Empathy in Public Safety & Law Enforcement


One doesn’t often hear the word “empathy” coming out of most Public Safety or Law Enforcement settings.  This is not that important, though, since what is important is that Public Safety and Law Enforcement professionals use empathy.  And they do.

Wikipedia defines empathy as “the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another and feeling with the ‘heart’ of another.”

Some of the most empathy-driven people I have ever known have been Law Enforcement Officers.  They typically don’t get enough credit for their well-developed empathy, the bad encounters usually being what media chooses to share instead.

Empathy may indeed be the most important ingredient in consoling people.  It certainly is an essential pillar in creating a non-escalating environment and helping to de-escalate persons who are experiencing a crisis.

Please see this nice teaching (video below) on empathy – and how it is different from sympathy – from Brene Brown.

We can all grow in our empathy.  Doing so can transform the quality of our relations and can contribute to safer (physically, emotionally, and otherwise) conditions.


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