Five Basic Phases of the Police Post-Shooting Reaction

The first reaction is the immediate reaction or impact phase. Ideally, as Miller (2006) elaborates, when an officer has just shot a dangerous criminal, the initial reaction is exhilaration at having survived the ordeal. The next phase is recoil and remorse phase. During this period, the officer is filled with guilt and self-recrimination especially if the actions of the victim triggered the officer into using a firearm. The officer may also be haunted by feelings of guilt if he has never taken a human life. The third step is the resolution and acceptance phase, where the officers start coming to terms with their action. At this stage, the officer starts believing that their action was justified or necessary to save a life. However, as Miller highlights, the process may be complicated due to departmental investigations or civil litigation.  The other phase is the post-traumatic phase, which may effectively end the career of the officer. Nonetheless, in less severe cases, Miller notes that the officer may seek treatment and eventually regain their emotional and professional abilities.

The gun is the unique and ultimate symbol of the law enforcement officers. The police are allowed by law to kill. According to Miller (2006), some of the killings are in self-defense, accidental, and others in a bid to protect others from harm. In most cases, police shooting happens in the line of trying to save another life. However, a majority of the shooting incidents are followed by phases of post-shooting reactions, which often result in stress reactions among officers. Notably, while the reactions may be determined by individual personality and experiences, several analyses indicate five different typologies of post-shooting reaction, which are constant in an officer’s post-shooting experience.

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Notably, most officers who are traumatized by their use of deadly force can be helped with proper psychological intervention and support from their departments. The officers can be referred for mental health counseling or see a psychiatrist to help cope with their post-shooting experiences. 

ReferencesMiller, L. (2006). Practical police psychology: Stress management and crisis intervention for law enforcement. Springfield, Ill: Charles C Thomas.

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