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Akua's avatar

Is it my imagination or do people in Law enforcement have serious issues?

Asked by Akua (4725points) November 18th, 2010

For years I have noticed that police officers (like my husband) seem to have serious emotional/mental issues. I was recently speaking to a psychotherapist and when I mentioned that my husband was a police officer he said that he had never known a cop (and he’s seen many) who wasn’t fucked up in the head and if a patient came to him with serious complaints about their spouse, 1 out of 5 times, they were married to a cop. What gives? Do they have to be crazy to get the job?!?!?
All of hubby’s friends are in law enforcement and I swear they all should have their guns taken away.

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18 Answers

Mariah's avatar

Maybe you’re mixing up cause and effect.

poisonedantidote's avatar

It’s no secret round here that I dislike cops, but in their defense, considering the job they do it’s not hard to see how they could end up how they end up.

They usually start young, as a sound of mind and fair person who wants to help and give something back to the world, but after 2 or 3 years of having crack heads spit at them and general idiots making trouble for them, they turn in to belligerent bastards.

They are then disliked by people like my self for being so uncaring and cold, and they face problems from all sides. Their boss puts pressure on them, the public put pressure on them, and people constantly try to harm them.

So yea, I think they start of as good people with good intentions, but really, its hard to blame them for being the way they are considering the job they do. I bet cops get called assholes and other names much more than normal every day people.

It’s probably some kind of slow acting shell shock that just grinds them down over time. I imagine being a cop for 10 or 15 years is much the same as being a soldier in a slow paced war. They are not shot at and at risk of being bombed on a daily basis like a soldier, but over 10 or 15 years they probably see just as much shit as a soldier on a 1 year mission.

Akua's avatar

@poisonedantidote I agree with you 100%. This is why I tolerate my husband’s moods because I know that he deals with a lot on the job and that underneath it all, he is sweet. In particular I know he deals with a lot of pedophiles & criminally insane. Now that I think about it, most of hubby’s friends were a lot nicer 5 yrs ago. Now they all seem dark and hard. Most have drinking problems too. And ALL have problems at home with their wives and/or children. So I guess this is a form of PTSD.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I only know one…the guy who grew up next door. He was messed up well before he joined the force. He has always been kind to us, but his relationships with his younger brothers and ex-wife were not pretty for the most part. He was discharged a few years ago for prescription drug abuse.

marinelife's avatar

It is an incredibly stressful job that causes a major increase in suicides and divorce among other things.

Add to it that men have difficulty talking about emotional issues and therapy is stigmatized on the force, and it is no wonder that they have problems.

I must say that you don’t sound very sympathetic to your husband’s work situation and stresses.

El_Cadejo's avatar

It always seemed to me that the kids who were picked on in school always grew up to be cops. Most seem to be complete assholes at least in my experience but there are indeed some nice genuine ones out there. As others have said, those who didnt go into it fucked up in the head surely got there because of all the shit they have to see/deal with on a day to day basis.

Berserker's avatar

You probably see a lot of shit as a cop, so it’s bound to fuck you up a little. If there are any innate psychological factors that compliment the profession specifically, I couldn’t say.

It makes me wonder, were knights all fucked up, too?

jerv's avatar

I can’t really speak for the police, but that is largely how it is for those who are or were in the military, especially combat veterans, I know that I have a lot more issues than I did before I did a few years in the Navy, and given what cops go through as a normal part of teir job, I can’t imagine that they have it much (if any) better. Hell, I think it safe to say that, percentagewise, more police officers have had to at least draw their sidearm in a potential combat situation than military personnel.

The entrance testing is rigorous enough for both that those who already have issues aren’t likely to get a uniform, but pretty much anyone who spend time in a uniform will get some issues.

GladysMensch's avatar

I have a few friends and a few acquaintances who are cops. I’ve also known a number of people who became cops after I moved away and lost touch. For the most part they’re all massive control freaks. They want to be in charge all the time. My closest cop friend is not that way at all. I have one female cop acquaintance (also very nice and “normal”), and she’s told me that she would never date a cop. She says the vast majority have control issues.

Berserker's avatar

I dealt with the police a bit as a teen, yeah a lot are pricks, but not all. There was this one dude who arrested me like three times, but he was always compassionate about everything. Strict, but fair. He even came to see me when he was off duty and happened to see me walk around, to ask how I was doing and how shit was going and all. I was surprised to see him dressed in leather clothing with chains hanging offa him all over. He had this cool motorbike, too.
Lotta exceptions out there I guess. Again, I can’t answer this, but there is lots to consider.

john65pennington's avatar

My wife married me 45 years ago. i was blessed because police officers have been in her family for years and she knew what to expect out of me and my employment. in my department, we routinely have a psychological tuneup, about every 6 months. this is commonplace in all big police departments. not everyone is cutout to be a cop.

In all my years in uniform, there is absolutely nothing i have not seen, smelled, felt or tasted. being a cop is a dirty job. not real dirt, but having to deal with the lowlife of the earth and the crimes they commit. every heard the phrase “walk a mile in my shoes”? being a police officer is not as easy as some people may think. its 80% psychological and 20% physical.

Some officers truly do have problems learning to cope with their daily calls and what they have witnessed. to see human body with no legs, arms or head is disturbing. some officers except this and carry on. others let the sites go to their head.

Officers survival is another area that some officers can go off on the deep end. constantly thinking that the person he has stopped on a traffic violation is coming out of his vehicle with an AK47 to cut him down. being stressed-out is not a good enough word for the job. this is why officers hearts give them so much trouble. some officers take the job home with them and others leave it at the front door of their home.

When i retired, i thought i was in pretty good shape, mentally and physically, for being a cop for 44 years. i did not realize the anger that was bottled up inside of me, from seeing women raped, children kidnapped and killed and elderly people having their life saving taken away by a criminal. luckily, my nurse wife recoginized my problem and called an anger therapist, a friend of our family. she made me realize that the police job did take a toll on me in another different direction…...anger buildup. after several meetings, she gave me a rubber band and placed it on my wrist. the next time i feel anger coming, to stretch the rubber band and let it sting my wrist. this works and my wife agrees.

Being a police officer is not like any other profession. you have to be a lawyer, family counselor, minister, protector of the innocent people, a judge, a marksman, safe driver, and decision maker in a split second.

No, its not easy being a cop…....but, someone has to do it.

iamthemob's avatar

As a lawyer, I’ve seen the same kind of burnout from those working particularly in the criminal, but also civil, areas. When you work in the justice system, you both (1) see some of the worst of humanity, and (2) watch as the system works in their favor. And you end up being a part of making that happen a lot of the time – sometimes because you didn’t do your job well, and sometimes because you did. Being an officer of the law or of the court means you have a duty to the law, and sometimes that means that by necessity you hurt people. Because of this, they love you when they need you, and hate you a lot of the time when they don’t.

And because the two groups are the active faces of the justice system, they get blamed when justice turns out to be unfair, as it often is. The problem, of course, is that the blame most properly rests with the elected legislatures, who are the ones that have the power to adjust the laws to make them work. The frustration of doing something that is perhaps, in the eyes of democracy, one of the most important services to the people that you can – defend the law – and getting reamed for trying to do it to the best of your ability, combined with watching how it’s not working, and being blamed when you’re the wrong target, can be overwhelming.

The difference between lawyers and cops is the fact that cops are on the front lines, and therefore have the added pressure of having to make legal decisions on the spot, in situations where there are lives at risk. So when the system ends up working out wrong, as it does, and repeatedly, lawyers tend to give up…and cops tend to get mad. It makes perfect sense. That doesn’t mean those around them (or us) should be tolerant of it – but the job can do some bad stuff to some good people. If you understand where they’re coming from, you get to approach it in a helpful, rather than purely critical, way.

Akua's avatar

@marinelife I must say that you don’t sound very sympathetic to your husband’s work situation and stresses.

I am VERY empathetic of my husbands stresses. In order to get on the police force they have to pass a psychological exam and this exam is not meant to wean out the unfit but make sure that the ones chosen can handle the psychological hardships of such a job. I and my husband have seen a therapist (on-going) and even the psychoanalyst agrees that what happens to officers is not actually a result of the job per se, they get the job because they fit a profile. Once they get on the job the same characteristics that made them perfect for the job are the same that make them incompatible in other areas. Another thing, my husband wasn’t always a police officer (when i met him) but he has always acted the way he acts now. This is a therapist with 50 years of experience and most of his patients are officers. Just because you can’t see me weep over the internet doesn’t mean that I’m not empathetic. I posted to get feedback on others’ experiences with officers, not to be judged. But thanks for your ‘opinion’.

Akua's avatar

@uberbatman Yes I agree with that. My husband was very picked on as a child by his own accounts. These children seem to grow up idolizing Law Enforcement as a means gaining authority and power. Some, not all. But your assessment is right on. Thanks.

Akua's avatar

@GladysMensch Yes some are control freaks, and arrogant and self-centered. All the personality traits that make them perfect to deal with criminals. Not wives LOLOL. But he’s still the best hubby!

Akua's avatar

@john65pennington true, true, and more truth. Two of my husbands co-workers have dies of heart problems in the last few months. And one day hubby came home upset because one of the pedophiles he took on a court run threatened to rape our daughter. That really fucked him up and I spent the day making sure he was ok. We have been going to a great therapist and I do believe that it helps a lot. Thanks for your story and your wonderful wife.

jerv's avatar

I have to say that living in Seattle has make me rethink a few things lately though.
There have been a few unjustified shootings (not “defense turned tragic” but the type of stuff where the cops were actually investigated and put on trial) and other problems with excessive force, intimidation, and generally being assholes. I know that they lost four officers a while back in Lakewood, but that was a while ago and their actions have gone far beyond the justifiable extra caution. Some people (even law-abiding citizens) are now almost as afraid of the police as they are of criminals!

@john65pennington Can you tell me what would turn an entire department into hoodlums and thugs? I can understand that occasionally an individual officer may do something wrong, but the SPD seems to be having an epidemic and I thought you might be able to give me some insight.

Akua's avatar

@jerv Yea we have had similair issues here in Brooklyn regarding reckless police. It’s funny, that before getting on the force my husband hated cops. Now he’s an officer and he even says that they are assholes. Some cops DO abuse there power and it seems more likely to happen in poor and minority neighborhoods. In my area kids are being shot down like they are nothing. We have regular rallies about the police violence and it’s coming to a head… people are tired of it.

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