Laughter is important in life. To have a long and happy police career there are somethings law enforcement officers should know. Former LAPD Sergeant Joseph Wambaugh has written several police novels. In one was a quote that stayed with me throughout my policing career. One of his characters said, “A police officer needs three things to survive: courage, common sense, and a sense of humor. Most people can survive without one of these, but a police officer never could.” Wambaugh’s wisdom is profound—courage, commonsense, and a sense of humor. We’ve looked at courage and common sense, now let’s look at a sense of humor.
Law enforcement officers see tragedy daily. No one calls the police when things are going well. People call when a relationship becomes violent, when a mother discovers her son hanged himself, when a young lady is raped, when a vehicle slid off the highway, or when a loved one didn’t make it home.
How do officers cope? Humor is one way. One of the things I miss most about policing is the laughter and the practical jokes officers play on each other. Like the rookie officer dispatched to Milam Park in downtown San Antonio for a man with a gun. It takes most rookies a while to figure out the man with a gun is the bronze statue of Texas hero Ben Milam holding a musket over his head! Or when the shift lieutenant was briefing officers on the chief’s latest directive forbidding officers to carry pagers on-duty (remember pagers!), and one of the sergeants called his pager. Without missing a beat, the lieutenant stopped, lifted his pant leg, removed his pager from his boot, checked it, put it back, and continued the briefing. Or the traffic officer who was reported by a citizen to Internal Affairs (IA) for getting a haircut while on duty. When questioned by the IA board why he thought it was okay to get his haircut on duty, his reply was, “It grows on duty.” The chief gave him a day suspension for him to laugh about it.
Rookie officers soon learn that if you can’t laugh at yourself, everyone else will. But there’s a difference between having a good laugh and playing the fool. Policing is serious business and calls for mature and thoughtful responses. Officers who are always serious, often end up with serious health issues.
Humor is not only a good coping mechanism; it’s good medicine. Scripture says, “A joyful heart is good medicine” (Prov. 17:22a). Doctors discovered that there is the medical science behind this truth. A good laugh can actually improve your health. Laughter is powerful medicine for stress, pain, and conflict. Laughter brings things back into balance. One report found, “By seeking out more opportunities for humor and laughter…you can improve your emotional health, strengthen your relationships, find greater happiness—and even add years to your life.”
Here are some things medical science has discovered:
- Laughter relaxes the whole body.
- Laughter boosts the immune system.
- Laughter triggers the release of endorphins.
- Laughter protects the heart.
- Laughter burns calories.
- Laughter lightens anger’s heavy load.
- Laughter lengthens life.
So, learn to laugh; it does a body good.
Policing is dangerous work—courage is necessary. Policing is solving problems—common sense is required. Policing is serious business—a sense of humor is vital. These three things are essential for a well-balanced officer. And officers will do well to remember Wambaugh’s words of advice. But there’s one more thing. We’ll discuss it next time.
The Strong Blue Line on the Road
Although it was a month at home, I had several speaking engagements to start off the year. At the invitation of Watersprings Head of School Katheryn King, I spoke on “Parenting, Who’s in Charge” to their parents’ group on January 8. On the 14th, Lion’s Club Representative Sue Kenny asked me to speak at their regional meeting in Idaho Falls. Sherry and I had a blessed time meeting Lion Club members from across Idaho and across the US. Finally, on the 22nd, Pastor Shane McCurry, the Missions Pastor at Watersprings Church invited me to present TSBL ministries at the annual Outreach Update.
Due to generous donations, San Antonio Police Chaplain Jim Barnette received several books to place at the SAPD Southside Substation. Included are Winning a Gunfight, Suicide is not an Option, and Moral Injury in Policing. Pray the books will be well received and read to officers.
Next month, I hit the road again and will be heading to Mississippi and Louisiana for both law enforcement and chaplain seminars.
Pray for your police.