The Shattered Badge: The Story of Ed Donovan, Stress Cop


236 pages
ISBN 0-458-80460-6




Reviewed by Joan McGrath

Joan McGrath is a Toronto Board of Education library consultant.


Cops are the front-line troops in the warfare that so often erupts in modern society. Domestic disputes, riots, hold-ups, shootouts — in any of these emergencies the public call upon the police for help. But where can the police themselves call for help when the demands of their profession become too heavy and too insistent?

Ed Donovan, Boston street cop and police photographer, knew at first hand the pressures that could break a cop: they had come very close to breaking him. Teetering on the brink of breakdown, contemplating suicide, with a marriage gone under and alcoholism undermining what little was left of his pride and self-confidence, Donovan had just about hit bottom. Happily, he managed to call a halt to the destruction of his life. Alcoholics Anonymous began the good work; his own special qualities and drive did the rest. Not satisfied with saving himself alone, Donovan wanted to help others, his colleagues, trapped by the stress-related occupational hazards of police work: alcoholism, drug addiction, burn-out, divorce, suicide, and terrible damage to family relationships. He became a “Stress Cop,” promoter of ILESA, the International Law Enforcement Stress Association, established in 1970. “It is the goal of this newly formed organization to exchange ideas, information, counseling techniques, and methods; to present findings of studies, to identify problems in all areas, and to help others establish stress programs. This will only work if we unite and share the goals.” The work of the stress reduction program of the Boston Police Force has been recognized and applauded around the world: Ed Donovan was an acclaimed participant in the November 29, 1979, Second International Symposium on the Management of Stress, on a platform with such luminaries in the field as Dr. Hans Selye, Linus Pauling, Roger Guillemin, and Sir Hans Krebs. It was quite a step for a street cop from Boston, but Ed Donovan was equal to this, as to so many other challenges.

This readable account of Ed Donovan’s life and work, of the sociological truth behind his mission, and an inside look at the stress program in action, are persuasive evidence of the importance of his efforts on behalf of the beleaguered men and women in blue, and of the necessity that similar programs be launched and supported on behalf of those who defend the public at such high personal cost and under such destructive conditions.


Kankewitt, Bill, “The Shattered Badge: The Story of Ed Donovan, Stress Cop,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed February 21, 2024,