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Emotional survival for law enforcement: A guide for officers and their families

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Dr. Gilmartin is a behavioral scientist who specializes in issues related to law enforcement. With twenty years of police experience under his belt, he currently provides service to the law enforcement community as a consultant. In writing this book, it was his goal to aid officers and their families in maintaining and/or improving their quality of life both personally and professionally.

142 pages, Paperback

Published January 1, 2002

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About the author

Kevin M. Gilmartin

2 books19 followers
Dr. Kevin Gilmartin spent 20 years as a police officer and during his tenure supervised the Behavioral Sciences Unit and the Hostage Negotiations Team. Dr. Gilmartin holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from the University of Arizona and has had his works published by the US Department of Justice and the FBI. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Dr. Gilmartin is a guest instructor at the FBI Law Enforcement Academy in Quantico, Virginia and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia. He is a faculty member of the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Institute, and is retained by several federal law enforcement agency critical response teams.

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5 stars
602 (46%)
4 stars
411 (31%)
3 stars
235 (18%)
2 stars
39 (3%)
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9 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 142 reviews
216 reviews
October 27, 2012
This book is recommended reading to my husband's police force and their spouses.
Very interesting read. It talked a lot about something called hypervigilance. Basically when officers are on duty their senses are extremely alert for any possible danger. As a result, when they are off duty their senses are dulled and that can cause problems in their relationships.
It also talks about officers making their career their identity, which also causes problems.

It was all very interesting and it all made sense. However there was only one chapter on what to do to combat the cycle. It talked about how exercise helps. Then basically said don't become a victim and don't make your job your life. It felt a little lopsided, lots of info explaining what officers go through, but not much advice on how to deal with it.
Profile Image for Brittany.
111 reviews2 followers
December 15, 2018
I suffered all the way through this (thankfully short) book because my husband is in the academy. By the end you’ll be sick of the following words: asshole, magic chair, usta, and hypervigilance rollercoaster. Despite the title of the book, only one of the eight chapters is dedicated to emotional survival, and most of the advice could be summed up in a pamphlet. The main message would apply to any job: it’s a career and you should do a good job, but don’t make it your life.
Profile Image for Anna.
116 reviews2 followers
January 23, 2017
This is a helpful little book, but the issue that I have with it is that it assumes a certain stereotype that all cops fit into. The stereotype is helpful for illustrative purposes at times, but it oversimplifies the human psyche.
Profile Image for Glenda.
167 reviews2 followers
July 1, 2021
I read this as a daughter begins her job as a police officer. Although recommended as a book for the emotional survival of officers and their families, the wisdom included applies to all people. It was easy to imagine the emotional roller coaster which police officers experience in their career from Gilmartin’s description and examples. It was also easy to see how the officers could have put his emotional survival tactics into practice to prevent the sad outcomes described. Of course it is always easy to quarterback from a chair. The challenge always lies in the daily choices and interactions that make up the years of a career. Gilmartin’s book helps with that for both officers and their families.
Profile Image for Ashley.
1 review1 follower
July 23, 2017
I'm so glad my significant other was given this book prior to finishing the academy, we have both read this book, and now we are both working hard to make sure he is an emotional survivor, I'm thankful we were given the chance to learn about this early in his career so he can be an effective officer and have a personal life. The phrase "this is a career, not a crusade" has stuck with us both.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Tiffany.
21 reviews
May 6, 2021
This book was awful and outdated. I can’t believe departments are still listing this as “required reading”.

Save yourself the trouble of reading the whole thing and read the last chapter. The rest of the book points out all the problems with police officer emotional survival, and the last chapter attempts to offer some solutions. The solutions basically boils down to aggressive time management.

The author attempts to be funny and/or relatable but I personally didn’t think it was very funny. At one point the author passively attempts to explain away prevalent police infidelity with the rise of more female officers on the force, although he stops short of outright blaming female officers. I think this point could have been more eloquently explained.

Lastly, I question the amount of true research that went into developing this book, especially since there are no citations.

Very disappointing.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Karen.
136 reviews
September 13, 2019
Interesting concept to be aware of. The last few pages are the meat and potatoes of how to help your self. Has several dire examples of why you should be aware of the "roller coaster" and victim behavior in the hopes you will avoid such and have a better life.
Profile Image for Chelsea Vallandingham.
15 reviews1 follower
December 31, 2022
This book is great in identifying a cycle law enforcement officers undergo daily. It emphasizes the need for emotional training, but is also clear that the book itself is not the source of that necessary emotional training; yet, it was the book we were given at graduation. At least it’s a step in making strides toward emotional survival surrounding a career of hypervigilance and the related down-swing of emotions. It offered a little in terms of solutions, but it was more about recognizing an emotional disconnect that comes from this career, and being able to identify a victim or survivor mentality associated with it.

The cycle described in the book could relate to any career, even mines as a teacher—with decision fatigue, etc. It was enlightening to see that in myself as well as my officer, albeit different.

Lastly, it was originally written the year I graduated high school, when we still pod per cell phone minute and text message, and Nokia was the superior cell phone.
My edition was reprinted in 2018, but I doubt any edits/revisions were made at that time as the book doesn’t even mention cellphones.

I’d like to read an updated version with that as a topic.

With all that said, I’ll still probably come back to this book every year or so to refresh and determine how far we’ve come, or not.
Profile Image for Meguch.
28 reviews
September 13, 2022
3.5/5 stars. I enjoyed reading this book, and found it to be quiet informative of the biological rollercoaster police officers face in light of the job. However, I do feel like this information was repetitive and could’ve been broken down into more intentional chapters.
Profile Image for Donna Brown.
Author 6 books20 followers
February 5, 2019
This book isn't just for those working in law enforcement but for anyone that has a family member or friend that is. It's a difficult career and few understand the emotional toll it takes. It should be given to all new police recruits and their families.
Profile Image for C. Hamilton.
5 reviews2 followers
September 7, 2015
Those in law enforcement will draw parallels with what they have experience in their careers. There will be the familiarity and the "I've seen that" or "that happened to me." The law enforcement reader can match experiences and learn from a single reading of this book. The real payoff is when the book is shared with the officer's spouse. The spouse will certainly recognize the conditions described in the book, but is often in the dark as to the how and why of their origins. This book is not solely for the law enforcement professional. It is essential to the emotional survival of the law enforcement family.
Profile Image for Rom Elwell.
16 reviews1 follower
August 12, 2018
An absolute must-read for law enforcement officers and their inner circle of family and friends. Gilmartin does a thorough job explaining the why's and how's of the hypervigilance rollercoaster officers (and their families) inevitably go through. The science behind this cycle (sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic system) are also briefly described by Gilmartin. His advice on spotting triggers and how to address them is easily grasped. In summary, this short read provides the necessary tools for the officer and loved ones from which to build a strong and centered emotional foundation.
Profile Image for John Galt.
15 reviews2 followers
May 3, 2018
If you are a law enforcement officer, or the family member of one. You need to purchase two copies! One for you and your family to sit down and read together and the other to give to a family that has not read it and has a law enforcement officer in that family. This book will save you so much pain and conflict further on in your life so you need to read it right now! It has a lot of insight into things that just sort of develop and happen over time and will really help ensure you and your family manage the stress of this job.
Profile Image for Shayne.
34 reviews
September 1, 2009
I felt that this book it the nail on the head. As a wife I have heard and experienced most of what the author has said or explained in the book. My husband also agrees with the author and has started to take action in his life in order to "come out alive".

A must read for all emergency responders not only police families.
Profile Image for Suzie Quint.
Author 10 books146 followers
December 17, 2012
A very interesting look at the emotional cost of being a cop. It specifically addresses the emotional survival that will help cops maintain their lives outside of their jobs. I read it as character research and found it worthwhile on that level but also fascinating on a personal level. I think anyone in a high stress work environment could benefit from this.
Profile Image for Angela.
1,772 reviews23 followers
September 26, 2012
Fantastic book. I would encourage every law enforcement officer (our even any one that works in that world - dispatchers, csi, support staff) and everyone who loves someone in that world to at least read the last four pages of this book. Such good advice.
109 reviews
July 30, 2017
I would recommend this if you or someone in your family is employed in law enforcement. Though it's written with police officers in mind, it does translate well to correctional officers also.
25 reviews
December 30, 2022
This was an excellent read! Dr. Gilmartin thoroughly explains the emotional, mental, and physical responses of LE and ways to cope healthfully with the job.
Profile Image for Heidi Williams.
25 reviews
March 8, 2021
Informative and confronting at times. A few paragraphs that make a lot of sense and are very relatable. A few simple strategies at the end for surviving law enforcement. Not enough of a focus on strategies in my opinion, the book wasn’t as constructive as I would have hoped. At the end of the day, someone has to do the job, and it’s not an easy one. So there’s no easy answer on how to survive it and have a good work/life balance. I think it comes down to the individual and their personality, mostly to awareness and the ability to reflect and implement change. Although an obviously American book focused on police officers in America, some similarities fall across the profession all over the world. I don’t really like the stereotypes and assumptions made around police officers and that they say and do things a certain way. In my experience, every police officer is different and is likely to deal and cope with things differently. Regardless of the officer and the situations they deal with, they need a supportive system that’s non-judgmental, reliable and trustworthy. A non-toxic culture that encourages vulnerability and transparency, opportunity to combat hypervigilance and the biological rollercoaster that the author writes about. Change will only come from within the system itself.
October 8, 2022
This was recommended reading for all new recruit Officers at the academy (& their spouses). It's good to see Police Forces prioritizing mental health, recommending therapy and suggesting healthy coping mechanisms before their cadets start on the job. It discusses how cynicism, anger, isolation and social distrust affect too many police homes. There is also a lot of content that revolves around the "hypervigilance roller coaster", "I usta" syndrome, the "magic chair" & the word asshole. There are a lot of common sense practise such as "do not make your job your life" that applies to most professions.

One thing I found interesting was the discussion of how the media typically reports from a fundamentally anti-police perspective. For example: "vilify the cops" is always a good strategy to sell papers. Unfortunately this polarizes Police Officers from general society since this leads them to believe that "people in the community don't have any idea what working on the streets as a cop is really about." It is important for cops to remember this and not take media reports personally.
117 reviews16 followers
January 29, 2020
Kevin M. Gilmartin , Ph. D. has written an easy to read book about understanding the behavior of police officers who come home and do not feel like engaging with anyone or any activity. Readers gain understanding of the destructive hypervigilance cycle. Most of the book contains chapters on defining hypervigilance and the different damages it causes to the police officer’s personal life.

I feel like this book could have been boiled down to a bulleted pamphlet:

Police officers need to take active control over what they can control: their personal time.
Make decisions and plans in advance for time off the job and EXERCISE.

That’s pretty much the answer to the victim mind frame he says police officers can obtain and the downside of coming off the exciting hyper vigilant job of police work at the end of the day.
Profile Image for Kristy G.
217 reviews
January 30, 2021
I never read this kind of stuff, but I loved this easy-to-follow guide on how to train yourself to be an emotional survivor. The author talks a lot about hyper-vigilance and the long term affects it has on law enforcement personnel. It can be applied to military and first responders and several other careers which have the person in a state of hyper-awareness for hours on end, leaving them with nothing in the tank when it’s time to step out of their role and be a father, a friend, a spouse etc. it also discusses, with excellent case studies, how easy it is to feel disenfranchised when ultimately we do not control a lot of what takes place in our careers....it’s a fascinating read, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for sensible solutions to maintaining balance in your professional and personal lives!
Profile Image for Daniel.
35 reviews
May 3, 2022
This book doesn’t cover how an officer deals with traumatic events on the job or the best way an officer should act with integrity. It more-so has to do with the gradual decline in an officer’s mindset on the job through the years and how that decline can negatively affect their work performance, personal relationships, and self perception. A lot of the tenets are just strategies everyone can use to be their best healthiest selves, but tailored to the police profession. The book also does a good job at explaining the mindset officers are trained to have and, while it doesn’t go into the societal impacts of this training or its evaluation, it indirectly helps the reader understand why so many things can be escalated and become news worthy. I can see why this book can help officers and their families/friends maintain healthy relationships.
Profile Image for Jim Potter.
Author 7 books4 followers
June 19, 2017
Understanding Your Job, Understanding Yourself
As a deputy sheriff I studied Dr. Kevin Gilmartin's insightful book. The picture he paints is accurate and the advice he gives is life-saving.
Gilmartin gives new meaning to the term "burnout." He explains that an officer's hypervigilance on-duty is a necessary survival skill, but ignoring off-duty behavior can destroy one's family, career, and life.
When dedicated, exemplary officers become angry, bitter victims, blaming the agency's administrative decisions, then it's all but too late.
Read this excellent book to avoid destructive, downward spiraling outcomes. Be a happy survivor, not an angry victim.
Profile Image for Eddie.
182 reviews59 followers
January 25, 2020
If you work in the military or police department, read this book. Simple as that.

I've been espousing this stuff for years. Traveling around the state giving talks to police about CIT for veterans, and I've snuck in a lot about taking care of themselves (I am a resilience minded guy after all). When I read this book, it was like someone took all of my meandering, ramblings, and succinctly made the arguments with better analogies, backed with research, and put into a small book.

I saw the author present in Sunriver, OR. Good stuff. Hits the nail on the head.

Seriously. Buy this for your friends in the Police Department and are military combat arms. Or don't and let them have an increased risk for stroke and heart attack.
Profile Image for Nate Cook.
78 reviews
January 23, 2022
This is the second time I’ve read this now, the first being before the start of my career.

Though insightful, I think a lot of the writing is oversimplifying complex issues. A lot of the case studies are also just anecdotal examples being forced into the writer’s hypothesis. I often wondered what some of the other issues and personality traits some of these officers had going aside from just ignorance of the hyper-vigilance rollercoaster.

Even though I believe the topic to be a lot more nuanced, I still would recommend the read as it could be very helpful to those in the career. I like the concept of victim mindset vs survivor mindset and I think that could be helpful for everyone to contemplate regardless of career.
Profile Image for J. Danielle Wingler.
190 reviews2 followers
July 22, 2018
This was a recommended read by an admin in a police department and it clearly lays out the emotional pitfalls that law enforcement face. Honestly the concepts could be applied to anyone working a stressful job but the case studies are focused on law enforcement situations.

I will keep what I learned from this book in mind and feel better prepared to prevent burnout and other issues later down the road.

I highly recommend this book. For officers and their family and friends that interact with them.
Profile Image for Melissa Hoffer.
21 reviews
March 1, 2020
I liked the idea it was presenting, that we are NOT our careers and we need to control how much of our personal life is effected by the job by separating the two. Also, that we are more than officers- we are also moms, sisters, wives, etc.

There are eight chapters in this book. Seven describe what it is to let the job take over and how officers victimize, while one chapter discusses how to be a “survivor.” I wish there had been more info on the latter. It’s a great starter for anyone who wants to delve into the ideas further, but they are barely provided here.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 142 reviews

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