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3 tips for burned-out cops

Consider the following suggestions to help you renew or maintain a sense of purpose and passion in law enforcement

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It is important to maintain a positive outlook to have a successful career in law enforcement.


By Ben Pugh

There comes a point in all of our police careers when any number of things can lead to our passion for policing to decline.

Sometimes it’s the simple things like just being physically worn out from shift work that can hinder our enthusiasm. Other times, it’s due to low police morale or the negative environment in your department or your workgroup/team. Sometimes, 20-25 years of the same thing becomes a depressingly ordinary routine (even in policing) and you need something new to look forward to.
When you face these challenges, consider the following quick suggestions to help you renew or maintain a sense of purpose and passion in law enforcement:


While it will be much harder in a smaller department, it is important to maintain a positive outlook and to associate with people who don’t see that light at the end of the tunnel as an oncoming train.

Get to know officers at surrounding departments who help keep you encouraged, rather than deflated.

Also, make sure you maintain friendships that are outside the world of law enforcement to remind you that there is actually still a “normal” out there that you might be missing out on.

One annual event that will keep you inspired to continue in your law enforcement career is “Police Week.” Held each year in Washington, D.C., every cop needs to make this pilgrimage at least once in their career. It is the greatest way to remember you are not alone and that you have an entire army holding the thin blue line with you.

I’d also add, that being part of a community of faith can be an extremely helpful way of processing what you deal with on a day-to-day basis, as well as a way of keeping a more positive set of influences in your life.


Yes, I know, “Mind. Blown.” I don’t offer any studies here because there isn’t much debate to be had. Exercising often, eating well and getting plenty of rest are well-known ways to help reduce and relieve stress in our lives.

Fight the natural decline to become the “cliche cop” who has lost the ability to help him/herself. You need to be healthy for the ones who love and support you, not to mention those who work alongside you. Their very lives may depend on your ability to physically help them.

While every department will generally have standards for police firearms training and other areas of the job surrounding legal and policy updates, very few incentivize their warriors to truly stay fit or even more importantly: fighting fit. Think about how often you have to go “hands-on” with a subject versus how likely you are to be engaged in using your firearm. Both skills are perishable and necessary, but one is often more neglected than the other.


Whether you desire to finish out the full 25 – or whatever number of years to retirement at your department – or you would like to move on to a new career, having something to look forward to is a powerful means of change. But rather than just talk about it, we recommend reverse engineering it; this means that you need to start with the end in mind.

Once you have a clear idea or image of where you’d like to ideally be, rationally determine the steps necessary to get there. Once the steps are clear, take action and start moving and adjusting as needed. Having such goals and action plans can help restore passion for the tasks at hand.

This image of the future may include what you’d like to accomplish in your law enforcement career or what you’d like to accomplish outside of it. Better yet, it may include it all.

These aren’t be all and end all solutions, but just some quick suggestions to get you thinking. These suggestions are also beneficial for those who support law enforcement officers so that you know the areas in which you can encourage them.

Stay safe out there!

This article, originally published 02/12/2016, has been updated.

Uniform Stories features a variety of contributors. These sources are experts and educators within their profession. Uniform Stories covers an array of subjects like field stories, entertaining anecdotes, and expert opinions.