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A Street Survival Guide for Public Safety Officers: The Cop Doc's Strategies for Surviving Trauma, Loss, and Terrorism

2012 Edition, January 25, 2012

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Active, Most Current

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ISBN: 978-1-4398-4577-6
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Product Details:

  • Revision: 2012 Edition, January 25, 2012
  • Published Date: January 25, 2012
  • Status: Active, Most Current
  • Document Language: English
  • Published By: CRC Press (CRC)
  • Page Count: 329
  • ANSI Approved: No
  • DoD Adopted: No

Description / Abstract:


Not at all surprisingly, I was extremely honored to be asked to write a preface to an extraordinarily fine book written by an equally extraordinary cop doc: Dr. Daniel Rudofossi. Doc Dan-as his officer-patients call him-was a street cop and is a licensed psychologist. Part of my qualifications in this present instance is that I also have a long history of working with police officers and treating traumatized officer-patients. Doc Dan called on me as a peer "doc cop." I answered his call with affinity. Over the past 30 years, I have treated police officers and worked with them in cases of wrongful death, suicide, homicide, and homicide-suicide, including that of officers.

Dr. Daniel Rudofossi has done the kind of work with fellow officerpatients that I highly endorse. He has embedded his intensive policing within the larger context of psychological treatment. His previous published work of this genre includes Working with Traumatized Police Officer-Patients and A Cop Doc's Guide to Public Safety Complex Trauma Syndrome. This book is the third, so to speak, of his intended trilogy, A Street Survival Guide for Public Safety Officers: The Cop Doc's Strategies for Surviving Trauma, Loss, and Terrorism.

Policing is stress. The nature of police work is stressful. This has been known for millennia. It is known that trauma and loss carry on throughout life. It does not simply go away. Trauma has a shadowy presence. Trauma is a wound or injury. Police officers, and public safety and security personnel experience, witness, and are confronted with events that are outside the range of normal human experience. September 11, 2001, is a good example. Officers are more frequently traumatized than people in the general public, not only by one event but continuously. Many events involve actual and threatened death and serious injury. There are threats to the physical and psychological integrity of self and others. It would be normal (not crazy or abnormal) to respond with intense fear, helplessness, and horror.

Traumatic events, Doc Dan says, would "horrify, repulse, disgust, and infuriate any sane person." Doc Dan, being well aware of this, asks the now obvious question, "Why shouldn't that be true for police officers?" Regrettably, after traumatic experiences, a common response is: "Tragedy happens, learn to deal with it" or "Snap out of it" or "Just get over it." Silence, of course, is a core part of a cop's existence. Silence is powerful, but it may also become dysfunctional, even lethal. Not only alcohol, sex, and violence are aftershocks, but also suicide-and all too often, homicide-suicide. Indeed, avoidance only exacerbates the problem. Forgetting, avoidance, phobias, and inhibition, as was first well documented in survivors of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among Vietnam veterans, only traumatize the officer more. The officer is "numbed out" or "zoned out." Doc Dan, in this book, breaks down the blue wall of silence ("Don't talk about it"). Loss or trauma all too often result in the officer becoming "disenfranchised," a core loss in the blue culture that many officers experience. He or she is then caught in a catch-22 of persistently reexperiencing the event (such as recurrent and intrusive distressing recollections, recurrent disturbing dreams, and acting as if the event was reoccurring) and persistent avoidance (such as efforts to avoid activities and duties, having an affair, leaving the force, and restricting affect), with increased symptoms of difficulty falling or staying asleep, irritability, difficulty concentrating, hypervigilance, and exaggerated startle response. Doc Dan does not call it a disorder, but a "complex"-"a complex experience that is disturbing, compelling, and adding that makes the experience traumatic." Yet, Doc Dan offers hope; despite taboos ("You have to be the tough guy"), he suggests that officers can heal and he offers here a practical guide to do so. Doc Dan shows us a unique path to healing, and thus better policing.

This is not a feel good book; it is an arduous challenge. This book, in fact, asks some tough questions: What are the painful short- and long-term consequences of a trauma for the officer? What are preexisting personality styles of coping? What are the existential factors that affect the consequences- what, as I noted, he calls complexes? What are the guides to treatment and intervention that might allow an officer to courageously overcome not only the shocks but also the aftershocks? What are the barriers, called blue walls, to wellness in policing? (Doc Dan amply calls it the "officer's wall of China.") What can be done to more effectively educate and help our fellow officers? And, of course, there is the dire service/system question: Will we continue to allow our officers to suffer the traumatization? (Like me, he expects the platitudes and bureaucratic inefficiencies.) Doc Dan asks key questions; he uses the Socratic method-Socrates knew that it empowered the person, not the teacher. Doc Dan does so. There are many of what he calls existential questions throughout the guide-about the heart and soul of officers.

What were the shock and aftershock of the gruesome murder, rape of a child, partner's suicide, domestic violence, assaults, and 9/11? Doc Dan asks: "Why have certain events impacted you the way they uniquely do?" Doc Dan takes an enlightening step: he searches out, for perhaps the first time, the commonalities in police personality styles. His dictum: By understanding your unique personality style, you can heal better.

Knowing is key. This is as true in police investigations as it is of oneself. Doc Dan offers what he calls tragic optimism. What he means is police courage and hope. Doc Dan says to the officer, "You are an intelligent, competent learner." In this book, he speaks to and shares meaning with the officer. He calls on officers to accept what they cannot change and to have the courage to change what they can-in their own distinctive way. He argues that each officer's unique adaptation makes superb sense. Dr. Rudofossi is police officer centered. He does not eschew complexities, but-and this is important-he also believes in the officer's ability to stop, pause, and reflect. Healing is possible. Here he follows the wisdom of Jacob Bronowski in the famed book The Ascent of Man. Both believe what makes a person a person-and an officer an officer-is the ability to wait, to think, to talk, to pause, to reflect, and so on, before the act.

This book is not a dummy's guide. Ironically, one can buy cookbooks and manuals today. Yet, they offer false hope. Doc Dan offers wisdom, a rarity today. There are no platitudes or Pollyannaish optimism. Rather, the book is answers. He states, "Being healthy is achieved by gaining insight." He shows the officer his trauma, her loss, and his unique personality style-and her strengths and so on. He states, and I know this to be true of police officers, that you will not break. He says, "You will survive." You, the officer, have worked hard as a cop; now you can trust that strength to work hard on wellness. He offers what he calls CPR: an acronym for compassion, passion, and resolution. Doc Dan offers "a guide, a path, a bridge." "To serve," he writes, "is a profile of courage." He puts forward some scripts: Don't give up. Don't buy into the blue walls. Truth is healing. Choose life.

The officer needs to trust her or his courage-you have survived stress, beyond what you imagined the day you first wore the badge. I strongly believe that your life-and mine-is like the Greek Sisyphus's. Each day we must ceaselessly roll our unique rock to the top of the mountain, and the next day you must persevere and do the same. This is not to be condemned; this is life. Indeed, if you believe Homer, Sisyphus was the wisest and most prudent of humans. Doc Dan does not inoculate the officer against trauma; he does something better. He helps the officer get in touch with his Sisyphusean strength (what are called protective factors) that builds the natural surviving of the aftershock of everyday policing, deep within the heart and soul. This book is truly a gift.

There is one further point that Doc Dan makes that I wish to echo, namely, because it has caused needless deaths among police. Dr. Rudofossi states that the therapist you chose, if you do, to work with, should not be a random choice out of the blue. I have investigated the tragic suicides of officers and have learned that some therapists do not know or understand cops. These therapists do not cope well and want to keep things hidden. They minimize, xxvi Preface underestimate, and avoid anxiety too. They have "white walls"-and are often unaware of the barriers. (Cops call them "doc crazy.") These people are naïve and have no background working with police or public safety officers. I have investigated therapists who have seen an officer who killed, just prior to the tragedy, and these professionals do not discuss risk-of homicide or suicide. One could see this as the officer being noncompliant with treatment. But more accurately, it was the therapist's naïvety, if not suicidogenic nature.

Under the heading of therapist variables for effective therapy, there could be an endless list of factors. The research, in fact, has long shown that there is considerable consensus among officers about what was most helpful. The officer-patients will state the therapist. Some therapists are more effective. There are, of course, counselor factors that are harmful, some that deteriorate the healing process, and some that are suicidogenic. Like mine, Doc Dan's advice is choose carefully and wisely.

To conclude, Dr. Rudofossi is "one of us": he is a "cop doc." He was a police officer with the New York Police Department (NYPD), having spent more than a decade as a street cop, and was the first uniformed psychologist in the NYPD. Not only has this given him an insider perspective, "a cop doc on the job," but also he has interviewed, assessed, and treated hundreds of officers, many suffering from PTSD, including after 9/11. This alone is reason for all police and public safety personnel, and those mental health professionals seeking competency to work with them, and their families to read this book. Surviving policing will be easier using Doc Dan's guide.

I support and applaud Dr. Rudofossi's efforts and give him every encouragement in his exciting and healing endeavor. I recommend the book to every serving and aspiring police officer for both its brilliantly written expression (he knows how to tell a story) and insightful clinical implications.