I used to joke with new officers who were getting married for the first time. I’d say something along the lines of, “You are not yet a real cop; this is only your first marriage.”
The stressors in police work are articulated by retired police officer and psychologist Dr. Kevin Gilmartin in his invaluable book, "Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement."
It is no secret among law enforcement that the greatest amount of stress for officers is generated within the police department. Nearly thirty years in law enforcement has taught me the truth of that fact.
Viktor Frankl, the famed psychologist and holocaust survivor, posited the thesis that there are only two groups of humans, the decent and the indecent.
Expanding upon Frankl, there are subsets within both groups. Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman popularized the concept of Wolves and Sheepdogs. Wolves are a predatory segment of the indecent people who prey upon the majority decent people, the Sheep. Sheepdogs, the military and law enforcement segment of the decent people, protect the Sheep from the Wolves.
There is a sub-group within the Sheepdogs, which I designate as “Jackals.” They are the Sheepdogs who forego their sacred oath and no longer work for the betterment of society. Within the law enforcement community, the Jackals exacerbate the natural stress cycles and contribute mightily to the emotional destruction of officers and their families.
In a recent exchange of correspondence, LtC Grossman wrote this to me, “Stay staunch, brother Sheepdog!”
To this I replied, “As for staying "staunch" it is getting more difficult as I discover so many Jackals among law enforcement SheepDogs. Kevin Gilmartin's "Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement" nails the issues to the wall.”
With the LtC’s permission, I quote his reply to me:
Thought you might appreciate this.
Hunt the wolf!
To: Our Sheepdog, Our Cops: "Thanks"
From: Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
I've got something I need to say to you, and all of your magnificent 'sheepdog' comrades, and it comes from the heart...
Thirty-two years ago, I was a twenty year old buck sergeant in the 82d Airborne Division, spending over half my time on deployment, leaving behind a young wife and two little babies.
Twenty-two years ago I was a company commander in Panama, leaving a wife and three little boys back at home.
Twelve years ago I was wrapping up my military career, deployed every summer and countless weekends and weeks in between, with a wife and teenagers at home.
For the last eleven years I've been on the road, almost 300 days a year, training cops and military. I get home one or two nights a week: conjugal visit, clean underwear, and back on the road again.
For my entire adult life I've spent more time away from my loved ones than I ever spent with them. And I knew, all they ever had to do, was to pick up the phone and dial three digits, and someone like you would show up to fight and, yes, even die for my loved ones.
And so I need to say something: Thank you.
Thank you, for walking the mean streets during one of the most violent times in history.
Thank you, for going toward the sound of the guns, when everyone else runs away.
Thank you, for being the front-line of defense in the War on Terror.
Thank you, for going in harm's way, every day, that others may live.
Thank you, for watching our back and covering our 'six' when we are overseas.
You should hear those words a lot more often: Thank you.
May God bless you and yours, as you protect and watch over others,
Dave Grossman Lt Col, USA (ret)
Did you catch the LtC’s use of “Hooah?” That’s the greeting and acknowledgment among U.S. Army Sheepdogs. Each of our military branches has their own unique appellation. I am honored that the LtC used his with me.
Law enforcement doesn’t have a universal appellation, and we need one. So, I coined, “Uu-ah!”
The LtC also wrote, “Hunt the Wolf!” That’s what we Sheepdogs do; we hunt Wolves.
To me, the LtC’s words of thanks to all cops are a balm, an emotional antidote to the venom of the Jackals. So Dave, right back to you: Uu-ah SheepDog! Hunt the Wolf & the Jackal!