Four Pillars Of Police Health

Four Pillars Of Police Health

The term “Cop Killer” evoked images far different from those of serious cardiac events that could end your life quickly. The past few years were horrible for violence directed at our law enforcement community, which just makes the stress of doing “The Job” even more mentally, emotionally, and medically difficult.

Yet in all the findings of police deaths related to working as a police officer or deputy, heart attacks claim over 60 times the number of officers dying from a violent incident or attack. According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) the risk of an officer dying from a sudden heart attack is approximately 69 times higher while that officer is attempting to control a suspect or in a fight with a suspect—even though fights or altercations only comprise about 1% to 2% of an officer’s normal work routine.

And according to Professor Stefanos Kales from the Harvard School of Public Health, “We found that stressful and physically demanding law enforcement activities were associated with large increases in the risk of sudden cardiac death, compared with routine/non-emergency policing activities.”

What to do? Law enforcement officers need to re-configure their hard lifestyles to reduce stress for their long-term health. So how does an officer go about that seemingly daunting task? Officers need to modify their lifestyle stress factors and reduce their risk for developing life-altering diseases. This can be done by incorporating the 4 Pillars of Police Health. Taking these steps doesn’t need to be a sudden, dramatic lifestyle change. Instead, you can utilize a slow descent “baby-step methodology,” whereby changes in lifestyle can be easily incorporated into everyday living.

Let’s first look at the stress response to get a better understanding of how it occurs and causes life-altering disease in an officer.

Stress Response
To understand chronic stress you need to understand how your adrenal glands, cortisol, and the stress response work together so you can get a complete understanding of how the process works and why as an officer you really need to reduce your levels of it. It is possible.

You have two adrenal glands and they are located on top of your kidneys. Their main function is to counter stress by producing a number of key hormones that send chemical messages to your body.
Cortisol is a very important anti-inflammatory hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Its production can be activated by any stress, good or bad. It is commonly referred to as the “stress” hormone. It is an anti-inflammatory hormone and will release glucose from your liver and muscles into your blood stream to provide an instant fuel source for a hyper-critical event. So this effect can be a good thing when things out on the street go bad and gives you that adrenal rush. It goes along with increased blood pressure and pupil dilation, and all of your body’s other responses to a “fight-or-flight” event.

Now if this occurs a number of times a shift, for a number of years, along with all the other more minor stressors you have in your life, you now have all the right conditions for stress to turn into a chronic life-altering mode for the officer.

This is where cortisol comes about in a very bad way for you physiologically. Being in a constant state of yellow or orange awareness has an unwanted, long-term downside. The chronic release of cortisol results in a severe fat-storing effect on an officer’s body as a way to deal with the excess glucose put into the blood stream. It becomes visceral fat, which equals weight gain. There is more “bad stuff” that can result from elevated stress and cortisol levels as well.
Your cortisol levels also influence and regulate or modulate many of the changes that occur in your body in response to stress, including blood pressure, blood sugar (glucose) levels, immune responses, anti-inflammatory actions, and metabolizing of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. After years in stressful police work, these levels may very well be in an unhealthy range, becoming risk factors for a variety of diseases. Which is why reducing and controlling your stress is highly important to you as a law enforcement officer.

The Four Pillars of Police Health can give you various easy protocols to keep you healthy so you can look forward to a long and healthy retirement. Let’s start with pillar #1, sleep.

Pillar #1 – Sleep
Sleep is easily the best method to reduce your stress. Without a good night’s sleep the other three Pillars of Police Health probably won’t occur that day or any other day you don’t get enough quality sleep. If you can start the next day refreshed, ready to take on the world you’ll be more likely to follow the other three stress reducers.
And get this: Many weight management studies have shown you can lose a pound of body weight per month just by getting seven to eight good hours of shuteye each night. So sleep on that.

Pillar #2 – Food
Clean, nutritious food intake can help modulate stress in your life and cut down immensely on chronic bodily inflammation. Make a conscious, disciplined effort to stay away from ALL fast food (yes, including pizza) until your stress levels are down. Any food item that contains sugar (yes, including doughnuts) you should visualize with a skull and crossbones over it. Sugar will jack up your stress level, increase body inflammation, and put weight on you quickly.

And watching your food intake is the most important factor in losing weight, not exercise. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “80% of your ability to reduce excess body fat is directly determined by how you eat, with the other 20% depending on proper exercise, and other healthy lifestyle habits.”

Finally, eating a healthy diet will give you the energy to move right into getting exercise.

Pillar #3 – Exercise
Yes, now we come to the hard part of stress management and health: exercise. However, fear not, as you can also use the small-step approach to exercise, which is recommended if you have not been working out for over a year. While exercise will certainly lower your stress levels, starting a high-intensity exercise regimen can also increase stress on your body because it can increase your cortisol level. And when that happens weight loss stops.

You’ll want to do both cardio and strength training to give your body an overall workout that enhances both heart and lung power. Strengthening these hyper-critical systems of your body will keep you enjoying life well into your retirement years. And more immediately, cardio and strength exercise should be considered a “must” in police work. Foot chases and picking up prone suspects or victims is an everyday part of the job.

However, let’s put exercise into perspective as well. It’s not a panacea. If you work out and then go home to a large pepperoni pizza every night, swilled down with a high-sugar soda, you will still gain weight. If you are a pizzaholic, instead make pizza a “reward” meal after a good week of following the Four Pillars. One of my favorite quotes is, “You can’t outrun a bad diet.” So true. This comes from Dr. Eric Serrano, the Medical Director for MusclePharm and one of the leading fitness doctors in the United States. You need a balance of a healthy diet and regular exercise to maintain health.

The bottom line on exercise is you need to find the way you WILL exercise (at home, outside, or at a fitness club) and develop the habit to do some each week.

Pillar #4 – Supplements
Supplements can be a huge help in combating stress issues when tied in with the other three pillars of police health. To reduce stress all four pillars must be addressed, as each one relies on the other for support. Just don’t rely on taking a handful of supplements and thinking you’re good to go; no you’re not.

Vitamins and supplements are meant to fill in any nutritional gaps in your diet, not to serve as an easy replacement for healthy eating. But even if you are eating more fruits and vegetables, many commercially available vegetables no longer contain the proper amounts of minerals you need due to depleted soil conditions. This is where supplements can come to the rescue in helping you reach your health goals.

A multi-vitamin is a good place to start. If you know you already have certain health issues there are also specific supplements that may help improve those conditions. For example, taking the B vitamins B6, B12, and B3 along with folic acid can help improve cardiovascular health. If you need more energy, B vitamins—especially B12—could help. A daily dose of Omega 3s, B vitamins, phytosterols, and psyllium fiber can help promote overall health. It’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor before you decide which supplements and what dosages are right for you.

Start Taking Baby Steps Now
Without going into details of Stress Management Techniques, there are usually programs within each law enforcement agency to assist officers in handling stress. You should also consider the four pillars listed above as “techniques” to help you lower day-to-day stress. If followed consistently your stress levels and health will both improve greatly.

There are very few jobs in the United States that cause more intense stress and long-term chronic stress than law enforcement work—it’s well documented. Police officers live an average of 14 fewer years than the average U.S. citizen, and of those 50% will die from heart disease (or cardiovascular problems) within five years of retirement. Stress is our killer within.
The physiological changes from stress that bring about disease to an officer are many and can include weight gain, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and chronic inflammation.
All of the above health issues are usually inter-related. For example, chronic inflammation can lead to many diseases including cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks, and later in life Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Chronic stress is a major factor in all of these diseases as well.

Yes, the very real cop killer called stress can be defeated but it will take time, and some discipline utilizing the implementation of small “baby-step” improvements to your law enforcement lifestyle. These steps are certainly not hard to do and you can start today.

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get started.

Governor Ron DeSantis Signed A $109 Billion Budget Into Law Yesterday

Governor Ron DeSantis signed a $109 Billion budget into law yesterday afternoon.

With his signature the following items will become law on July 1, 2022:

DROP Extension for Law Enforcement Officers in the FRS

Law Enforcement Officers in the Florida Retirement System will be able to extend DROP by three years to help retain veteran officers at every FRS participating agency in the state. The legislation also increases the employer contribution to all active investment plan participants by an additional three percent. There will be a six year eligibility window for the DROP extension, a law enforcement officer must be participating in the DROP on or after July 1, 2022 and prior to July 1, 2028.

Pay raises for PBA’s state bargaining unit members

Effective July 1, 2022, State Law Enforcement Officers, Lottery Law Enforcement Officers and Highway Patrol Troopers will receive a 5.38% plus a 5%, or the base salary will move to $50K whichever is higher.

Correctional & Correctional Probation Officer Pay Increases

Effective July 1, 2022, each Officer will receive a 5.38% increase to their base salary before the new bases apply.

The new base salaries are as follows:

  • Correctional Officer – $41,600
  • Correctional Sergeant – $45,760
  • Correctional Lieutenant – $52,624
  • Correctional Captain – $57,886

  • Probation Officer – $41,600
  • Senior Probation Officer – $47,840
  • Probation Specialist – $47,840
  • Probation Supervisor – $52,624
  • Probation Senior Supervisor – $57,886

Retention pay for COs & CPOs

  • $1,000 to the base for officers with two years or more, but less than five years
  • $1,500 to the base for officers with five years or more, but less than eight years
  • $2,500 to the base for officers with eight of more years
  • Effective on July 1, 2022, Institutional Security Specialists will receive the 5.38% increase to their base salary before the new base of $41,600 applies, or a 5%, whichever is higher.

    Previously signed legislation by Governor DeSantis:

    HB 689 by Representative Mike Giallombardo & Senator Danny Burgess expands on the time limitation for Workers’ Compensation Coverage of PTSD for First Responders. Currently, an officer has 90 days from the date of the event or manifestation of the disorder (whichever is later) to provide the employer with a notice of injury, or death. However, an officer has 52 weeks from the date of the event to file a workers’ compensation claim.

    The legislation provides that the time for notice of injury or death a claim of PTSD is 90 days from the qualifying event that supports the claim or the diagnosis, rather than the manifestation, of the disorder (whichever is later). The bill also provides that the PTSD workers’ compensation claim is prohibited if not properly noticed within one year of the qualifying event, or the diagnosis of the disorder (whichever is later).

    The legislation also adds correctional officers into Florida’s First Responder’s PTSD workers’ compensation coverage. The changes to the law will take effect on July 1, 2022.

    HB 3 by Representative Tom Leek creates the following (taken directly from the staff analysis):

    • Creates the Florida Law Enforcement Recruitment Bonus Program to provide one-time bonus payments to newly employed law enforcement officers in Florida;
    • Creates the Florida Law Enforcement Academy Scholarship Program to cover tuition, fees, and up to $1,000 of eligible education expenses for trainees enrolled in a law enforcement officer basic recruit training program;
    • Creates a reimbursement program to pay for up to $1,000 of equivalency training costs for certified law enforcement officers who relocate to Florida or members of the special operations forces who become full-time law enforcement officers;
    • Provides law enforcement officers who adopt a child from within the state child welfare system with a $25,000 benefit for adopting a child with special needs or a $10,000 benefit for adopting a child without special needs; Makes dependent children of law enforcement officers eligible to receive a Family Empowerment Scholarship to attend a private school;
    • Increases the base salary for each county sheriff by $5,000 – the Legislature approved over $15 million for Deputies and Correctional Deputies in the 29 statutory defined fiscally constrained counties (please see the proviso language and list of counties below along with allocations);
    • Exempts veterans and applicants with an associate degree or higher from taking the basic skills test as a prerequisite to entering a law enforcement officer basic recruit training program;
    • Requires that law enforcement officers receive training in health and wellness principles as part of their initial certification training and continued employment training;
    • Allows law enforcement officers or former law enforcement officers to receive postsecondary credit at Florida public postsecondary educational institutions for training and experience acquired while serving;
    • Encourages each district school board to establish public safety telecommunication training programs and law enforcement explorer programs in public schools; and
    • Designates May 1 of each year as “Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.”

The 2020 Legislative Session Is Coming To A Close

The ninth week of the 2020 Legislative Session is complete, and the budget is being placed on the legislators’ desks as everyone waits for the “72 Hours Cooling Off Period” before they can vote on it. The new “last day” is Wednesday.

Pay Raises for Florida PBA’s State Bargaining Units:
The pay raises were announced late yesterday afternoon. The Legislature held tight to the pledge to reward all employees with an across the board raise. Considering the state of affairs right now, this is a big deal. Our fear all week has been a diversion of the pay raise funding toward the COVID-19 response . . . it didn’t happen. I thank Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, Senate President Bill Galvano, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, House Appropriations Chairman Travis Cummings, Speaker of the House Jose Oliva, and all of the Legislature for keeping the raises in place.

Peer to Peer Legislation:
Sometimes issues in the legislative process take a twisty path to reach completion. The Peer to Peer Legislation and the Law Enforcement Officers and Correctional Officers’ Bill of Rights are the definition of a twisty path. Over the last two weeks, both pieces of legislation were considered finished for this year. The Senate was balking at the Senate version of the Peer to Peer bill (SB 160) and the House was not moving HB 453. Then a plan came together to join both bills into one. Easier said than done. However, yesterday the plan completed the legislative path with the combined bills passing on the Senate and House floors. The new combined bill HB 573 is off to the Governor.

Here’s what the new combined bill provides. The legislation creates a new peer support system for first responders within an agency. We are experiencing an epidemic of suicides all across the country and this peer support system has shown that, when properly utilized, lives can be saved. We thank Senator Keith Perry and his staff member Kinley Morgan for working closely with our team to make this peer legislation a reality.

If you are experiencing signs of depression, or if you are struggling with a mental health issue please visit JonsChallenge.org.

The legislation also includes our Bill of Rights legislation which places part-time officers into the Law Enforcement Officers and Correctional Officers Bill of Rights, specifies complaints must be investigated within 180 days of receipt regardless of origin, and the small agencies of 35 or less can seek an outside agency to conduct an investigation. This legislation was supported strongly by the PBA, FOP, and the Florida Police Chiefs’s Association. Specifically, I thank Jacksonville FOP President Steve Zona, FOP Lobbyist Lisa Henning, Chief Gary Hester, Executive Director for the Chiefs Amy Mercer, and the Chiefs’ Lobbyist Tim Stanfield.

To make this plan work, we needed several legislators to guide the ship – Senator Ed Hooper, Senator Keith Perry, Senator Rob Bradley, Representative Wyman Duggan, Representative Joe Casello, and Representative Paul Renner. They all deserve praise for making these two issues a reality.

SB 7012 by Senator Lauren Book creates the Suicide Prevention Taskforce to examine suicides by Law Enforcement and Correctional Officers. Our very own Senior Vice President Mick McHale will be our representative on the taskforce.

This session is essentially over. The successes of the session were truly a group effort. We are already making plans to deal with next year’s agenda which, since the incoming Senate President wants to work with us on it, will be heavily focused on fixing pensions.

This is the last Capitol Report for the 2020 Regular Session. There many legislators to thank, but a select few rise to the top consistently each year – Senator Rob Bradley, Senator Ed Hooper, Senator Keith Perry, Senator Ben Albritton, Senator Joe Gruters, Senator Lauren Book, future Senate President Wilton Simpson, Representative Travis Cummings, Representative Wyman Duggan (only in his second year), Representative Matt Willhite, Representative Chuck Clemons, Representative Paul Renner, and future House Speaker Chris Sprowls. These legislators sponsor our legislation and help guide our issues through the process. If you live in the districts of the above mentioned Legislators please show your support by thanking them for all they do for law enforcement and corrections.

Is This The Final Week Of The Legislative Session?

We completed the eighth week of the 2020 Legislative Session. However, this week is not expected to be the last week. The Legislature has been at an impasse on big policy issues and appropriation allocations. The impasse will add some extra time before the session actually ends . . . hopefully, hours and not days.

Here’s where everything “still in play” stands, which is subject to change one hour from now and then change again.

Pay Raises for Florida PBA’s State Bargaining Units:
Budget conference is finally beginning which means the issue of pay raises can be settled. Both chambers have pay raises in their respective budget proposals. The Senate’s plan is far more generous to all of our bargaining units and we have advocated for the Senate plan since it was released. The joint agreement should come into focus over the next several days. We will keep our bargaining unit members posted as developments unfold.

Peer to Peer Legislation:
We are working with a large coalition of law enforcement, corrections and firefighting organizations to create Florida’s first ever “Peer to Peer” support legislation to assist first responders’ with mental health needs. This legislation will provide properly trained peer support in conjunction with other agency resources such as the Employee Assistance Program.

SB 160 by Senator Keith Perry & Representative Joseph Casello (HB 573) are our sponsors.

The bills are not identical which means compromise amendments if anything is to pass. HB 573 is on the House Special Order Calendar this evening. SB 160 is on the Senate Special Order Calendar for Monday.

SB 7012 creating a task force to examine first responder suicides passed the Senate yesterday which places it in House Messages. We are waiting for the House to take action.

If you are experiencing signs of depression, or if you are struggling a mental health issue please visit JonsChallenge.org.

Law Enforcement and Correctional Officers Bill of Rights:
The Senate Bill (SB 884) has been placed on the Senate Calendar for Third Reading. The House Bill (HB 453) is available to receive the Senate Bill on the House floor.

The legislation will include part-time officers into the Law Enforcement Officers and Correctional Officers Bill of Rights, specifies complaints must be investigated within 180 days of receipt regardless of origin, and the small agencies of 35 or less can seek an outside agency to conduct an investigation.

Our sponsors for this legislation are Representative Wymann Duggan (HB 453) and Senator Ed Hooper (SB 884).

Two Weeks Remain In The 2020 Legislative Session

We are down to just two weeks. March 2-5 is the final week for committee meetings. Then we will have marathon floor sessions for a full week. The Budget Conference Committees have yet to meet, but negotiations are certainly underway. We made a strategic decision last year to hire an outside lobby firm, Ballard Partners, to assist us with the “informal” negotiation process. Our point person with the firm is Mat Forrest and he keeps in steady contact with the upper leadership of both chambers. The budget is such an important part of our legislative agenda since we ask for yearly pay raises that we knew we had to strengthen our team with a well connected outside firm. We are very pleased with their professionalism and access.

The Bill of Rights legislation received its final Senate committee hearing in the Senate Appropriations on Thursday. The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously passed SB 884 by Senator Ed Hooper. The legislation was amended again to provide a smaller agency of 35 officers or less the ability to seek support from an outside agency when a conflict exists within the investigations’ division. The Appropriations Committee also provided funds to cover a projected increase to the Executive Branch’s Inspector General’s investigative staff. The 112 language remains in place with the addition of part time officers and a clarification to the meaning of complaint by specifying that regardless of origin (internal or external) the investigation must be completed in 180 days. The Fraternal Order of Police (specifically Steve Zona and Lisa Henning) have been excellent partners with us on this legislation. We reached agreement on this week’s amendment with the Florida Police Chiefs’ Association and they have been great partners, too. The legislation is headed to the Senate floor.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also unanimously passed SB 7012 by Senator Lauren Book creating a Mental Health task force to examine the plague of law enforcement officer, correctional officer, and firefighter suicides. The Florida PBA along with the Florida Professional Firefighters, the Fraternal Order of Police, Florida Police Chiefs’ Association, Florida Sheriffs’ Association, and Florida Fire Chiefs Association will have a member on the task force. We thank Senators Lauren Book, Ed Hooper, and Ben Albritton for their work on this task force.

Issues we continue to lobby for

Pay Raises for Florida PBA’s State Bargaining Units:
Florida PBA is the exclusive collective bargaining representative the State Law Enforcement Officers, Florida Highway Patrol, Special Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Security Services (Correctional Officers, Correctional Probation Officers, and Institutional Security Specialist) and Lottery Law Enforcement Officers. The Senate and House released separate pay raise proposals at the end of the week. An agreement on wages must be reached before March 13th.

Florida Retirement System:
Request relief from the FRS COLA suspension for Special Risk Members hired prior to July 1, 2011 and to roll back the years of service/age requirements for FRS members hired after July 1, 2011. We will also begin exploring ways to increase the employers’ contribution rate for members in the investment plan.

Our COLA legislation is being sponsored once again by Representative Chuck Clemons (HB 425) and Senator Joe Gruters (SB 858).

Peer to Peer Legislation:
We are working with a large coalition of law enforcement, corrections and firefighting organizations to create Florida’s first ever “Peer to Peer” support legislation to assist first responders’ with mental health needs. This legislation will provide properly trained peer support in conjunction with other agency resources such as the Employee Assistance Program.

SB 160 by Senator Keith Perry & Representative Joseph Casello (HB 573) are our sponsors.

If you are experiencing signs of depression, or if you are struggling a mental health issue please visit JonsChallenge.org.

Law Enforcement and Correctional Officers Bill of Rights:
The PBA and FOP are teaming up to address the Law Enforcement Officers and Correctional Officers Bill of Rights. A court decision split the definition of a complaint into “internal” and “external” which was never the intention of the statute. We are also extending the bill of rights to part-time officers. Our joint proposal will restore the original definition of complaint in the law.

Our sponsors for this legislation are Representative Wymann Duggan (HB 453) and Senator Ed Hooper (SB 884).