Shot 15 times, a cop offers 5 keys to increasing officer resilience

Resilience is all about positive mindset, mindfulness, a winning spirit, and keeping things in perspective

Resiliency means bouncing back from adversity. The circumstance does not define the resilient officer. Rather, the resilient officer embraces the situation and understands the importance of rebounding. The resilient officer doesn’t always have all the answers, they won’t be correct, and they won’t always come out on top. But what separates the resilient officer is the inability to quit. They take the ups and downs and chalk each experience up to another learning experience.

One name that tops the list in terms of law enforcement resiliency is retired Lt. Brian Murphy. Lt. Murphy’s ability to keep his composure during his life-threatening incident occurred because he relied on three things: training, resiliency and colleagues (to end the incident).

Lt. Murphy’s story began the morning of August 5, 2012, when a gunman entered a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The active shooter event began when two people were killed in the temple parking lot. The gunman eventually moved from the parking lot into the temple, where four more people were killed and three were wounded.

Lt. Brian Murphy.
Lt. Brian Murphy. (Milwaukee County Sheriffs Office Image)

Lt. Murphy was first on scene of the active shooter incident. A gun battle ensued, and Murphy was shot 15 times: three bullets entered his vest and 12 entered his body (including two headshots).

Despite grievous injuries, what defined Murphy that day was his will to live. Murphy never gave up.  He survived the incident, went home, and thrives today due to his resiliency. Here are Lt. Murphy’s keys to enhancing officer resilience:

  1. Never give up, work around obstacles and adapt in order to be the best you can be. Lt. Murphy credits his time as a Marine in helping sustain his physical and emotional resilience into adulthood.
  2. Resiliency is the ability to carry on no matter what is going on around you. Physical resilience starts with mental resilience.
  3. Understand that everyone has something to teach you. Be willing to listen and learn.
  4. To improve your resiliency from a physical standpoint, get out of your comfort zone every single day.
  5. Being a cop is what you do; it is your job. Being a father, mother, husband, wife, son, or daughter is who you are. Remember the importance of family and nurture these relationships each and every day, because nothing is promised.

​Remember resilience is not innate and all perishable skills must be nurtured. No one knows when they may encounter that life-changing or life-threatening event, but remember the words of Lt. Brian Murphy: “We are stronger than we think; we are able to persevere longer than we ever thought we could. It’s inside each of us – the spirit to endure. The question really is: how badly do we want to work for it?”

Lt. Murphy explains: “We don’t pick when bad shit happens, it picks us. It’s what we do that separates each of us. If you were going to be in a fight for your life tomorrow; how hard would you train today?”

You must answer that question right here, right now, and begin building and nurturing your resilience today, because it could just save your life tomorrow.

NEXT: Building a culture of resiliency from the top down

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