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Law Enforcement Today | May 29, 2016

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Police Burn Out

Police Burn Out
Mark St.Hilaire

Many LEOs come to a point in their careers where they have that feeling that the flame has gone out.  The spark of enthusiasm has disappeared.  The job is not fun anymore.  These are some of the indicators of Burnout.  Early in my career there was a funny saying B.O.S.S. which made light fun of Officer Burn Out with a tongue in cheek cartoon of an officer doing the Superman pose with the B as a symbol on his chest.  If I remember correctly, there was a club you could send away a gag application for membership, too.

Unfortunately many LEO of the past suffered from the symptoms and the reality of burn out.  It affected their performance on and off the job.  Burn out was not a formally recognized symptom or hazard of public safety career, although we laughed about it, it destroyed many careers and people.

Burn out or Compassion fatigue has a major effect on many care taking professions such as the medical profession, clergy and public safety.  LEOs are described in our duties and have been described legally in court case as “community caretakers”.

  • What are some of the signs of LEO burn out?
  • Our work is not challenging
  • I don’t care attitude and demeanor with the public and our peers
  • We feel like we are in an emotional rut
  • We start to lose our motivation.  Boredom sets in.
  • Things, our duties and our life become “Routine” (a dangerous place as an LEO)

Mix these symptoms in with professional and personal situations we may have no control and frustration then sets in.  Our disposition change into a negative view of life and our job performance, relationships and our lifestyle suffers.

After 27 years working in our honorable profession, I have personally bumped, hit and crashed into this wall many times over my career. I am grateful for the “emotional helmet” that other LEOs and others have taught me to wear.  When we recognize and acknowledge this situation we can take some action to change the course of our professional and personal lives for a better and healthier direction.


SELF REFLECTION: Why did I enter this career? Have I lost that sense of commitment to duty and honor? What do I need to do to bring back the enthusiasm to my career?  These are moments we really need to ask ourselves in quiet time and our prayers for the answers.  They answers may come quick or it may take some time.  Be aware and listen to your intuition for guidance.

ARE YOU OVER COMMITTED? : With budget reductions are you carrying the duties of others? Is your life balanced between work and you’re off duty time? Is your off duty time refreshing, rewarding and stimulating filled with family, friends and healthy activities?

CHANGE OF DUTIES: Are there opportunities to change your present work assignment or schedule? Can you bid to a more challenging work assignment that will work for you and your family life?

TRAINING: Are you preparing yourself for future career assignments or promotions?  Are you willing to learn new skills to enhance and reinvigorate your present assignment?  Are you willing to pay for extra training yourself including on your own time?  Are you willing to assess yourself and invest in yourself?

ARE YOU ADVOCATING FOR YOUR NEEDS? : Are you willing to advocate for your professional needs and when you are off-duty? Are you willing to advocate for the needs of your family? Are you willing to “ASK”?

OFFER POSITIVE IDEAS: Are you willing to offer and listen to healthy and positive ideas to improve your agency work performance make the job easier and help keep morale in a positive mode?  Are you willing to offer and listen to your family and your community to improve your own quality of life?  Many of us have a fear of ridicule.  Many of our solutions to professional and personal problems come from within.  The worst they can say is No.  Ask while advocating, be willing to negotiate the solution and accept the final answer.  You will have no regrets in yourself for at least trying to make things better.

ARE YOU WILLING TO TALK? : Is a peer counselor, chaplain, E.A.P. or a mental health professional available for you to talk confidentially about how you feel while guiding you will healthy suggestions to help you overcome these symptoms?

In our careers as LEOs, we all hit that wall at some point.  It is up to you and I as individuals to reflect assess and make the changes needed to grow in life.  We are human beings performing a demanding and emotionally draining job.  Whether we work in a big or small agency, it is up to us as individuals to develop a positive direction in our lives.

Think of it as repainting a room or rearranging the furniture.  If we change the things we view every day this will help us change the way we view them.


Stay safe and be well!

Sgt.St.Hilaire is LET’s police wellness contributor.  He is a police officer in a Metro-west suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. He is a volunteer member of a regional C.I.S.M team.  He can be contacted by confidential email at:  Follow him on Twitter: @NPD3306 or Linked In.  Sgt.St.Hilaire does not receive any compensation or consideration for any program, book or other resource that he recommends.


  1. Very important and Very relevant to Any caregiver; Mark. Thanks.

  2. Great article and great advice Mark.

  3. Well said. It’s exceptionally difficult in any field to stay positive, but especially in the fields that require human interaction. When in this field, especially in this field, where one sees the very best, but more often the very worst of humanity, it’s so very difficult to remain positive. This is a great article. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Excellent, well thought out article, Mark. I particularly like your suggestion about seeing a counselor to review things, look at how you might be able to address them and finding, hopefully, better ways of managing them. This isn’t a bad practice to follow once a year, just to stay “on top,” by any emergency responder.

  5. Recently one of my rookies (I trained her in the academy and on the street) commented she has seemed to loose her “spark” in the job. She is an excellent officer, hard worker, tackles the job without complaint and always smiling. We talked and I told her some of what you wrote about. I read your article this morning and passed it to her. I want to thank you for your insight.

  6. Great article Sarge.. I have found myself hitting the wall after my shooting.. I am not back to full time status but I find myself thinking about other career options these days.. The one thing that helps keep me going is exercise. It clears the mind and gets you thinking straight again.

    Again, your article is greatly appreciated.


  7. Thanks for this great article Mark. I think it is a good resource not only for working officers, but there are things in your list that retired officers can use if they have left the career with a bitter taste in their mouth. Greatly appreciated!

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