John Littlewolf, Ph.D. is a 2020 graduate of the PHD Program in Leadership and Change at Antioch University.

Dr. Littlewolf at his Dissertation Defense.

L-R: Dr. Elizabeth Holloway, Committee Member, Dr. Donna Ladkin, Committee Chair, Dr. Carolyn Porta, Committee Member

Dissertation Committee

  • Donna Ladkin, Ph.D., Committee Chair
  • Elizabeth Holloway, Ph.D., Committee Member
  • Carolyn Porta, Ph.D., Committee Member


Police, Trauma, PTSD, Debriefing, Rural; Minnesota, Law Enforcement, Narrative

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We call on police officers to respond to all of society’s tragedies. Whether in our metropolitan areas or our rural communities, law enforcement will respond when called upon. The culture of law enforcement is laden with traits of masculinity. These cultural traits can inhibit the processing of traumatic experiences in the individual. While the nature of law enforcement has remained the same, our scientific knowledge regarding trauma has grown. Trauma has a biological impact which can manifest as stress symptomology or PTSD. Our systematic response to trauma in law enforcement has not kept pace with the body of knowledge on trauma. This narrative study highlights the intersection of trauma, law enforcement culture, and solutions in rural Minnesota. Ten dedicated public servants provide their in-depth experience on the problem. The findings support the literature on police officer trauma and law enforcement culture found in larger agencies. The findings show the support structures in place for rural officers, the areas where we can improve, and where we can direct resources. A profound finding is the current practice of deploying outdated interventions (psychological debriefing) that have been shown to be therapeutically ineffective and potentially harmful. As a current law enforcement officer and researcher, this is an insider-study. This dissertation contains graphic depictions of police work. If you are sensitive to trauma, or have had past trauma, this dissertation may be a traumatic trigger for you. This dissertation is available in open access at AURA: Antioch University Repository and Archive, OhioLINK ETD Center,


John Littlewolf, Ph.D.

ORCID Scholar ID #: #0000-0003-3912-6690

John Littlewolf grew up in the City of Cass Lake, on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. He is Anishinabe, a citizen of the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa. John began his law enforcement career in 2009 and has served three tribal law enforcement agencies in Minnesota. In his 10 years of experience he has worked as a patrol officer, a domestic violence and sexual assault investigator, a criminal investigator, and finally, as a conservation officer.

Law enforcement trauma is multi-faceted and includes social and systemic barriers. John noticed early in his career that trauma in policing was unspoken and often endured in silence. John’s own experience includes trauma, the sights and sounds of which will always be with him. He understood that his story regarding trauma was not unique, it was present in his peers also. It is at this proverbial intersection of trauma, law enforcement culture, and the individual officer experiences where John chose to focus his doctoral studies.

John believes we are in the midst of a cultural change on officer trauma. He hopes that this work can contribute to bettering the lives of officers, and in turn, the public they serve.