Fighting crime and maintaining the public peace is a 24/7 gig. For law enforcement officers that means every single day on the calendar. INTELLEO takes a look at why holidays can be especially tough for cops.
Not Just Another Day on The Job
Like every other occupation, cops would like to be at home with their families enjoying special days to include Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve. But the beat goes on and so must keeping order in our communities. This L.A. Times article highlights why holidays can add to additional challenges officers face compared to most other days. While many of us enjoy warm family gatherings and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the picture can be entirely different for the men and women who wear the badge. Some of the reasons why are detailed.
The public experiences heightened emotional states during major holidays which leads to increased incidents police officers must deal with including:
*A spike in family fights. Perhaps there are underlying reasons some families limit get-togethers to only a few per year.
*An increased number of child custody battles that play out regularly when there are disagreements about who gets the kids and for what major holiday.
*A surge in burglaries—the bad guys, too, know there are presents under the trees in many homes and that a good number of families travel during major holidays, leaving their residences unoccupied.
*An increase in suicide attempts during the holiday season, prompted by those suffering mental health issues, loneliness, depression, family separation and other potential triggering events.
*Toss in the fact that alcohol consumption usually rises during the holidays and often plays a role in all the situations noted above. Adding booze to the holiday mix is like throwing gas on a holiday fire.
CopBlue includes these reasons holidays can be especially difficult for police officers, noting some similar factors dovetailing those above:
*While the public is generally upbeat and busy preparing for the holidays, LEOs feel increased stress in both handling increased duties, as well as trying to prepare themselves and their families for the big days like Thanksgiving and Christmas.
*Call volumes almost always go up during the majors, stretching the resources of the thin blue line a bit thinner.
*Officers typically are forced to respond to increased home invasions, often left to explain to young children why someone broke into their homes and stole their presents.
*Larceny from vehicle calls routinely skyrocket because too many citizens put just-purchased gifts in the back seats of their cars instead of their trunks as they make their way to the next stop on their holiday shopping destination.
*DUI arrests go through the roof. “Please, officer, can’t you let me off just this one time—I have to get home to see my kids.” Stops like these leave officers with enforcement decisions that make them judge, jury and executioner all in the space of a New York Minute.
*Domestic violence calls tend to skyrocket as do disorderly conduct responses.
*For many young officers, particularly those who are single and just beginning their careers, major holidays represent the first time they, themselves, are alone—and dealing with the issues mentioned above.
A recent article from PublicSafetyHQ.com, illustrates a few more reasons why there’s often not a lot of ho-ho-ho in the holidays for cops.
*Sometimes the holidays trigger negative memories for officers—perhaps they’ve had to arrest a drunk or disorderly parent in front of a child during a previous Christmas or Thanksgiving—or responded to a house fire that left a family homeless on a Christmas eve.
*Many police departments and agencies engage in special community outreaches during the holidays like “Shop With A Cop” for underprivileged children—oftentimes prompting officers to dip into their own funds trying to make sure kids have a reason to smile on Christmas morning.
*Law enforcement officers are often forced to depart from the “normal” celebration of holidays because of work schedules—putting strain on family plans and obligations—especially where holiday time and travel may be involved in trying to keep both sides of an officer’s family happy.
LEO Families Feel the Holiday Stress as Well
Lest we forget, police officers do not live in a vacuum. Many have spouses, children and extended families of their own—all impacted by the demands placed on their LEO partners during the holidays. ProudPoliceWife.com offers up some sensical suggestions on how cops and their families can better navigate the holiday seasons. Extrapolated from “Survival Guide to The Holidays as A Police Wife,” INTELLEO shares a few:
*Be flexible and don’t feel you have to bow to the norms of holiday tradition. Your law enforcement family does not run on a Monday-through-Friday, 9-to-5 schedule—and neither should you.
*Make a list of holiday “to-do’s” weeks in advance; knock them out one-by-one and don’t let the calendar sneak up on you, creating additional stress for families with a badge.
*Set holiday goals and make them realistic. Cops and their families can’t be all things, to all people, all the time.
*Don’t be shy about delegating holiday responsibilities and chores to mature kids and other family members. Shopping list long and time-consuming? Nothing says your crazy uncle or favorite aunt, or in-law can’t help out with making sure Santa’s work gets done on time for you and yours.
Break Blue Bread Together
One final thought on easing the holiday stress experienced by law enforcement officers scheduled to work. Try sharing the sense of police family and camaraderie over a meal. A potluck dinner or communal lunch with fellow working officers wedged in during your shift can take some of the sting out of being away from your own families. Shared experiences build stronger bonds and a sense of unity from the command level down to the patrol level. Stay safe out there, Blue. Especially during the holidays.