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Post-shooting Trauma

NCJ Number
Police Chief Volume: 55 Issue: 10 Dated: (October 1988) Pages: 40,42,44
R M Solomon
Date Published
3 pages
A police officer who fatally shoots a suspect or who is involved in another critical incident experiences an emotional aftermath that has several phases.
About one third of officers have mild reactions, one third have moderate reactions, and one third have severe reactions. During the moments of peak stress, the officer experiences many physical, psychological, and emotional phenomena and perceptual distortions. When the shooting ends, the officer experiences the shock disruption phase, which includes an 'adrenaline high.' From 3 days to a year later, the emotional impact phase hits, as the adrenaline high wears off. During this phase officers may experience many types of emotions that are actually normal but that they may regard as signs that they are going crazy. The final two phases are the coping phase and the acceptance phase. Even after reaching resolution and returning to duty, situational reminders may trigger the emotions felt right after the incident. During these phases, administrators should provide support, help reduce stress without compromising the investigation, and follow the guidelines set by the International Association of Chiefs of Police Psychological Services Section. A peer support team composed of officers who have been involved in critical incidents is another effective resource.