Death Work Police, Trauma, and the Psychology of Survival

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2004-04-01
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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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 structured 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.

Author Biography

Vincent E. Henry, Ph.D., recently retired from a 21-year career in the NYPD, where he held the rank of Sergeant-Special Assignment and was Commanding Officer of the Special Projects Unit in the Police Commissioner's Office of Management Analysis and Planning. The first American police officer to be named a Fulbright Scholar, he earned his doctorate from the Graduate School and University Center of the City University of New York (John Jay) and is currently Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at Pace University in New York

Table of Contents

Foreword: Robert Jay Lifton vii
Introduction: The Death and Policing Nexus 3(10)
1. Death Work: The General Context 13(32)
2. Police Survivors of Death Encounters: Theoretical Perspective and Strategy of Inquiry 45(40)
3. 'Becoming a Cop": Basic Social and Psychological Processes 85(23)
4. The Rookie's Experience: Introduction to Death 108(40)
5. Patrol Sergeants: Routinization of the Death Encounter 148(30)
6. Crime Scene Detectives: "Technicizing" the Death Encounter 178(24)
7. Homicide Detectives: Emotional Reactions to Violent Death 202(37)
8. Police Survivors: Genuine Threats to the Sense of Immortality 239(63)
9. Reflections and Observations 302(20)
Epilogue: September 11, 2001 322(35)
Notes 357(22)
Bibliography 379(12)
Index 391

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