As an introduction to this press release, I wanted to share a bit about my friend and teammate Jim Ellis and the film he made. I was present at the premiere of his “Keeping The Peace.” This was a powerfully positive film about what the police go through. I was proud that my long-time teammate Jim Ellis created, produced and directed this incredible film. I was shocked to learn more police died from suicide in 2018 than were killed while on duty. The stress, the choices and the path to healing were all captured on film by Ellis. Great job, excellent film. ~ Sandy Peisner, San Diego Men’s Division
World Premiere of “Keeping The Peace” Film Addresses Wellness for Law Enforcement
To help ease the post-traumatic stress that may haunt police officers’ dreams and waking life, filmmaker James Anthony Ellis – an MDI man out of San Diego – premiered a film project that documents those traumatic triggers as well offer pathways of support.
Says Ellis, “It’s all about asking for help – something MDI teaches men every chance it gets.”
The 35-minute educational film – titled “Keeping The Peace” – has been gifted to police agencies across San Diego County, the state and the nation for in-house training of officers during National Police Week.
A special event in San Diego took place May 14 at the prestigious “Peace and Justice” Theater on the USD campus with over 200 officers, chiefs, counselors, activists, MDI men, and community members in attendance. Coproduced through the Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice, this event included the movie premiere, a special guest speaker, a panel of experts on the topic of officer wellness, and a ceremony to deliver the film and care package to law enforcement representatives in attendance.
For Ellis, it was a dream that came true after 2 years – a year of visioning and planning, a year of interviews, meetings, filming, editing, sweating. Dr. Sara Gilman spoke eloquently about resiliency, a panel of police and community members covered the topic of improving relations, Detective Heather Seddon spoke about overcoming adversity to return to the profession she loves. And even an altruistic poet recited a poem from the heart. A very high vibration evening, full of connections, purpose and celebration. No matter the societal landscape and the social media onslaught, we shall continue to endeavor to keep the peace.
The response since the premiere has been impressive. A story in the San Diego Union Tribune was picked up by the LA Times, which ended up in a national police magazine PoliceOne.com. Because of the publicity, Ellis was invited to be highlighted in a segment for the KUSI TV News alongside El Cajon Chief Jeff Davis and San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore. As well, requests have come in from agencies in 33 different states, Washington DC and even Canada.
The overall purpose of the project? According to Ellis, it is “to bring 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 and to take action in alleviating, diffusing and treating the symptoms of trauma, so that they can retain wellness in all areas of their lives.”
Today’s stats can be grim:
- According to Officer.com, there are an estimated 150,000 officers who have symptoms of Post Traumatic 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.
- Badge of Life Organization states with over 100 suicides per year – the #1 one killer of police officers is … suicide.
Says Ellis, owner of Legacy Productions, “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. 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.
Says Ellis, “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.”
The film reveals the conflict for police officers that may fear appearing weak and unsuitable for a job if they ask for help in dealing with emotionally wounding experiences. But Ellis believes the time is right for caring for the plights of these officers.
Says Chief Davis, “Jim Ellis has touched on one of the most important, and least comfortable issues to talk about in modern policing: the emotional durability of first responders. We expect, no demand, so much from the men and women who dedicate their lives to serve; the least we can do is develop a means to acknowledge and accommodate the emotional needs so these great people can sustain a fulfilling career.”
An initial 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.”
Says Summer Stephan, San Diego District Attorney, “Keeping The Peace is a way to make sure we as a full community send the message that we give the officers the permission to be well and to take care of themselves.”
If Ellis has his way, the officers will know the responses to trauma are normal, and realize reaching out for support is completely acceptable and necessary. 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 see a cultural shift, as officers are seen as humans needing the same sort of support all people need.
- To support a vision of peace officers who truly keep the peace, for themselves, our neighborhoods, and our society.
Says Gilman, “I’m really excited this film will continue the dialogue about post traumatic stress and wellness, and be something law enforcement can draw upon into far into the future.”
Support for the project and requests for a DVD can be found at www.LegacyProductions.org/Keeping-the-peace-for-the-peace-keepers/