Peer Counseling


Effective communication isn’t just a professional requirement in the demanding realm of law enforcement; it’s also a cornerstone of our personal relationships. Balancing the rigors of the job with the needs of our loved ones requires a nuanced understanding of how to convey, connect and support. From deputies in the field to civilian staff members, the ability to communicate openly and empathetically is paramount to being effective at work and strengthening enduring relationships at home.
Within the law enforcement community, there is a notion that discussing our professional responsibilities with a significant other who isn’t a department member should be approached with caution. This perspective often stems from concerns that our partners may struggle to understand the intricacies of our work or might find certain aspects disconcerting. While I believe not everything has to be disclosed to my wife, I never try to shield her from the realities of the job. In fact, I personally share 98% of what goes on at work with her because I value her input and advice. More than anything, I also want to support a healthy relationship.
Relationships often break down around poor communication, and I’ve landed in some pitfalls myself. As law enforcement, we’re trained to control our emotions, other individuals and situations. We become, in some respects, “control freaks.” This can translate into a tendency to be overly controlling at home, which can be perceived as managerial, overprotective or hypercritical. I’ve made this mistake myself, treating my spouse like a trainee by criticizing her driving, harping on her to be aware of her surroundings and micromanaging plans and tasks around the house. It is important to be aware of this tendency to prevent relationships from devolving into the toxic forms of control and manipulation typically associated with domestic abuse. So, when you get home, throttle down on the control freak meter and give your partner the space and autonomy to do their own thing.
Consider these additional tips to help with effective and truthful communication, which is a vital part of any successful relationship.
• Prioritize listening over speaking; you have one mouth and two ears for a reason.
• Ask clarifying questions, because you can’t help or support if you don’t understand.
• Observe and listen to what’s not being said.
• Your spouse is not a suspect, so don’t question or speak to them as such.
• Think before you speak to avoid saying something you can’t take back. The easiest way to tank a conversation is to name-call or bring up the nonrelevant past.
• Don’t hit below the belt. It should never be about winning an argument, so resist the urge to keep score.
• Focus on reconciling. Remember, you’re on the same team; extend the benefit of the doubt, especially if their intent is sincere and honest. Stick to the facts, steering clear of baseless accusations or unverifiable suspicions. If you can’t prove it, move on.
• Don’t waste your time having an argument if you know it won’t end well. If you find yourself compelled to push buttons for the sake of proving a point, it’s time to re-evaluate the relationship.
• Remember that love is about commitment without conditions. Appreciate your partner for their unwavering support, even in the face of the challenges that come with our demanding profession.
If you’d like to further explore these ideas or have someone to talk through your experiences with, LASD peer supporters are available. They are a trained group of sworn, civilian and professional staff available to provide confidential support for a wide range of personal and professional issues. You can contact a peer supporter directly using the wellness app created for LASD (scan QR code below), or you can call Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500 for additional information or to speak with a licensed psychologist.