What Is Law Enforcement Distress Syndrome?


(Stephen Warneke Productions)

What Is Law Enforcement Distress Syndrome (LEDS)?

The job of law enforcement is critical to maintaining our way of life: If there were no police officers, society would descend into anarchy and chaos. The men and women who protect us sacrifice their lives every day for the peace and prosperity of strangers. After serving 15 years in law enforcement, I’ve observed yet another, hidden sacrifice many police officers are making simply by doing their jobs.

Did you know that about 50% of police officers feel that they can’t talk to their loved ones about the stresses and difficulties of the job? The job can be just too violent for them to share. And yet they STILL show up. There is a HIDDEN COST law enforcement officers pay because of prolonged exposure to threat, crime, and violence.

In an effort to raise awareness, I am trying to identify what LEDS is by asking about YOUR experiences with the symptoms of this psychological syndrome.

So what is LEDS?

Law Enforcement Distress Syndrome (LEDS) is defined as a psychological condition developed by some law enforcement officers due to prolonged exposure to continuous threat, violence, trauma, accidents, and crime.

There are currently 8 known symptoms of LEDS:

  • Hypervigilance
  • Revenge/vengeance paranoia
  • Distrust of others
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Fatalistic thinking
  • Adrenaline addiction
  • Depression, suicidal thoughts or actions
  • Alcohol or substance abuse issues

The exposure to constant threat and witnessing trauma, accidents, violence, victimization, and crime, combined with unavailable or ineffective coping mechanisms has a direct correlation to the onset and severity of the aforementioned symptoms. The duration and frequency of exposure to traumatic events also has a direct link. For instance, police officers in high-crime areas and/or large metropolitan patrols may be quicker to exhibit a greater number and severity of symptoms.

An additional significant factor contributing to LEDS and its severity is the culture and climate in which today’s police officers must work. A constant public barrage of negative stories and perceptions of law enforcement has created a general distrust and disrespect of police officers. An officer’s perception of a lack of trust, support, and appreciation by the public and/or their department’s administration can increase one or more of the symptoms.

Separation from the job in the form of retirement or other means does not necessarily resolve these symptoms. Often, the resulting loss of power and authority can exacerbate many of these symptoms as the affected individual tries to assimilate back into normal society.


I am currently conducting an on-going, independent research study to help raise awareness about ways to identify, cope with, and manage these symptoms, so that police officers everywhere may receive proper treatment and support to improve their health, happiness, and overall quality of life.

I want to hear from YOU. Your experiences, your story, your opinion about these symptoms and how you’ve dealt with the stresses and difficulties of the job. You can participate in my survey below, email me at, or contact me through my website.

I am so THANKFUL to everyone who has participated so far! Your stories are insightful and the MORE surveys we fill out the MORE we can help our law enforcement family!

I look forward to hearing from you, and I cannot wait to share my findings with you as I cover each symptom over the next few weeks.

Current and former law enforcement please participate in 15 minute research study HERE:

For more details and information on LEDS, symptoms, treatments, and management, read the release—Choose PDF Format or Mobile Friendly view.

Steve Warneke is a speaker, broadcaster, police expert, and author. Find his book From Boy To Blue and more from Steve at

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Steve Warneke

Steve Warneke is a retired Denver Police sergeant, police expert, consultant, speaker and author of From Boy To Blue. Find more from Steve at


Hi Steve
Thanks for posting . The issues you raise are crucial and yet there is a factor that often gets missed or overlooked and that is the culture of policing itself and the impact that continually has on help seeking and disclosure by police officers. “Would love to talk
Warm regards

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