I think everyone is afraid of something, whether the fear is rational or otherwise. I’m also fond of the expression, ‘If you aren’t scared, then you really don’t understand the situation.” I think what allows cops to hold it together when they are afraid is the excitement, the adrenaline rush of being in a truly dangerous and fast-moving situation. Cops are usually excitement junkies. Part of the appeal of the job is the thrill of handling unknown, potentially explosive situations. Sure, you get scared, but if you act like you’re afraid, you don’t get to play the game. So, you suit up, put on your game face, and confront the unknown.
Those rushes of fear and excitement, plus some repressed anger and other assorted emotions, do take their toll. Cops who don’t find healthy outlets for the unexpended nervous energy become psychological casualties.
Then we have cowards who aren’t fit to be cops or anything that is related to adrenaline!
A Missouri cop who was filmed in the video below is a clear example!
I asked my uncle who’s been in the police for thirty years: Are police officers getting scared often?
Here’s his answer:
I spent 30 years in the field as a police officer. I can’t speak for anyone other than myself. I’ll use pursuing someone as an example. During a high-speed pursuit (I’ve been in many that hit speeds of 120–140+ on the straight parts one of them while operating a police motorcycle) didn’t make me scared while I was actively involved in it. There was just way too much going on. Sensory overload. At those speeds, things are happening so quickly that you don’t really have any extra energy for non-essential tasks (or feelings). It was like that as well with slower-paced, but equally dangerous calls like people with guns, and other dangerous, tactical-type calls. You’re very busy. You’re very focused. You’ve got certain things you need to do and you’re busy doing them. There is little time to think about anything not concerning the immediate task at hand. Adrenaline is a funny thing. When you are on these types of dangerous calls, you are overloaded on adrenaline. Adrenaline plays a role in getting you through a tense, potentially life-threatening situation. Normal people in a situation like this would understandably be thinking “”I’m could die, what do I do?!?” Police officers don’t have this issue. We train and train every conceivable scenario so that when it comes up, we’ve, at least mentally, been there before. We’ve spent countless hours, either in training or in our free time while driving around at work thinking about what we might do in any given situation. When we get thrown into a dangerous situation, we’ve pretty much already figured it out. Getting thrust into a frightening situation and not having a clue how to react is scary, but it’s way less scary if you’ve been well trained and you are prepared mentally.
All this being said, where you are usually never that frightened in the middle of something, when a call like that concludes, you get a huge adrenaline dump that can be a problem for a few minutes. I had one crazy high-speed pursuit (with no help, I was by myself) of a rapist that was so over the top dangerous (and one which nearly ended in a shooting at its termination) I was unable to stand afterward. After I fought him into custody and another unit was transporting the suspect to jail, I had to sit on the curb for several minutes because my legs started shaking so violently. It’s only after these types of events that you think about how dangerous something might have been, generally not during. If you got this scared during an event you’d be rendered ineffective.
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author’s opinion