fighting for his life with the assistance of various machines, tubes, a ventilator, blood transfusions, and numerous dedicated and caring medical professionals.

My daughter and her family are living in a motel, with no home and no personal belongings. She’s recovering from cancer and the after-effects of aggressive chemo and radiation. She and her husband and son are emotionally and physically drained. They’re broken and they’re broke. Her hospital bills now exceed well over $1.25 million.

My mother-in-law is still battling serious cancer and still receives chemo each week. She’s weak.

Our wonderful daughter-in-law Stephani was recently diagnosed with a serious, chronic illness that has totally disrupted her life. As a result and after trying numerous other medications/injections that cost a couple thousand dollars each, she must now be hooked to an IV for hours at a time every few weeks to receive infusions of a new drug. She’s desperate for relief and for remission. “If it works, it will be worth it,” she said to me a few days ago.

This is the spot for a long … sigh …

When I walked down the hallway to leave the hospital this past Tuesday night, I overheard Mr. Moretti telling a group of officers that seven years ago I’d taken the time to recognize Officer Brad Fox’s service and sacrifice, and that I’d actually remembered his name after all the time that’s passed since he was killed in the line of duty.

It is my hope that Officer Fox’s wife and children know that he, like all the other officers who’ve lost their lives so that we can remain safe, will forever be remembered for their heroism.

And, speaking of heroism, Officer Fox’s death came as he and his K-9 were searching a secluded area for a suspect who was on felony probation, and who was the prime suspect in the disappearance of his fiancee.

I know, this post was absolutely all over the place, but so are my thoughts and my own emotions. I guess what I want to say most right now is thanks to each of you for your support for me and my family during the tough times we’ve experienced.

So yes, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You guys mean the world to me—you’re family—and I wish I could somehow repay your kindness and extreme generosity.

Officer Bradley Fox, 34

Plymouth Township Pennsylvania Police Department

September 13, 2012 – Officer Bradley Fox was shot and killed by ambush after responding to reports of a hit and run. The suspect opened fire as Officer Fox approached, wounding both Fox and his canine partner. Officer Fox is survived by his expectant wife and daughter.

Police officer academy training is extremely intense. It’s tough. It’s mentally and physically challenging.

During the course of basic training, officers are taught many topics, tactics, and techniques.

Academy instructors advise recruits on the hundreds upon hundreds things they must do right during their careers as law enforcement officers.

Here are five things they should NOT do.


Spots are still available to the 2018 Writers’ Police Academy. Yes, registration is still open and, we have lots more surprises on the way. This is an event you’ll remember for a lifetime so please hurry while slots are available! Oh, be sure to refer a friend and have them sign up as well. You’ll soon see why that could be a very important step.




Candies, cakes, and eggnog.

Turkey, ham, and stuffing.

Pumpkin pie.

My favorite.

Family, friends, and sleeping dog on hearth.

Fireplace crackles.

Cedar logs sizzle.

Cookies and milk.

Laughter, giggles, and squeals.

Stockings and gifts.

Silent wishes and happy, hopeful dreams.


Wish I was there.

Pepper spray, handcuffs, and puking drunks.

Radios, shotguns, and TASERS.

Spouses abused.


Black eyes and broken bones.

Not their fault.

Dealers, robbers, and sad, pitiful kids.

No toys.

Lots of drugs.

Crack pipes burning.

No place to sleep.

No food, no heat.

Gunshots and stabbings.

Car crashes and suicides.

Crying, bleeding, and dying.

Ambulances, hospitals, and morgues.


Glad I have one.

Aren’t you?

Please remember the many police officers, fire crews, rescue workers, hospital staff, and all others who work to keep us safe during the holidays.

And, thanks so much to each of you who’ve helped our daughter’s battle with cancer through donations, prayers, gifts, and healing thoughts. She’s quite ill, her hair is now gone, and the pain she endures daily is intense, but her sweet smile still lights up a room, and my heart. 

Ellen, prior to receiving chemo.

Here’s how you, too, can help Ellen (our daughter). I cannot begin to stress the importance of each and every dollar. No donation is too small. Click here to help. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You guys are the best and I don’t know how we’d make it through this without you!