The pictures most prominently painted of police officers today do not reflect compassion. Is this because officers aren’t compassionate? Or is it because officers are learning to set aside compassion and replace it with an emotionless mask? On this episode of the Command Post podcast, I spend some time chatting with Dr. Heath Grant, Assistant Professor in the Department of Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College.

The reality is, police officers come into the profession with a great deal of compassion. Their passionate desire to be a positive catalyst for change is one of the most altruistic elements of public service. It’s what helps them maintain decorum in some of the most difficult and traumatic experiences they live through. The problem, as Dr. Grant shares, happens when officers aren’t able to connect what they do with the ultimate outcome.

For instance, when a police officer is called to the scene of a domestic disturbance and a child is removed from the home for his own safety, the variables at play in breaking up a family are incredibly disturbing. The parents might be under arrest. The child is introduced to a new reality. And the officer has no idea whether the family is later reunited, if the child thrives in a safer environment, or if the situation continues to crumble. That lack of connection leaves the officer with a sense of unease.

Photo provided by the Colorado FOP

Compassion satisfaction occurs when the officer is able to see the fruits of his/her labor and feel a sense of closure. Compassion fatigue, on the other hand, happens when the loop is not closed. As Dr. Grant’s research shows, one acts as a healing balm to the challenging emotional situations inherent in policing while the other is a drain on the wellness resources the officer has.

Understanding the interaction between the two is the first step to creating a wellness program that feeds compassion satisfaction and decreases compassion fatigue. To dive into this issue with us, click play below!

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