Policing and Personal Pain: Freedom for Healing from Your Past
This article is sort of a homecoming for me. I contributed to LET a few years back while I was a chief of police. While I still support efficient and effective data driven policing, my God-driven passion is for your healing and survival.
I’m not talking about defensive tactics or shooting techniques. This is a much deeper and more personal threat to your well-being. These are dangers that destroy you from within before you really understand what happened.
Full disclosure; I began my career in the era where you just shut up and endured it. Thankfully, I progressed through the evolution of police self-care and wellness. I know there are still old-school holdovers, but I trust you’ll at least give your best interests some consideration.
There’s a tradeoff in professional success and personal destruction. Sometimes, the correlation is that the harder you work to clean up the streets, the messier your personal life becomes. When your focus remains on the last arrest or the next case instead of your kid’s birthday or wedding anniversary, you can expect the mess.
We all carry pain. I’m not talking about the twisted ankle from last night’s foot pursuit. I’m talking about deep personal pain that endures throughout most of your life. The sources of pain will vary, but the results are the same.
This is where some guys may begin to balk at the idea of healing, but I hope you sincerely explore the reality of past sources of pain that cause current consequences. Did your parents divorce? Were you sexually molested as a child? Did your dad abandon the family? How did your first serious relationship end up? Do you have kids out of marriage? Have you experimented with drugs or alcohol at an early age? Did you discover pornography in your teens and still struggle to put it away? These are just a few examples, but these are soul-injuring events that happen often.
I’m not passing judgment and surely not asking you to raise your hand. All I’m asking you to do is drop the defensive façade and think about this—you are the only one who knows what happened in your life. If you are the rare gem who grew up with kittens and unicorn memories, then hallelujah for you. But for the other 98% of us who had crap to deal with and no one to help us process it, this is for you.
This also isn’t a competition. We all experience insult and injury in different ways. While some trauma rolls off our backs, other incidents stick to it. I know when we talk about trauma, we default to work related events such as injury or officer involved shootings. But, some of the deepest, longest lasting pain is caused by family relationships.
I had a dominant, disengaged father who up until the day he died in 2016, never spoke to me. No matter how tough we are, everyone desires human connection and affirmation. That pain drove me to prove myself to him until his last breath.
I worked like the possessed as I rose from a parish patrol deputy to a city’s chief of police. In my desperation to medicate the darkness, I filled every waking moment in school to earn a bachelors, a masters, and a PhD just so he might say, “Good job.”
Nope, nothing. And it stung.
That pain led to my addiction of consumption for earthly crowns and accolades. I needed to conquer, no matter the cost, to feel good about myself. How are you medicating your personal demons? It’s no different than the junkie’s high. Nothing will fill the void, and until we heal, the lows continue to dip deeper than the temporary highs.
It wasn’t until I stepped away from policing that I was able to remove the mask. For the first time, I understood the effects of unresolved hurt, and the negative results of a dysfunctional family relationship.
Healing requires light. I know many of you won’t agree to this. You figure it’s better to hide your pain and your sins in the dark chambers of your heart. It hurts like hell, but at least your vulnerabilities are hidden.
After all, what would happen to your career and credibility if anyone suspected you were weak in one area? I’d ask you to stop worrying about your job and start caring about how it affects your life, wife, and family.
I get it. I carried piles of baggage for decades until it almost did me in. While we like to blame the cop culture for why we suffer and act out, truth is, most of us came to this fraternity with unrealized injuries. The exposure to the ilk of humanity just caused your wounds to become infected through exposure to other’s pain.
Blue, you take care of others but you fail to take care of yourself. There’s a reason why we’re vulnerable to poor health, divorce, sexual addictions, alcohol abuse, gambling, domestic violence, high blood pressure, and suicide.
Unresolved personal pain placed inside the pressure cooker of cop work will manifest itself into something dangerous. You deserve the freedom from your past pain. Brothers, it’s time to heal.
Chief Scott Silverii, PhD was career law enforcement until God called him to serve in 2015. He promptly retired as a Chief of Police and started the Marriage Matters ministry with his wife, Leah. They are both certified as Marriage On The Rock counselors as well as SYMBIS facilitators.
The chief admits that the stressful culture’s effect on law enforcement lives and families has led him to now serve the profession instead of the public.
“No one is warning these young officers or their families about the real-life struggles they’ll experience at home and work. They deserve the truth, or divorce, addiction and suicide will continue to plague the fraternity.”
While he wasn’t on duty, Scott earned a Master of Public Administration and a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology. His doctoral research on police organizational behavior and special operations subcultures earned a publishing contract. Cop Culture: Why Good Cops Go Bad has become the standard for effecting change for good.
A nationally renowned public speaker and mentor, Scott was led to start Brick Breakers men’s ministry in 2017 to help men find freedom from the pain of their pasts. He’s replaced writing arrest reports and police policy with encouragement for those who have experienced divorce, remarriage and blended families.He is always available for his Brothers and Sisters in Service.