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Protecting Our Protectors: Advancing Wellness Programs for Police Officers with Lt. Jim Glennon

Updated: 4 days ago

30-year veteran police officer and homicide investigator, Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.), a nationally recognized instructor, speaker, author and owner of Calibre Press, a major law enforcement publishing, training and education organization, discusses current challenges, law enforcement training, and the future of public safety. Many more police officers die from the effects of stress and trauma, including suicidality and chronic stress related illnesses and cardiovascular events, than in shootings or accidents. Police officers are exposed to brutal and traumatic situations that are very difficult to share with anyone and experience toxic levels of stress over the course of their career. Current training and wellness programs for police officers are completely insufficient to prepare for the work they do or to protect their long-term health and wellbeing.

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Protecting Our Protectors: Advancing Wellness Programs for Police Officers with Lt. Jim Glennon Transcript


Lt. Richard Goerling: 

Hello, everyone. Welcome to another session on day five of the Global First Responder  Resilience Summit. My name is Richard Goerling, and I'll be your co-host for this session.  Today's theme is creating healthy agency cultures of resilience. 


I'm going to welcome Lieutenant Jim Glennon to our conversation this morning. So, Jim,  I'm going to read your bio if you don't mind. I know it's kind of uncomfortable to have that happen sometimes. Just to give folks kind of starting point of kind of where you come from, and then we'll talk more about your story and how you got to where you are and the work that  you're doing now. 


So, Lieutenant Jim Glennon is a nationally recognized instructor, speaker, author, and  owner of Calibre Press. For 30 years, he served with the Lombard, Illinois police department, where he retired at the rank of Lieutenant.  


During his tenure, Jim was appointed the First Commander of Investigations in 1998 for  the newly formed DuPage County Major Crimes Homicide Task Force. In addition to earning a  BA in psychology and a master's degree in police management, Jim is a graduate of  Northwestern University Staff & Command College, where he was elected class president.  

So, Jim, I know that there's a whole lot more to your bio. That's the one you provided us.  It's much more brief and pithy. Tell us a little bit about Jim Glennon, kind of where you started  in law enforcement, and a little bit about the arc of your journey to today. 


Lt. Jim Glennon: 

Well, the county is actually DuPage [doo·Payj], not DuPage [doo·Paj]. But that's funny  because, by us, there's a cafe DuPage [doo·Payj], and we call it Café DuPage [doo·Paj] to make  it sound like it's a little bit more than a sandwich shop.  


I'm actually the son of a Chicago cop. And he was a son of a Chicago cop. And all I ever  wanted to do is be a Chicago Cop. I remember when I was about five, six years old, my father  literally putting me in a squad car, putting his hat on me and let me drive around the block on  his lap. This is well before seatbelt laws, things like that. 


So, I guess I don't remember anything else that interested me throughout my life. I  mean, of course, I wanted to be a baseball or football player, but I lacked talent in both of  those areas. 


I went to college. I was interested in psychology. I was interested in the way people  worked. I took a couple of classes in high school that really interested me. And so, when I went  to college, I got a degree in psychology. After college, I took a year off, and I just did volunteer work in the Appalachian Mountains area.  


I came back and started looking for a police job. Chicago wasn't hiring. So, I was upset  about that. Honestly, the girl I was dating at the time got me an application for Lombard, which  is a town of 45,000 people, right outside of Chicago. It's about 12 miles outside of the Chicago  area. But the area I live in has got 9 million people in it. So it was a big metropolitan area, and  DuPage is the second-largest county right outside of Cook, which is Chicago. That's got 32  towns in it. 


My goal really is to stay there until Chicago opens up. I applied for the secret service. I  actually passed that test. But my third year there, they made me a detective, so I decided to  stay. In my 11th year, I made the Sergeant 1452. I'm somewhere in that area. I was made commander, and then I pretty much got to do whatever I wanted to do. I was the first sex  crimes investigator. I'm one of our first two arson investigators. I was in detectives for about  40% of my career. I ran detectives for about seven years, and then the task force, which was an  amazing seven years. I did that too. 


I've been immersed in law enforcement my whole life. I've chaired on officer safety.  Since I first got on, I was always an advocate for that. I was in charge of the use of force in our  department for about 18 years. I was in martial arts. I took that for about 16 years until I just  got too old, and everything started breaking down on me.  


And then, I brought in all the intermediate weapons—basically, the defensive tactics,  control tactics program. I studied. I was a C student in high school and college, but I just was  fascinated by every aspect of law enforcement. And so, I studied as much as I could. As a boss,  I started studying management. I got my master's degree in basically law enforcement justice administration.


And the health of the people that worked for me was always important, not just during an event, but the 24/7 reality of living this job because it can eat you up. It did me in a lot of  ways. I pushed my family to the side often. If I got a call that, "Hey LT, we got something going  on." Two o'clock in the morning, I'm out there. I'm on a date with my wife – Boom! I left. Some of those were bad decisions. 


Lt. Richard Goerling: 

Thank you, Jim. What a rich career. I know there's a lot of wisdom that you offer, and we have  limited time here. And so, I want to kind of draw out some of that. One of the things that you  mentioned was this 24/7 reality of the job of a police officer. Can you frame that for us a little  bit more? 


Lt. Jim Glennon: 

Well, yeah. To tell you, just to back up just a little bit. I started teaching back in '91, so it's been  30 years for me. The first thing I taught was defensive tactics, but I also taught a lot about  communication. I was a hostage negotiator.  


The only thing I brag about, I was really, really, really, really good at getting  confessions. I can do that naturally to some level, but then I started to study it, and I've always  been fascinated by the way the brain works, the conscious and the unconscious part of the  brain.  


Well, that kind of bled into emotional health also because most of the decisions that  we make during the day. I always say 99%, and it's much higher than that, but no one knows  the real number, is that 99% of the decisions you make during the day, you're making them  unconscious from steering the car to brushing your teeth, to putting your keys down  someplace. 


I often say, when you drive the car, is it the conscious part of your brain or the  unconscious part of the brain? Well, it's the unconscious part of the brain mostly. I always say,  have you ever drive to work, got out of the car, looked back, and go, "How the hell did I get  here?? You can't remember the trip.  


So, most of what we do, we do unconsciously, which means we make decisions without  really putting a whole lot of thought into it. Especially when you're younger, when you feel  almost superhuman that nothing can happen. I was in Albuquerque last week, and there were about 300 in the class.


Oh, let me just go back. So, at one point, Calibre Press saw me teach a management  course for Northwestern and asked me to come on Calibre Press eventually. Too long a story,  but my wife and my sister both got jobs with Calibre Press working out of their houses. Just as  I retired, we had the chance to buy Calibre Press, and we bought.  

Well, Calibre Press at that point had been around for about 30 years, and all they  taught was the streets survival, which was great. It's cool. It's fantastic. And I was honored.  But it was just basically how to survive at a gunfight, how to survive maybe a shift.  


So, when we bought the company, we expanded from just one class. Now we have like  25 different classes. Several of them focused specifically on health, mental, emotional,  physical health. Because when I started to just really study this stuff, right when I bought the  company, actually a couple of years before I bought the company, I asked a really simple  question to the bosses. "Is officer safety important to you?" And all the bosses go, "Yeah, very  important. Yeah. My officer's safety is very important." 


Well, I had two really simple questions for them, but almost none of them could ever  answer. The first one was, how are they dying? And they would guess, "Well, a lot happens in  cars, and then they get shot." And I said, "That's great but let's forget just on duty. What chills  police officers during their career? How did they die before they retired?" 


Our theory is in Illinois, 30 years is a big deal. I was just shy of 30 years just because of  the way my life worked out. I left a few months before that. So, I used to call it the 24/7/30.  Why do a lot of police officers, too many police officers, not make it to 30 years? 

We looked at it. I went to the CDC, the Census Bureau, every statistic I could find, and I  had a few other instructors who were helping me with this. Well, we found that heart attacks  and suicide kill police officers at a much, much higher rate than car accidents, roadway  accidents, and felons killing police officers.  


So, when you look at the statistics, and this is a lot, this is off the top of my head, but  over the last 20 years, ten years for sure, we average about 50 to 52 police officers a year  being shot and killed by felons. And if you take 9/11 out, just take 9/11 out, you're looking at  probably about 65 felonious deaths in the line of duty a year. You get about 160 die traffic  accidents, things like that, 9/11 disease. But feloniously, it's about 65/7. 


Look at the statistics. They're hard to combat because none of these is a solid stance.  Some are in the area of 200 police officers will be killed with their own gun by their own hand.  So that means you have a three to four times better chance of committing suicide than being  shot by some felon on a call. 


And then there's a doctor. His name is Jon Sheinberg down in Texas. He was also a  police officer in Cedar Park. I'm not sure he's still at Cedar Park now. I talked to Jon several  times. One of my instructors is a good friend of Jon's. Jon is also a cardiologist. He started  looking at the statistics, and he did studies. His estimate is somewhere in the area of 150 to  200 police officers who probably won't die of heart attacks off duty every year. We have, on  average, about 14 to 15 that die on duty, and I know that number is low because an  Albuquerque police officer just died, and he is on duty. He's listed in the officer down Memorial  page or any place else. 


I always ask young police officers, those who just started in the profession, and I say,  hey, listen, when you decide to be a police officer, how did your parents respond to that? And  almost universally, they go, "Oh, they're worried about my safety." because they're afraid you'll  get killed by some felon, right? Well, tell them don't worry about it. The odds are you'll kill  yourself before someone kills you.  


But that's the truth. I'm going off a little bit, but just to give you a little background. According to the American Heart Association, the average person in the United States who has  a heart attack is somewhere between 63 and 67 years old. The average police officer who has  their first heart attack is 47 to 49. And if they have a heart attack at 47, 49, their life  expectancy is around 57 years old.  


So, we do barely enough to provide the skillset and the mindset to overcome a  felonious assault, barely enough. It's almost a crime within law enforcement on how poorly we  train our officers. It's even worse for preparing them to live this profession, 24/7/30 or 20 or  whatever, how many years you want to go. So, that's the foundation of what we started. 


Lt. Richard Goerling: 

Yeah. And I guess we'd say really great data, so great data. And the interesting thing is that  we get beyond the statistics. These are real human beings, right? These are real men and  women who dedicated their lives to public safety and to serving their community. There's a lot  of suffering there for sure.


Today we're talking about healthy agency cultures of resilience. And so, with respect to  suicide and heart attack, cardiovascular disease, all those things that you were talking about,  maybe eliminate a path forward, Jim. Let's talk about individuals, and let's talk about agencies.  Let's talk about the chiefs and the sheriffs, as well as the cops and the deputies. What do we  do? Where do we go? 


Lt. Jim Glennon: 

I get that question asked all the time, and I wish I could tell you. I mean, there are certainly  ideas, and the first thing starts with awareness. And coupled with that, you have to give it in.  The same thing is happening with our military. I mean, our military is killing themselves. I  mean, how many a day? It's like every three hours or something. I don't know the exact stats,  but it's ridiculous that we ask these people to put their lives on the line to come back, and we  discard them.  


That's not a headline. Nobody cares. I mean, people who are related to these  military personnel care, their friends care, same with law enforcement officers, but it's not top  story. I mean, look at Google. I mean, you find some stuff, but nobody cares. I mean, the media,  the activists, the politicians who have the platform for speaking to issues care more about a  police officer on a horse who was using the reigns to keep the horse at bay. That's the lead  story that has morphed into just the vision of slavery. And nobody got hurt. 

Police officers are killing themselves or dropping dead of heart attacks. No one cares.  No one cares. If they did, they would do something. So, the first thing is awareness. Number  two is you got to care.  


I asked chiefs around the country. Oh yeah, well, we have EAP and some peer support  stuff, and that's great. That's great. But what's the culture of the organization? Because look at  it this way: 85% of the police population are male. They're men. I don't see that changing  anytime soon. When I got in the 1980s, so this was 40 years ago, it was about 30% female.  Now it's 50% female. So, it's male. Then, I ask the same question all the time. What do males  suck at when it comes to their emotions? Everybody starts laughing. The women go sharing  them. The things that we see, the tragedies that we experienced, what do we do with these  things?  


I've been married now for about 17 years. This is my second wife. My first wife, we're  all still friends. Families are all together and stuff. But one of the things my wife said to me is, "Tell me when things happen. I want you to share those emotions." Well, I'm a pretty emotional guy. I yap a lot. In fact, I tell my wife I'm more of a man who talks about feelings a  lot. But I wasn't sharing what I come across on the job. 


And so, one day, I came home from dinner, which was rare. I was working 3:00 to 11:00  shift as a commander. I found out that day that in roll call, one of my officers had lost her baby  at 29 weeks and had to deliver that baby. We found out right at roll call. It stunned all of us  because this officer was loved by everybody else in the shift. There are about 18 police officers  on my shift, three community service officers.  


Typical males—the first thing I did was look at two of my female officers and go, "What  do we do?" Because all the men started pulling money literally. "Well, buy her flowers." The  males are like, "Let us do something active to fix this problem." Right? So, roll call was very,  very quiet that day. I had to make the announcement. Actually, I had one of my female officers  make the announcement, which I can't remember why. Maybe she asked me to. I don't know. 


So, I go on the street immediately, really just to go up to like a 7-11 to get a diet Coke,  and I was just going to do that and go back to the paperwork, and I had a couple of sergeants  working. Then, I got a call. The call comes out of an 18-month-old that was just hit by a car in  the driveway, and I happened to be a block away.  


So, I pull in. It was brutal. The mother is holding this baby screaming, and I look up, and  there was a 16-year-old or 18-year-old girl, which I found out is this older sister, the oldest  sister. So, the daughter of the woman is screaming. And she's the one that backed the car over  the little boy.  


So, I walked up, and I could see the skull was crushed. There's no hope. The medics  showed up right when I did because it was just a block away from one of our firehouses. And I  literally am ripping the baby out of the mother's arm. Very, very emotional. 

So, I go for dinner a couple of hours later. And again, the rare occurrence. My daughter  is two. My daughters are sitting there, and stepdaughters, daughters, my wife. I start crying at  the dinner table. And she goes, "What happened?" I told them about my officer. And then I  described what happened. I have my head down as the tears coming down about this little baby.  


I look up, and I see my wife and daughters are like this (Jim's hands covering his mouth  and nose, eyes wide open.) Eyes wide, lots of sclerae, the watery eyes are popping. And my daughter gets, "How do you do this? Oh my God, how do you do this?" She gets up and leaves the table.  


I look at my wife, and I go, "This is why I don't share these things." The stuff that we  see, how do you prepare a 20, 21, 22, 23-year-old officer for the things that we are going to  come across. We come across things we didn't even know existed. I mean, I had to interview a  guy who raped a six-month-old baby. Nobody prepared me for this. 

So, what we wind up doing is eating this because we have no outlets other than other  officers. Then, we lock in with other officers. We go off shift, we drink, we talk, and we make  fun of everything and use a lot of foul languages. Then we'd go home at 1:00 in the morning,  and we sit there, and we stare at the ceiling and wonder why we can't go to sleep.  


We experienced massive amounts of adrenaline dumps in our careers. Adrenaline  dump damage, what I've been told and read, is damage to your cells when you're at a high stress level for too long or too often. Those cells regenerate, and the damage that is done regenerates. This is one of the reasons we age. But the average person probably has an  adrenaline dump two or three times a year.  


My wife, she drives on the street. A kid runs in front of the car. She stops the car. She  screams. Gets on the phone, "Oh my God, I'm going to have a heart attack." And I'm sitting or  reading. "Okay, did you hit him?" "No." Oh, okay. Don't forget the beer." Hang up. She'll talk  about that for weeks. Police officers don't even realize when they're having adrenaline dumps  anymore because we live up here, right?  


Great book, obviously. You've probably talked about this already. Kevin Gilmartin, I  believe he just updated Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement. And I've written two books. I  tell everybody, and I just told 300 people this, "My book's here, buy my book. It's about  communication and our street survival update. Great books. But if you're going to only buy one  book, look, buy Kevin's book."  


I ask, "How many of you guys have read it?" Hands go up. "How many would  recommend it?" Hands go up. And I see a 24-year-old cop in front of me. He said he read it and  put his hand up. He didn't put his hand up when I said recommend. I already knew he was 24.  And I said, "You wouldn't recommend it?" He goes, "Well, I only got halfway through it?" I said,  "Because you're 24. You're reading this thing going, 'It's not going to happen to me.'" And all  the older cops start laughing because it's true. So, we don't prepare these guys for it. 


Interrupt me if you want. I have the tendency to go off and stuff. I've talked to countless  officers. I've been teaching nationally for 25 years. I can't even begin to tell you how many  officers have walked out to me. Tough officers walked up to me on a break or something, "Hey,  Glennon. Can I talk to you for a minute?" "Let's walk down here, and I'll talk to you." Real  tough.  


And then they get down, or they lose it, or guys go, "Hey, just you and I go out and talk  sometime soon." Boom! Lose it. I went to lunch with a guy one time. He drove, and we never  left the car. We never even ate. He cried the entire hour because they had nowhere to go with  this. So, if you are having an episode, what do you do? I mean, where do you go?  


Let's say best-case scenario, and there are a lot of best-case scenarios. You go to your  Sergeant, and you say, "Look, I don't know what's going on with me. But the last month, I've  been depressed, and I can't sleep. I've actually thought life would be better if I was dead. I  don't believe in God anymore. Why would God let this happen?" And these are all things  people have said to me, and things are rough.  


You say to your Sergeant, "I'm really scared because I got a wife, a couple of kids, and  I'm thinking I'd be better off dead." That Sergeant looks at this officer and says, "Look, we love  you. I love you. Not only am I your boss, I'm your friend. We're going to get you help. We've  got a good program here. We got EAP. We have peer support. Go to the commander." The  commander goes, "I love you. You're not just a cog, and we're going to take care of you. We've  got a good program. We're the Chief of Police. Sure. Yep. Great program. We're going to take  care of you. We got to keep you. Don't worry about money, full duty. We're going to put you  on light duty until you get over this thing. We can get some counseling, don't worry." And they  made it with the best of intentions. 


But then, what are they going to take away from this officer immediately? His gun.  Well, first off, how many police officers only own one gun, right? And two, now this officer is  walking around the station without a gun. And the first thought is, did you hurt your leg, hurt  your knee, hurt your back? What's going on? Is that why you're on light duty? How come you're not carrying your gun?  


We also know you can't do overtime. You've got little Johnny and the basketball camp,  little Sarah in volleyball camp. You can't arrest anybody, so you're not going to get court time.  And so literally, your income, while they're giving you full pay, is going to go down about 35% to 40%. Your wife is going to go, "How are we going to do that? What are we going to cut?" So, the male brain, in too many cases, that's generalized, but I believe in this generalization. "I  could eat this. I could handle this." 


So, what do we do? We drink a little bit. Maybe cheat on our wives to give us a little bit  of a bump. And then, the shame and the spiral occur. And pretty soon, boom, really quick,  you're done. And if you're not putting a gun in your mouth, you're eating too much and  stopping exercise, and your health is affected. It's a crazy, crazy-ass job. I look at it now. It's an  impossible job in many ways. So, your question was, what's the answer? Awareness and  caring. But now, what would be the mechanism to fix this problem in real life? 


Lt. Richard Goerling: 

Yeah. Jim, you've done a really skillful job of framing the reality of what happens, the  maladaptive behavior, the attitudes, the succession of how occupational trauma shows up, and  what it does to the individual officer and to the families. So, awareness and caring about it,  right? Having a bit of investment. What are two things that you would recommend to chiefs  and sheriffs that they do right now? 


Lt. Jim Glennon: 

First thing, go to your politicians and tell them to get off camera and start committing  financially. Invest in your police department. The thing that drives me nuts, and this does play  into part of what we're talking about today because I travel the country talking to people.  


We did a poll last year, and we just did another poll. And only somewhere between  7% and 10% of the officers that are active right now would recommend this profession. When  we ask why and we tell them, you can check any of these and then write something to us. The  two top things that we hear are, I don't get enough support from my own command and  politicians and the way the media portrays us. That impacts the emotions of police officers.  

I don't want to get flipped. I don't. But the horse thing with the border patrol, if any of  these know about this, but people coming across the border through some water, the horses  are there to detour them. One of the border patrol agents has got his reins, and he's moving  the reins around as to keep people away from his horse, not whipping people, but politicians  all the way up to the top politicians of United States immediately condemned that officer or  that agent for doing his or her job. 


Too often, we have chiefs and politicians around the country when a video comes out  with no frame of reference and no facts, they jumped to a conclusion, a political conclusion, a  conclusion that will benefit them, and they say something like this, "We're aghast of what we  saw. This is not consistent with our values and training." And I'm like, "No, you're out of your  mind. It's perfectly consistent with your values and training because you don't value training in  any way, shape, or form." And the politicians will say, "We're going to get to the bottom of this."  


And you see it all the time are the exact same politicians who close up the purse strings  whenever the police come and go, "Hey, listen, I need a hell of a lot more training for my  officers to deal with the stuff on the street. And we have officers killing themselves and out of  shape. We need money to develop some programs to protect these people." And then you get  nothing but yawns, and then the cameras are turned off, and the people with the purse strings  walk away. So, the first thing that chiefs have to do, a lot of sheriffs are doing it because they  are elected, but the chiefs work for the politicians. The chiefs have to go and say, "Look, let's  look at what the reality is in law enforcement and not the myths that are out there." So, that's  number one. 


And number two, make it a top priority when you invest. What are going to do? I've  talked to some agencies that have really good programs, some very good peer support  programs. I know one agency that every year, the officers have to go in and talk to a clinical  professional, and all the police in this agency were reluctant because "What if I go to say I'm  depressed?" "Oh, well, if you're depressed, then the next step is suicide. We're taking your gun  away." Nothing like that happened. Nothing like that happened unless they're absolutely,  "Yeah, I'm going to go shoot myself tomorrow afternoon in a park." They won't do anything.  


So, okay. This is where we're at. No one finds out about this. One of the officers there  told me that when they first started doing this, everybody was against it. Now, most of them  look forward to it. And if you want, it's free. You can call them and say, "I want to come in." And they'll talk to you. No one will know. It's not more than any kind of a reference.  

Border patrol, well, they did. I don't know how it is going on now because they're so  shorthanded, but a really, really good peer support program. I talked to several people who  run that, but border patrol does have and has had for a while a suicide problem. So, I think it  starts at the beginning. The two things are that the chiefs have to go to the politicians and say,  "Look, this is the reality too. Invest in these people, and let's get some programs working."


Lt. Richard Goerling: 

I want to be redundant because there's a couple of things that you've said that are really  important to punctuate. The first thing is going back to cultivating awareness about these  issues. We talked about a lot of good data about sort of the landscape of suffering, as I often refer to it.  


You talked about the need to care about that. And one interesting thing, Jim, I'd found is that there's a lot of conversation around officer wellness, and it often feels like a check box.  Like, of course, I care. And if we actually did care, we'd see action following that statement. So, the actions following that statement really begin with funding. And so, I want to just, just  punctuate that you talked about investing in training, but the other thing that you talked about  too, which offer may be slightly differently, is investing in marketing, really in advocating for  the officers—advocating for the good work that's happening in the communities. 


We can do all of those things and have accountability. There's no like mutually  exclusive. We can't be accountable and invest in our people at the same time because that  tends to be where the conversation often goes. So, funding and prioritizing the health of the  officer. You described some peer support programs and some psychotherapy approaches to things. So really, the whole health of the officer, really we're talking about the physical health, the mental health, the spiritual health. And we could go on with different kinds of domains of health.  


And those are really critically important things. How we do those things, I'm sure, is going to be varied. With respect to the officers, the deputies, the agents, the other law  enforcement officers out there, what are a couple of things that you'd recommend that they  do? 


Lt. Jim Glennon: 

It's so funny because we have these conversations all the time. Officers have to take  responsibility for themselves. They have to. But when you're 22, 23, 24, 25 years old and  you're in good shape, you're not married yet. You don't have any kids sucking the life out of  you. I know I'll do the program. We do a two-day street survival program.

  

The second day, the second, and third hours are dedicated to just this. And when I start  these two hours, I go, "Look, you're just giving me very few videos, and this is nice to have  because the street survival program is incredibly dynamic. But these two hours, if we're talking  about saving officers' lives, are the most important of the whole two days. But almost all of you under 30 years old are going to start looking at your phone in about 10 minutes because  you think this doesn't apply. 


Do you think you're going  to look like this in 10 years, get married, have some children? You have to take responsibility. I'm not in the best shape in the world. I mean, I'm 65. I'm getting a knee replacement in a  couple of weeks, but I've maintained. My wife always makes fun of me because for the last 20  years, I'm trying to lose the same 50 pounds, but I've maintained this weight for a long time.  Four to five, six days, sometimes seven days a week, I do some kind of cardio. About four days  a week, I do just 15 to 20 minutes of weightlifting because of the things that I've read about. 


But one of the things that motivated me is almost everyone in my family, and I'm from a  big family, I'm the oldest of nine, I have something like 40 nieces and nephews, I had a bunch  of aunts and uncles. Virtually, all of the ones that died early died because of alcohol or their  eating habits.  


I lost an uncle at 44. My grandfather, who I never met, died at 44. My other grandfather  died when I was 11 months old. Uncles died, and three of my aunts or two of my aunts died at  54. They were smokers. And I was the oldest, so I couldn't stand watching these people die. It  crushed me. It crushed me. My uncle died at 44. He was only nine years older than I was, and  he was like an older brother. My youngest brother is 13 years younger than I am, so I was  closer in age to my uncle Pat than I am to my youngest brother, Tim. In fact, three of my  brothers are ten years younger. 


So, I was so impacted by this. I actually had an adverse reaction to it. So, when I had my  second child when I was 30, I went through a terrible period. I thought I was having a heart  attack every day. I was having panic attacks. I was the sex crimes investigator at that point. I  was a union rep at that point. We were going through our first contract. I was doing sex  crimes. It was a brutal time. I was petrified for some reason that I was going to die and leave  my kids fatherless. I couldn't get it out of my head.  


And then I had something called PVC, which is premature ventricular contractions.  Once I became aware of it, I could feel it. And every time I felt one, which is basically your heart  skips a beat, they're very benign, actually. I would freak out. So, I wound up in a hospital twice  to get out of a heart attack.


And so, at 30, I finally found a decent counseling. I went to like two first, which were  terrible. That's another problem. Some of them just suck. They're just terrible. My dad was an  alcoholic, but he was not an abusive alcoholic. So that was the first thing that came up to the  first two when all they wanted was to talk about my dad. And I'm like, no.  


Then I found a guy who was great. And that's when I got into martial arts when I was  30 because I was always an athlete. I was a three-sport athlete all through high school. And in  a couple of years in college, I played football. I stopped doing that when I had kids, and that  fear pushed me back into this direction. So, pretty much I watch what I eat, watch what I drink. I'm Irish. I have two bars in my house, but I never, never come home and have a drink by myself. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that. I just never have done that. I'm a social drinker. 


My wife said to me the other day when I ordered egg whites, she goes, "I hope I never  ordered egg whites." And I go, "Look, you've been with me this long. When I'm at home, and  when I'm with you, I try to eat healthily, so when I'm with everybody else, and we're at a party,  I don't have to worry about picking up a handful of chips." So, you got to learn this balance. We  live in an age where everything is immediate gratification.  


And as I said, everything is affected by our emotions. Maybe I didn't say that, but our  behavior is impacted by our emotional state. Our emotional state basically runs our lives. It  does. It runs our lives. From the books we read, the people we hang with, the movies we see,  the hobbies we have, we are emotional beings where food is emotion, and it's biological. From  an evolutionary biological standpoint, if you want to believe that, we eat as much as we can,  when we can because we don't know when we can. Well, that still is ingrained in us. And then  now, because we have such good food, we've become addicted to the rush of eating certain  things. I suffer from that constantly.  


Yesterday, my daughter was coming home for lunch. She was stopping in a place called  Portillo's, which is like a really good hot dog type, beef sandwiches, burgers, and all that. I go,  "Give me a Caesar salad with grilled chicken." She goes, "Really?" I go, "Yeah." And she comes  in with hotdogs for my wife and her and French fries. And I go, "Yeah, I'm immediately  rewriting the salad." I have to get up to fight through this. You have to learn how to balance it,  but we don't teach that. We don't teach that. We should try to teach that. 

I'm going off a little bit, but I ask this question all the time, and I did it the other day  with 300 people in a room from all the agencies in New Mexico. I said, "How many of you have some kind of a program that requires you to do some physical fitness every year to prove  you're in shape?" Maybe two departments. Well, hands went up. A bunch of hands went up for  the state police, I think it was. And they went, "We got to do it every year." Great. "How many  people get fired for not passing that test?" And they just laughed. They said nobody. 


I'm not saying you should fire them, but we tried to get a program together. And I hear  this all over the country. I'm a pro-union guy, but the unions fight this. They fight it. And I'm  like, "But it's for the health of you guys." Yeah, but if one guy gets fired, that's not acceptable, so we're not going to do this. But if 50 died from heart attacks, you guys are okay? Well, that's  a conundrum.  


I had the same problem with my agency when I was in Illinois. They wanted to push it  through, and I was off work. I had other union members going, "Absolutely not. This is just a  way to fire us all." They go, "What? Are you nuts?" So anyway, we pushed it through, but it  was a volunteer. And I'm like, okay, that's cool.  


We had a workout room in our agency, but one of the guys was going downstairs off  duty, lifting weights, blew his shoulder up, put in workman's comp. They accepted it because  he was doing it for something on duty, and then the HC immediately stopped the program. 


Lt. Richard Goerling: 

Yeah. No. 


Lt. Jim Glennon: 

That's zerocratic mindset. 


Lt. Richard Goerling: 

Yeah. Well, bureaucracy is our enemy for sure, and that's, I think, one of our greatest  challenges. We don't have a whole lot of time to talk about that. I want to wrap up. I want to  summarize really this message from you that I'm hearing loud and clear, which is this message  of accountability on both the individual law enforcement officer's part but also on the  leadership as well.  


And so, I'd love to see if you can craft a message of hope for the men and women in  law enforcement. You come from this long line, this legacy of law enforcement officers, this  legacy of warrior humanitarians. And so, bring us some love, Jim. Bring us some hope. What do  you say that can offer some hope?


Lt. Jim Glennon: 

Well, I think I can offer hope, but it takes me a second to get there because this is going to  sound negative at first. But Denzel Washington is one of my favorite people on the planet.  He's not just a fantastic actor, but he's an unbelievably great human being. And in fact, over  the last week, he said something about police and how great they are.  


He gave a speech several years ago. I think in 2017 or something, I could be wrong  about that. One of them is to receive an achievement award. He said something, and I show  this speech in my classes, and he says, "Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship." Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship. He says, if you fall down seven times, get  up big. And basically, what he's saying is this, it's up to you. It's up to you. 


If you're waiting for your agency to do it, you're a fool. I say to everybody, if you're in law enforcement, you should be in a boxing club or martial arts. You should be for many  reasons. It keeps you in shape. It gets you ready for a fight because your agencies will not get  you ready for a fight. The average agency trains four hours a year only, and the only reason is, so you check a box in case you get it soon. And say, "No, I did 15 knee strikes last year. So, I'm  an expert." 


There's no procedural memory that we can teach. So, we need bosses to actually be  leaders. There are a lot of very, very good leaders out there. And they need to understand that  to be a good leader you need to know your officers as individuals, not cogs in the wheel,  recognize when they're going through something, emotional or physical. Don't be afraid to go,  "Hey, look it." 


I went through this at one point. You're putting on some weight there. I know you just  had your second kid. Let me tell you what I just went through. Like, I just explained. I told this  to my guys all the time. I said, "The story I just told you, I tell my guys all the time." It is up to  you, which is the great news. Because from a psychological standpoint, whatever it is that  impacted you negatively, it impacts you negatively because of the value in your estimate of it.  That in and of itself can't control you. You control it. But one of the things that you can do is try  to structure your life in a certain way. 


And my wife's very, very good at this, at letting me do this. She's not, I am. Before I go  to bed at night, she knows what's going on in my head. I'm going to get up. I'm going to do  this. I'm going to do my workout. I'm going to hit some golf balls. Whatever I'm going to do for just myself. For just myself. I'm going to take an hour, hour and a half every day for just myself.  Now I know that it's very, very difficult. It was very, very difficult when I was a young police  officer with three small children. But I worked around at a health club that had a nursery, and  my kids like to go to the nursery. 


Whatever it is, work that out. Make your mental and physical well-being an absolute priority. It's not selfish. And to me, and this is just me, the spiritual side is very, very important because, I think, that brings everything together. Never think of your mind and your body as being separate, and I think that glue is that the spiritual, whatever that is for you. But if you look at yourself as a victim, that's a death knelt for you if you start looking at yourself as a victim. So, I hope there was something positive in that because I know it sounds a little negative at times too. 


Lt. Richard Goerling: 

No, that's great. Well, Jim, it has been a real pleasure to chat with you. Thank you for  normalizing occupational stress and trauma. I mean, just some of the brief descriptions of your  own experience, I think, give men and women permission to go, "Okay, wow. If Lieutenant  Glennon experienced this and I'm experiencing this, there's nothing wrong with me." 


And so much of what we experience as law enforcement officers, we feel shame and blame and guilt because there's all of this judgment around it. It's all normal. It's all absolutely normal. I love your message of accountability because it moves us away from that victim mindset to a growth mindset where we can actually do something. We can take action to move toward recovery, toward healing, toward post-traumatic growth, and toward continued leadership.  


Every single law enforcement officer is a leader, and they have a role. They have an  impact. And you just reinforced all of that for folks. So, thank you so much. An absolute pleasure to be here with you, and we appreciate your time today. 


Lt. Jim Glennon: 

It was my honor. Thank you very much for asking me, and congratulations on what you guys  are doing. It's very, very, very, very important. So, good job. 


Lt. Richard Goerling: 

Thank you, Jim.


Lt. Jim Glennon: 

Thank you.

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