Author: Sergeant Mark St.Hilaire
Author’s Email Address: Click Here to Email Mark
Author’s Agency or Organization: Natick Police Department, Natick,MA and the Natick Police Superior Officers Association, Local 82
Author’s Web Site: N/A
As we approach the fine weather after a tough winter here in New England, many of us know this time of the year as our busy season: Extra Details, Overtime Shifts and more importantly the increased demand for correctional and police services to control increasing criminal and public disorder activity.
Before we indulge into the crazy long hours, take a moment to ask yourself these questions: • Am I eating right? Use an insulated cooler bag and pack your own meals, read the labels-eat light, pack some fruit. Take it with you on a detail, to our office or in the cruiser; it’s there in case you get stuck on the job and you get hungry. • Am I drinking enough water? Water is a necessary part of our healthy diet especially in the warm weather. Drink often before you experience thirst, water is necessary for our physiological balance in our body. • Am I getting enough daily physical exercise? Work on your core body strength and 20+ minutes of cardio endurance. Are you prepared to fight and restrain the bad guy? Take a guess what they are doing right now, preparing to fight you, me and any cop or c.o. if they get the chance. Take control of your physical wellbeing, train to win! • Am I getting enough sleep? To stay sharp, alert and prepared for the challenges of our job, we need to get proper sleep at home 7+ hours a day. Research indicates this is a serious problem resulting in public safety accidents and fatigue which jeopardize officer safety. • Am I taking time to relax and commit to other activities than just working? Do you play organized sports? Go to church? Are you involved in some community service within your home community? Do you fish or enjoy other hobbies like music or watch a movie? Find and enjoy some off duty activities. • Am I making the extra time needed for my family? Make some plans with your family to do something fun as a family. Plan a vacation or day trips. Watch and cheer on your kids or your spouse at their sporting events. Make a weekly commitment to hire a babysitter and take your spouse out on a date and spend a few hours alone to talk and connect. Send your loved ones a quick text or make a phone call from work to tell them that you are thinking of them- remind them how special they are in your life. • How is your mood and sense of emotional wellbeing? Is the job starting to wear you down? How are my relationships with others? Have you seen something that has blown your mind? Many departments have a chaplain, a stress officer or an Employee Assistance Professional. Some agencies have peer assistance or stress units. Check with your health plan, many provide counseling services which is anonymous and it is your business only. Seeing a professional clinician allows you to discuss in private what may be troubling you on the job, at home or with your relationships. Reach out and seek some assistance. If you notice a co-worker struggling emotionally, reach out and help persuade them to anonymously seek professional assistance. Everyone will reap the benefits. • When I am working: Is my head in the game? Am I present and consciously alert? Dress and act as a professional. Develop and maintain your professional bearing and presence as a police officer or C.O. Learn strategies to deflect and persevere from the negative interactions from the public or clients. Make extra time to cultivate the positive relationships with the public. There are great people who really do respect our profession. Take the time to interact and get to know the people in your community.
Make good use of your off duty time. We need to enjoy the nice weather and recharge our wellbeing batteries too.
There are many opportunities for police officers and correction officers to earn extra income while we live within our means. If we get caught up overdoing the extra work and overtime, IT DOES AFFECT YOUR HEALTH, RELATIONSHIPS and FINANCES. One way or another, you will pay a price so please keep a healthy balance in your life today. As we have seen the large increase in violence toward our profession, we need to be mentally and physically ready to meet the job challenges and take care of business when necessary. You are the only person who can honestly answer these questions and more importantly: You are the person who can take the action necessary for a better quality of life. Until next time: Keep your eyes open, wear your vest, take care of yourself-your family-your co-workers and your community and stay safe!
Sergeant Mark St.Hilaire is a member of the Natick Police Superior Officers Association, Local 82 in Natick, Massachusetts. He started his career as a campus police officer and he has been a municipal police officer in Massachusetts since 1988. He is a volunteer police peer assistant with the Metro-Boston C.I.S.M. Team. He has secured grant funding and is currently assisting his department to develop a wellness program.