You’ve seen them out on the beat. Out there on the streets.
You may look over your shoulder, spot them out of the corner of your eye, and then get a shot of adrenaline wondering if they will be pulling you over for something. Or you may feel relief in their presence, knowing part of their job is to serve and protect.
In either case, the police and law enforcement are designed to be public servants who hold the thin blue line and bring law and order to chaos. They are designed to keep the peace. But we may not, unless we have had the real-life experience of an officer, know what these people go through on a daily basis.
Let us consider what police officers may deal with routinely: murder, violence, violence, rape, child abuse, accidents and disasters. Not to mention the threats on their own lives. Can you imagine consistently facing these stress factors?
Because of the post-traumatic stress that may haunt officer’s dreams and waking life, filmmaker James Anthony Ellis, 20-year-member of MDI, has taken on the project to document some of those traumatic triggers as well offer pathways of support.
The 30-minute film – “Keeping the Peace” – will be gifted to police agencies across San Diego and then the nation for in-house training of officers. The purpose statement: “An educational training film that brings awareness to the stresses and traumas experienced by officers and law enforcement personnel while on duty in order to empower them to normalize their emotional and mental responses to on-the-job experiences and to take action in alleviating, diffusing and treating the symptoms of trauma (PTSD), so that they can retain wellness in all areas of their lives.”
Says Ellis, who is presently fundraising to complete the film, “Police protect us from the dark side of life and must cope with the unimaginable. This film guides them to address emotional trauma they face. The police are there for us. Let’s be there for them.”
Ellis took on this project after the success of his previous documentary “Indoctrinated; The Grooming of our Children into Prostitution” garnered so much attention and created large-scale positive impact. (See that documentary HERE) After viewing Indoctrinated at a 2017 screening, Sergeant Matthew Blumenthal of the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department told Ellis he wanted to show that film to everyone in his human trafficking department. This inspired Ellis to consider other types of documentaries that could serve in a like manner.
Donations are made at the Chuffed Crowdfunding source HERE.
“No matter your impression of officers, these are human beings who need to be in sound mind, steady emotion and physical balance. We need them to be at their best,” says Ellis.
Today’s stats can be grim:
- According to Officer.com, there are an estimated 150,000 officers who have symptoms of Post Traumatice Stress Injuries (PTSI). Recent research indicates that 1/3 of active-duty and retired officers suffer from post-traumatic stress, with some unaware of this condition.
- The Badge of Life Organization states law enforcement officers are 1.5 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. With over 100 suicides per year – the #1 one killer of police officers is … law enforcement suicide.
- According to researcher and therapist Beverly J. Anderson: “More than any other occupation, law enforcement is an emotionally and physically dangerous job. Police officers continuously face the effects of murder, violence, rape, child abuse, accidents and disasters. Long hours, rotating shifts and constant exposure to tragedy exacts a heavy toll on police officers and their families.”
Ellis says he understands there exists a conflict for police officers, who may fear appearing weak and unsuitable for a job if they ask for help in dealing with emotionally wounding experiences. But this calls for a cultural shift.
Of the proposed film, Blumenthal said: “Having been in law enforcement for over 22 years, I personally know how consistent exposure to traumatic events can impact the professional and personal lives of law enforcement officers. The law enforcement officer needs to understand what this continued exposure can do to them and how to combat the effects of a life in law enforcement.”
A steady supporter of the film, Sergeant Katherine Lynch of the La Mesa Police Department Training Unit, said, “For too long, officers have suffered in silence. We can no longer afford to ignore the effects of critical incidents on the men and women who wear the badge. Until the day comes when we no longer lose a single officer to suicide, we have a tremendous amount of work to do and any tool in our toolbox can help us save a life.”
If Ellis has his way, the officers will know the responses to trauma are normal, and realize reaching out for support is completely understandable. His list of purposes for the film include:
- For officers to receive the clear message that they do have options in dealing with the stresses, and they can retain wellness in all areas of their lives.
- To ensure retiring officers are given back to their families as healthy citizens: emotionally, mentally, spiritually.
- To see a cultural shift, as officers are seen as humans needing the same sort of support we all need.
- To see an industry shift, where officers know it’s safe to receive the support they desperately need but may not feel free to ask for.
- To support a vision of peace officers who truly keep the peace, for themselves, our neighborhoods, and our society.
Ellis has already gathered a list of 40 potential interviews, along with the verbal support of the San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan.
Funds that are raised will go towards three months production costs, to include: equipment, pre-production research, the production of outlining the film and filming the footage, and the post-production of editing, adding music, titles, and disseminating the film where it can be of best use.
Said Maxine Lynch, Past President, California Peer Support Association, “Observing a lack of critical incident stress management and peer support systems, I have personally witnessed first responders suffer through torturous memories that cause them to leave their careers early, endure physical afflictions, and even commit suicide to find relief. With peer support, they remain healthy productive members of their agency and enjoy a long and fulfilling career. Having a training film such as “Keeping the Peace” available will absolutely help us educate the people in the departments who will need to know about and need to utilize such a program.”
Support this campaign HERE.