Emotional CPR for Law Enforcement

On day three of the 2022 training conference, we’ll be hearing from retired Lt Jeff Miller about Emotional CPR for law enforcement. This is a critically important topic for LETOA to provide to members – especially after the challenges from the past few years.

Emotional CPR (eCPR) for law enforcement is a hope-based public health approach to building strong, resilient, cooperative communities. The training will help you participate more fully in the community you serve. 

Egan Bittner in his seminal treatise on law enforcement in 1965’s Larimer Tours, said: “The role of police is best understood as a mechanism for the distribution of non-negotiable coercive force employed in accordance with the dictates of an intuitive grasp of situational exigencies.” His main points revolved around two concepts. First, how the doing creates what is done. Second, competencies in the action. 

Remember back in recruit school how excited we all were to serve? Remember how your instructors (I was one of them!) showed you videos of cops getting shot, stabbed, punched, and yelled at? We said, “Tough it out,” “Man up!” or “Don’t let them get to you.” 

We also taught you to never back down, crush the target, and use one level of force above where “they” are.  

But, what if there is a better way? What if there is a training that goes beyond “de-escalation” and might allow us to not escalate in the first place? What if we re-examine everything we were taught and reframe how we deal with people from the very beginning of a call? 

Policing has swung back and forth between epochs in its roughly 170 years of “modern” existence. Between “watches” and “militarization,” we are now facing challenges maybe never seen before: polarization, mental health crises, homelessness, and all the other factors that didn’t traditionally fall under police purview. 

The reality is, however, that in this “new” era of policing we need to be more mindful in our contacts with citizens. eCPR has the road map for us. By C – Connecting, P – Empowering, and R – Revitalizing, we can rejuvenate our commitment to serving others in the community. eCPR helps us set aside the toxic US vs. THEM mentality that can be prevalent in law enforcement culture. Because we, as officers, must be “ON” for the majority of our shift, always scanning, assessing threats, and dealing with unpleasant people, we can become numb to the needs of the many, including OURSELVES. To help our communities heal and allow them to re-up their commitment to trust ALL officers to do the right thing, we need to take a closer look at our internal systems. 

When we asked prospective officers why they wanted to embark on a career in law enforcement; they almost always led with “I want to help people.” Somewhere along the way, however, because of toxic culture, extreme stress, PTSD, or other factors, a jaded and cynical person emerges. To combat this, eCPR gives us a way forward. 

One of the concepts we will explore is meCPR. We must allow ourselves to be “genuine and real” in training and the facilitators can help let the mask of “keeping it together” fall away. We will create a brave space for officers to connect with their own feelings of being scared, undervalued, or any other emotion we are sitting with on a given day. It’s important to allow ourselves to be open and hear others validate how we are coping. We can become better listeners, better parents, better spouses, and better cops. It is our hope you will enjoy being part of this effort!