I distinctly remember attending the training, “Recognizing, Understanding, and Managing the Problem Public Safety Employee,” taught by Kevin M. Gilmartin, Ph.D.
Dr. Gilmartin spent twenty years in law enforcement prior to beginning a career as a behavioral scientist. As a scientist, he now works at helping police officers understand and deal with the internal and external personal and professional attacks that often change idealistic young officers into cynical, angry individuals.
At the very beginning of the class, he utilized an exercise where he had the class write down their first thought in response to a word or phrase. This exercise was especially revealing because of the difference in responses between police management and human resources professionals. The phrase used was “Boy Scout Leader.”
The cops in the room responded with terms like pedophile, molester, pervert, and various other similar terms while the non-law enforcement professionals responded with terms like, individual who likes children, good citizen, and other complimentary terms. Dr. Gilmartin then asked the non-law enforcement professions if they thought the cops had a warped worldview, and most felt the cops’ view of the world was indeed warped, cynical, and out of touch with reality.
To my surprise, Dr. Gilmartin agreed with the non-law enforcement professions in their opinion of police.
However, he then he asked those individuals how many of them, by a show of hands, hesitated in the doorway of a restaurant or convenience store to scan the room for potential threats to their safety, or how many of them, when walking into a home for the first time, checked behind the doors for hidden weapons. No one raised a hand, and that’s when he explained the reality of “hyper vigilance,” or the necessity to view the world from a threat-based perspective.