Summary: Contemporary urban police officers routinely face the deaths of others and must grapple with frequent and profound encounters with their own mortality. Here, Vincent Henry, a 21-year veteran of the New York Police Department, draws on two disparate bodies of theory and research -- policing and the psychology of human responses to death -- to illuminate how officers and the police subculture are shaped by exposures to death. Through extensive field observation and struct ...show moreured interviews with NYPD officers, and by capturing the narrative voices of the officers themselves, Henry gives readers access to areas of police experience and police culture that have never before been comprehensively explored. He defines and distinguishes the range and types of exposures to death in four police subgroups: the rookie cop, patrol sergeant, homicide detective, and crime scene technician. He also speaks with officers who survived combat situations in which an assailant or another officer died. By differentiating these officers' experiences from those of others involved in death work, such as doctors, soldiers, and rescue workers, Henry maps out their singular occupational culture, one that is framed by the potential for violent death, the ritual of police funerals, and strong in-group solidarity.
Ultimately, this provocative book reveals patterns of psychological transformation and social consequences of police encounters with death. Henry identifies five common themes that define the psychological landscape of survivors, including psychic numbing, the death imprint image, suspicion of counterfeit nurturance, death guilt, and the quest to make meaning. Henry's rigorous research methods, in conjunction with the unique insights that come from his personal experience as an officer, have resulted in a comprehensive and highly textured interpretation of police psychology and police behavior. With a foreword by Robert Jay Lifton and a chapter devoted to the local police response to the World Trade Center attacks, Death Work will be of interest not only to psychologists and criminal justice experts but also to police officers eager to gain insight into their unique relationship to death. ...show less