Book excerpt: Body, Mind and Badge: Strategies for Navigating Trauma and Resilience in Law Enforcement

Police1.com Editor’s Note: The following is excerpted from “Body, Mind and Badge: Strategies for Navigating Trauma and Resilience in Law Enforcement” by Kathryn Hamel, Ph.D. The book focuses on two imperative components of law enforcement wellness: physical fitness and resiliency. Cultivating both will allow law enforcement personnel to cope with the stress and trauma of critical incidents and come out on the other side of the event a more resilient version of themselves. Click here for more information. 

THE ROLE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT RESILIENCY TRAINING

Resiliency training – or developing “psychological armor” (Miller 1999) – helps law enforcement personnel build resiliency. Training includes stress inoculation training, hardiness training, pre-crisis psychoeducation, and cognitive-behavioral techniques to decrease the physiological response to stress such as mindfulness and progressive relaxation.

From the beginning, law enforcement training should incorporate building the resiliency of recruits, so that when they graduate and become officers, they have developed psychological and tactical armor that makes them able to adjust and adapt to fluid situations and maintain their mental toughness (Miller 2014). Resiliency training increases feelings of competence and mastery in decision making and tactics, and enhances law enforcement officers’ perception of control. Resiliency training builds confidence and feelings of self-efficacy; those, in turn, increase the development of resiliency and contribute to improved health and positive outcomes post-critical incident (Arnetz et al. 2013; Arnetz et al. 2009; Backman et al. 1997).

Police work is stressful and can cause several mental health issues. From the beginning, in pre-academy and at the academy, recruits are taught to be strong and stoic. Historically, the culture of law enforcement perceives asking for help as weakness. In fact, a study of 178 male police officers found that they avoided seeing a mental health professional because of the stigma attached in going to a “shrink” for help (Papazoglou and Andersen 2014). Thus, trauma often isolates people in the police culture because of this stigma. One way to address this barrier and create a cultural shift to promote resiliency in police officers is through training at the beginning of their career while in the academy.

According to Papazoglou, missing from police training programs is education on the impact of trauma for officers who are exposed to high levels of stress and trauma; the normalization of asking for help; and the purpose and benefits of peer support programs. To build trust and partnership with recruits, a police academy should utilize a student-centered training environment (Papazoglou and Andersen 2014). This environment can enhance a student’s adaptive coping skills, physical fitness, and effectiveness. Student-centered training could increase a sense of connection between recruit and police trainer that can model creating close relationships. These close relationships serve as an integral component for creating a sense of belonging, promoting resiliency, and reducing isolation in the aftermath of a critical incident (Papazoglou and Andersen 2014).

Research and practice-based recommendations include having police trainers come from law enforcement agencies and be a part of the police culture. This enhances their credibility and gets buy-in from the recruits from the beginning. Police trainers have a unique opportunity to influence the health and longevity of the recruits’ careers in law enforcement by establishing an acceptance of talking about police stress and trauma. It’s also recommended to include the following topics in the training curriculum: psychoeducation on the mental and physical impact of traumatic events; reducing stigma in the police culture by helping recruits understand emotions like fear, anxiety, and terror experienced during the course of a career in law enforcement are normal and not signs of weakness; and education on the value of peer support and other programs that can assist with mental health concerns (Papazoglou and Andersen 2014).

Some comprehensive programs to increase resiliency already have been designed. By learning to control perceptions, feelings, thoughts, and reactions through progressive rehearsal or stress inoculation training before a critical incident occurs, officers develop a core of resiliency that is both mental and operational (Miller 1999).

Stress inoculation training focuses on the person’s beliefs in their ability to cope with the stressors. The training involves three phases. The first phase is educational. The second phase is increasing a skill set or rehearsing what was just learned in a classroom setting. The third phase includes a practice phase where participants practice using the coping skills learned during phase two (Southwick et al. 2015). This type of training is used in law enforcement settings so that officers can learn tactics and condition themselves to respond to high-stress situations. In the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting, it is not uncommon to hear the officer say, “My training kicked in and I did what I was supposed to do.”

Simulation exercises also help stress inoculate officers in responding to high-stress incidents. Trainings that explain realistic outcomes and build positive beliefs promote an ability to distinguish personal and situational constraints, which gives officers an opportunity to learn and increase future mastery of, and confidence in, their tactics, decision making, and responses to critical incidents. Another program to build resiliency is hardiness training. Hardiness is a psychological concept that is made up of three interrelated components, which include commitment, control, and challenge. Commitment refers to the ability to turn a tragedy into something meaningful. The second component, control, regards feelings of control or believing that one has influence over life events. This way of thinking prevents long-term feelings of helplessness. Challenge, the third component, is the capacity to experience stressful and adverse events as challenges rather than threats, while also seeing the situation as an opportunity for growth. There is evidence that hardiness can be learned and increased through training that teaches people how to address feelings of perceived loss of control, cope with stress, and build on the ability to give and receive social support (Southwick et al. 2015).

Psychoeducation training is yet another resilience-building technique. Psychoeducation helps to front-load the process with first responders by creating awareness. With this awareness, police officers learn that the acute stress reactions or post-traumatic symptoms experienced in the aftermath of a tragedy are normal. Normalizing reactions through education and real-world examples help to validate that they are not alone, aren’t weak, and aren’t going crazy. I’ve experienced this firsthand. It’s very common during my “Impact of Trauma for Law Enforcement” class for students to approach during the breaks to discuss or disclose their reactions to a critical incident. It’s not uncommon to have a student say, “I wished I had known this 20 years ago when I started my career.”

For psychoeducation to be useful in resiliency training, there is imperative to choose the right instructors. Educators who are police personnel bring credibility and increase the likelihood of a cultural shift that gives permission to law enforcement personnel to be human in response to critical incidents and that “It’s ok to not be ok.” This empowers personnel to understand that what they are experiencing isn’t mental weakness and that talking about what they experienced can help reduce post-traumatic stress symptoms and increase post-traumatic growth (Papazoglou and Andersen 2014).

Overall, researchers found that psychoeducation led to improvement in health measures before, during, and after a critical incident. It also increases “positive emotion, vitality, reduced negative emotion and depressive symptoms, and improved self-regulation in response to stress” (Andersen et al. 2015, p. 5).

New types of resiliency training that are currently underutilized are cognitive-behavioral techniques that manage stress reactions. Training that is psychological in nature or perceived as “touchy-feely” will take time to integrate into law enforcement training and culture in general. Yet their use is growing.

Mindfulness training is one cognitive-behavioral technique of resiliency building that is new to police work. Lt. Richard Goerling with the U.S. Coast Guard is at the head of a movement that provides a different type of support for officers—one that perceives mindfulness as a protective factor for them personally and for the communities they serve. “We as a profession cannot be tactically sound, operationally savvy, guard people, and put our life on the line for people we may not ever meet if we can’t see or handle the tragedy and heartache that’s part of our every day job” (Goerling 2016). Empirical research and science show that mindfulness is helpful. Moreover, the scientific evidence encourages officers to find legitimacy in the concept, which means more openness to trying it (Goerling 2016).

In “Officer Safety Corner: The Role of Mindfulness Training in Policing a Democratic Society,” Lt. Goerling addresses the reality of the police culture and how it often takes a large-scale critical incident like a line of duty death or suicide for a department to create a wellness program that addresses the psychological impact of police work. Historically, these programs were reactive and left to the individual officer to manage. But, he argues, reactive models of wellness are not going to prevent complex and long-term police trauma. Rather, a preventative holistic model that includes mindfulness and addresses the mental, physical, and spiritual wellness of personnel will build resiliency (Goerling 2016). According to Richard Strozzi-Heckler, who has trained U.S. Army Special Forces in meditation and mindfulness, “Teaching meditation to police officers makes sense, culturally and scientifically. Meditation speaks to the warrior soul and teaches critical skills in self-awareness” (Goerling 2016, p. 2).

Police training programs spend a lot of money and energy on situational awareness, operations, and tactics. Mindfulness training has been shown to improve neuroplasticity of the brain which results in developing pathways to increased operational, mental, and psychological resiliency (Goerling 2016). Police organizations that proactively integrate mindfulness training into their culture from the leadership down are building the adaptive capacity of their personnel. First responders who develop a warrior mindset that includes mindfulness learn to respond to a critical incident, work through the process of adapting in the aftermath, and can become mentally stronger than where they started—all of which can lead to post-traumatic growth (Goerling 2016).

Other cognitive-behavioral techniques use relaxation practices like progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, and guided imagery. Mind-body connection to resiliency training can include yoga, dance therapy, and tai chi. Journaling is another self-directed, non-stigmatizing coping strategy that can help law enforcement personnel. Exploring irrational beliefs and reducing overgeneralizations that cause negative thought patterns also reduce depression and cynicism in law enforcement professionals. Humor is often used as a coping strategy; it creates bonds and helps with healing after a traumatic event. Lastly, police trainers can model trusting relationships and active listening to increase a recruit’s self-control and efficacy. New police officers who feel a sense of control may be better able to cope with organizational and operational stress while remaining resilient in the face of personal adversity or a traumatic event (Papazoglou and Andersen 2014).

The various trainings for resiliency – stress inoculation, hardiness, pre-crisis psychoeducation, and cognitive behavioral techniques – have a number of benefits to personnel including increased self-awareness and competence, reduction in stress responses during a crisis, and self-mastery. Through proactive resiliency training, organizations create a culture that increases the mental, physical, and spiritual health of personnel, which, in effect, increases resiliency in the law enforcement warriors who serve and protect the community.

NEXT: Building resilience in law enforcement: Purpose, control & leadership

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Your tax-deductible contribution will go a long way to ensure the office of Sheriff in Missouri remains a strong, independent office answerable to those citizens that it is sworn to serve and protect.

Getting Started with First Responder Therapy Dogs Webinar

Dogs have long been recognized for their unique ability to relate to humans. Bonding with a dog can lower blood pressure and release mood-elevating hormones. It can make you smile, laugh and live in the moment. Today, many public safety agencies use therapy dogs to relieve personnel following tough calls, as well as to defuse the natural tension that comes with the job. Therapy dogs are proving to be a key ingredient in agency wellness programs, helping first responders process the trauma they experience, reduce anxiety, cope with grief—and sometimes, just reset between calls. Join Lexipol in this special event to learn more about how a first responder therapy dog program can benefit your agency. You’ll Learn:

  • How a therapy dog program benefits personnel, the agency and the community 
  • Key program considerations, from funding and handler compensation to dog selection and training
  • Different therapy dog program models 
  • How to build executive-level support 

The webinar is scheduled for noon Central Daylight, 1 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday, May 11,It will be presented by: Chief Neil Gang, Captain Reed Norwood and Marie Ridgeway, MSW, LICSW, RYT

Presented by:

 

Chief Neil Gang
Pinole (CA) Police 
Department

Captain Reed Norwood
West Metro (CO) Fire Department
Marie Ridgeway, MSW, LICSW, RYT
Founder and Police Therapist
Marie Ridgeway & Associates 
Shoreview, MN

Register today!Registration is free. Can’t make it? Register anyway and we’ll send you a recording after the event.

Questions? Contact us.

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Your tax-deductible contribution will go a long way to ensure the office of Sheriff in Missouri remains a strong, independent office answerable to those citizens that it is sworn to serve and protect.

Could a Fire Service Shift Schedule Work for Law Enforcement?

Chief Aaron Nelson (pictured second from right) believes the new shift schedule solves officer health and wellness issue issues and creates longevity in the career. (Kittitas Police Department)

 

Article by Tim Dees for Police 1 | Police1.com

Law enforcement officers kid their fellow first responders in the fire service over the firefighters’ ability to sleep at the firehouse while they’re on the clock. A small police agency in Washington state is scheduling its officers on a similar model and getting great results.

The City of Kittitas (KITT-i-tass) lies in central Washington. The city is surrounded by farmland, has about 1,500 people, and is seven miles east of Ellensburg, home to Central Washington University. The police department has four sworn officers, including the chief, Aaron Nelson.

Nelson came onto the chief’s job suddenly, about a year ago. “My chief retired unexpectedly, and I was left trying to figure out how I can possibly provide 24-hour coverage with four cops, myself included, and still somehow train and account for vacations, with an overtime budget of $3,000 for the whole year. It just didn’t seem possible.”

Officers are able to park the cars inside the heated garage of a former fire station and have them plugged in.
Officers are able to park the cars inside the heated garage of a former fire station and have them plugged in. (Kittitas Police Department)

FIRE SERVICE-TYPE SCHEDULE

When the town’s fire department merged with a regional fire authority, it left vacant a newly remodeled firehouse, attached to city hall and across the hallway from the police station. Chief Nelson got the idea to put the city’s police officers on a fire service-type schedule. “Initially, we tried a 24/48, 24 hours on duty, 48 hours off duty. That worked really well but just didn’t give the officers enough time to reset. A two-day weekend was just really not conducive to good mental health and wellness for our officers.”

The chief then tried a 48/96 schedule, two 24-hour days on duty, followed by four days off.

“The intention of this was just to somehow manage to fill our coverage,“ said Nelson. “What it ended up being was a huge boost to officer wellness and a huge boost to how the officers interact with people. I’ve lost count of how many compliments we’ve gotten from citizens on how well they’re treated and how happy the officers seem to be. And just in my daily interactions with the officers who are working the schedule, their morale is through the roof.”

EXTRA FACILITIES, CONTROL OVER SCHEDULE

The repurposed fire station offered facilities the officers didn’t have before.

“We have a full bunk room, a full kitchen, a living room and a laundry center,” said Nelson. ”Officers are able to park the cars inside a heated garage and have them plugged in. We retrofitted the cars so they’re plugged into a 110-volt outlet, so the computer and hotspot stay powered up. You’re ready to work on a moment’s notice.”

Initially, officers were required to spend a minimum number of hours patrolling, splitting the time between day and night. That gave way to a more flexible arrangement, where each officer decided when they were going to patrol and for how long.

“The less we manage them, the more proactive they are, the better they do about managing their own time and making sure they’re present,” said Nelson. ”I came from the private sector. I had my own company for 10 years before I became a cop. One of the things I learned as a leader is if you give somebody something good, they will go out of their way not to ruin it. By allowing the officers to budget their time as they saw fit, they made more traffic stops, more social contacts and patrolled more in the hours after midnight. They saw to it that the school zone was monitored every day when students were going to and from class.”

Sergeant Alan Parker echoed how the flexible schedule made him more productive: “When we had a set schedule of when you should be sleeping, it kind of restricted what we could do. If I have to be up at a certain time, then that means I’m going to go to bed at a certain time. Now that we’ve transitioned, we just basically take naps throughout that 48 hours. We’re getting consistently more proactive police work out of each officer for each 24-hour cycle.”

SCHEDULE LOGISTICS, COMPENSATION

Compensation hasn’t been as much of an issue as one might expect. Officers are paid for 18 out of every 24 hours on duty. The remaining six hours are considered to be “on call.” If they are called out during that time, they are paid overtime, with a two-hour minimum. Officers wind up working nine to ten 24-hour shifts over a calendar month.

With regard to ensuring adequate coverage for high-risk calls, Kittitas PD has the same issues any small agency experiences. Chief Nelson works a more conventional schedule, so there is usually only one officer on duty at any one time. The chief makes himself available to cover when needed during his duty hours and when off duty. The county sheriff’s office can also respond to back up city officers. The chief is trying to get another two officers hired so that there would be two cops on duty most hours.

Although Kittitas PD is clearly a small agency, Chief Nelson believes that the 48/96 schedule would work even better in a larger department. “A city with a 30,000 to 40,000 population has, probably, 30 cops. They’re used to having two to four cops per shift. With the 48/96 plan, you have 10. So if somebody goes to training, no big deal. If somebody goes on sick leave, no big deal. You have plenty of people.” If an officer takes a week off for vacation or training, the PD doesn’t have to backfill four or five duty shifts. They need to cover only one 48-hour tour if they even need to cover the shifts at all.

Word is spreading fast on the effectiveness of the 48/96 schedule. Nelson is meeting with a nearby agency that is considering the adoption of this schedule and is flying out soon to meet with management at another 50-officer department that is interested.

This innovative schedule clearly offers a benefit to the citizens of Kittitas, but Chief Nelson feels just as strongly about its benefit for the cops who work it. “It solves health and wellness issue problems. It creates longevity in the career. I mean, at eight years, I was ready to go, burnt out. I spent my whole career on the night shift, mostly working weekends, never saw my family, missed my kids growing up. Does that sound familiar? Like every other cop in the world. And that’s why you get people who punch out of this career after seven or eight years because it dominates your life. With this schedule, it no longer dominates your life. You can have a life outside of law enforcement.”

POLICE1 READERS RESPOND

  • I think it would be a great schedule for my agency. Even with dispatchers. We have a perfect building that we patrol that would work perfectly for this kind of schedule. It’s all about how you present it to the board and showing them the statistics in numbers of the benefits that this schedule would provide.
  • It sounds great, but for larger departments, where would officers park and snooze? No empty buildings or garages and for the city to put up buildings, would not fly with taxpayers. I’m retired and we worked 16 hours on/8 hours off, then 16 hours on/4 days off. It’s worth a try for larger departments. 

Could this schedule work in your jurisdiction? Share your opinions.

About the author

Tim Dees is a writer, editor, trainer and former law enforcement officer. After 15 years as a police officer with the Reno Police Department and elsewhere in northern Nevada, Tim taught criminal justice as a full-time professor and instructor at colleges in Wisconsin, West Virginia, Georgia and Oregon. He was also a regional training coordinator for the Oregon Dept. of Public Safety Standards & Training, providing in-service training to 65 criminal justice agencies in central and eastern Oregon.

Tim has written more than 800 articles for nearly every national law enforcement publication in the United States. He is the author of The Truth About Cops, a collection of answers written for Quora.com. He now writes on police applications of technology in law enforcement from his home in SE Washington state.

Tim holds a bachelor’s degree in biological science from San José State University, a master’s degree in criminal justice from The University of Alabama, and the Certified Protection Professional credential from ASIS International. He can be reached at tim@timdees.com.

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Career-Ending Injuries? Ladies and Gentlemen, Lend Me Your Ears

By D.C. Pauley | Calibre Press

Even in retirement, many of my friends are active or former First Responders.  The number of them that can relate to this story (even partially) is disconcerting. Please read on.

Brief background:

After about ten years’ service in a suburban Chicago area Police Department, I was yearning for a change of pace and ready to embark on something new. I moved from the Midwest to Colorado and completed the certification process to get Colorado POST certified and hired as a “lateral”.

I took a Law Enforcement position in Southwest Colorado, at a Colorado town known for excellent skiing and music festivals. Attractions were a 4-day workweek, numerous nearby National Parks and circles of friends with the “outdoors” lifestyle. My new hobbies included backpacking, mountaineering, canyoneering, caving, and ice-climbing.  It was great; every weekend I could choose to embark on outdoor adventures that I could never afford to do from the Midwest.  It was also conducive to maintaining a high degree of physical fitness, an important personal goal of mine.

I had built a healthy LE resume, starting two years into my Law Enforcement career, as a firearms Instructor, rangemaster and tactical trainer. Additionally, I was an adjunct instructor at some of the best firearms schools in the nation. Suffice to say that I was fortunate enough to do more firearms training and shooting each year than most officers do in their entire careers.  A lot more. This volume of training and shooting mandated purchasing the very best hearing protection and often, doubling up with earplugs under electronic muffs.  I have heard and given all the range “protect yourself, your-eyes and ears” safety briefings. I was adequately protecting myself. Or so I thought.

I continued my role as firearms trainer/instructor with my new department as well as with my other venues. As hearing protection technology got even better over the years and I constantly upgraded my muffs with better models, sparing no expense.  Five-day shooting schools? Running qualification shoots? Flashbang training? No problem, I was doubled up with the best protective equipment.

After eight years of working loud, outdoor music festivals and doing numerous deafening bar-nightclub checks every night I worked, the gradual hearing loss still seemed to rebound within a few days. Mostly. The initial hearing loss was gradual. It was difficult to objectively measure. I had made Sergeant and was pretty much preoccupied with helping manage the Department.

And so it began…

In 2005 (in my mid-40s), I purchased a conventional over-the-ear hearing aid for my left ear and noticed that it did help when talking to people. This technology even had a “blocking” feature for sounds over a certain decibel level.  This device was, essentially, another layer of noise protection. Except for having batteries, it was not much more trouble than wearing eyeglasses.

When working, I placed my corded radio police pac-set mic up on my shoulder area near the hearing aid. This way, police radio traffic was not hard for me to hear. My right ear was “free” to hear conversation and close proximal personal interaction.

The “Threshold” event

At one of the last concerts of 2018, (the town had obtained updated, even louder sound towers in 2016) I was working close to the sound towers for 10-15 minutes, helping sort out the usual problems that occur backstage. I have never experienced sound waves so unbelievably loud. Every sound pulse resonated through my body like a blast wave. At the conclusion of the concert, I experienced some vertigo and nausea walking out of the venue. The battery in my hearing aid was dead from trying to block the noise; I never heard the “low battery” chime. Both ears were in fact, unprotected.

After a few weeks, I could tell that my hearing was not rebounding back. The tinnitus (ear ringing) was loud enough to almost block out normal conversation. I was also experiencing hyperacusis (a painful super-sensitivity to certain sounds).

At the Audiologist’s

After a battery of various audio tests, it was determined that my hearing was so irreparably damaged that I was a candidate for a hearing device called a “BAHA” that is a “Bone-Anchored Hearing Apparatus”. This is a skull-mounted resonance device about the size of a large button, that processes sound, using the natural resonance of porous bone, thus bypassing the damaged inner ear and rerouting sound signals to the brain. I am told this gadget is installed on babies born without hearing. It seats on a 5mm titanium abutment that is placed in a hole drilled into the skull. It has a friction-fit, like a snap, so it is removable. I have the BAHA on my left side, and a very powerful conventional hearing aid on my right side. See the picture; it is the grayish thing behind my left ear.

Getting one’s hearing corrected is absolutely unlike getting eyeglasses. Hearing enhancements almost never restore one’s hearing back to “normal”. The minimal gains for most permit some level of daily audio-functioning. As for the shrieking tinnitus and hyperacusis, the advice is just “Learn to live with it”. Ultimately, even with high-tech corrective hearing devices, it was determined I could not reliably perform my Law Enforcement duties up to par. Personal communication challenges aside, the devices are fragile and have many serious limitations.  Thus ended a career of over three decades.

Now hear this….

I am still able to do many of the things that I love doing, especially the previously mentioned outdoor activities. I can still attend and conduct classroom, dojo and range training / firearms shoots.

That said, I want to articulate my motive behind selecting and sharing this topic. Post-retirement, I still maintain friendships and have a foot in Law Enforcement-First Responder circles. The topic of damaged hearing comes up, and much too frequently my colleagues say that they too have hearing damage and some level of hearing loss. Protect yourselves, completely. Indeed, there are many damaging, insidious, gradual ways to get hearing loss, beyond the obvious firearms trainings. As First Responders / LEOs we are exposed to them daily.

Takeaways / The things I have learned:

– Firearms training is NOT the only job hazard that can inflict hearing damage and loss.

– Some people are genetically pre-disposed to damage from soundwaves (!) I confirmed this as fact with my audiologist.

– Once hearing is “lost”, it is unlikely to be restored. Hearing apparatuses can help a bit in some cases.

– Hearing damage and loss is degenerative. More exposure to the hazards damages the hearing more until there is little left. A little hearing loss today can be functionally deaf months from now.

– If you suspect you may have hearing damage/loss, get tested ASAP to see how far down the “damage path” you are. The hearing aid technology does offer a little protection.

– My hearing loss process was gradual…until one night it wasn’t.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I am glad and grateful that my career-ending injuries are not worse. But I’m appealing to other First-Responder brothers and sisters to step back and perhaps evaluate their exposure and personal experience with job related hearing damage. A measure of care, awareness and applied technology can go a long way in curbing hearing loss that you’ll never regain.

Thank You All. Stay safe out there.

Comments? Insights. E-mail us at: editor@calibrepress.com

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‘Care Not Cuffs’: Redefining Mental Health Outreach

How do we better connect individuals with mental illness with community partners to achieve better health outcomes?


Download this week’s episode on Apple PodcastsAmazon MusicStitcherSpotify or via RSS feed.

The past few years have shed light on what may be described as “mission creep” in policing. Law enforcement officers have been asked to do an awful lot of duties that may have not been on the original job description of being a cop. Things like dealing with drug addiction and homeless issues certainly stretch the expertise of professional law enforcement personnel. 

The “defund” movement may have actually been good in outsourcing some of those duties. Most of us can agree that dealing with people afflicted with serious mental health issues has been problematic and vexing. Solutions are appearing. The FCC recently adopted rules to establish 988 as the new, nationwide, three-digit phone number for mental health emergencies, set to go live on July 16, 2022. Dispatchers will triage calls to route them to the most appropriate resource-civilian medical or law enforcement.

In this episode of Policing Matters, host Jim Dudley speaks with Dr. Vincent Atchity of Mental Health Colorado and the Equitas Project about the organization’s Care Not Cuffs initiative about how to connect individuals with mental illness with community partners that can help achieve better health outcomes and more efficiently managed costs.

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Staff Shortages at State Hospitals Causing ‘Workforce Crisis’

 

Hundreds of inmates in county jails throughout Missouri are awaiting inpatient psychiatric care but can’t receive it due to severe staff shortages at state hospitals.

“We are truly struggling with a workforce crisis,” Valerie Huhn, director of the Department of Mental Health, told state representatives at a hearing last week.

In county jails, 160 inmates are on a waiting list for state-run psychiatric hospitals, having been mandated to be treated for “competency restoration” in order to stand trial. Another 65 inmates have been evaluated by the mental health agency and were determined incompetent for trial; the department is waiting for court orders and will add them to the waiting list, as well.

 

But there aren’t enough staff at the hospitals to care for the patients.

Fulton State Hospital, for example, is so understaffed that services in a 25-bed ward have been frozen and the hospital is unable to take new admissions, Huhn said. There are only 761 staff working at the hospital – compared to the 1,176 the department has budgeted for.

At present, the average wait time to be admitted is about six months, a department spokeswoman said. In Boone County, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office confirmed the jail has recently experienced delays in transferring detainees to state hospitals for mental health care. He did not specify how many transfers had been delayed.

The jail does provide mental health services through a contracted health care organization. If the court or medical staff determines that an inmate needs inpatient care, the jail helps coordinate a transfer.

The situation has consequences for patient care. Housing these patients in jails rather than at state facilities means delaying their evaluation and treatment, in some cases prolonging their ability to stand trial, Huhn said. Many can’t be treated in jail settings and their condition will worsen.

 

“We’re trying to bring in mobile crisis so we can at least manage meds,” she said. “But in terms of treatment, group, anything like that to restore them to competency, it’s really just very limited.”

Staff shortages at mental health facilities have been critical for months. In a hearing with members of the state House, Huhn said the department is over-relying on contracted staff to make up for the statewide shortage, further diminishing the quality of care. Every facility in the state is also requiring employees to work overtime, contributing to burnout and turnover. Officials point to low pay for state workers as a key factor in the shortage.

Gov. Mike Parson has proposed a pay increase of 5.5% for state workers, or a minimum wage of $15 an hour. It would include those working at mental health facilities. Parson had hoped the proposal would pass by Feb. 1, but the spending bill that includes the wages has yet to be approved by the House Budget Committee.

“We need to get people back into facilities so we can stop requiring overtime,” Huhn said.

The shortages are not just affecting hospitals. Other mental health treatment centers, including programs that provide substance abuse treatment or work with teens and children, are also struggling with inadequate and overworked staff.

“We literally have people who go on their break and we don’t see them again,” Nora Bock, director of the Division of Behavioral Health, said at the hearing.

But even a pay increase won’t solve everything, officials have noted. Additional inpatient beds are also needed. The governor’s budget recommendations for fiscal year 2023 include allocations for 25 beds and staff at St. Louis Forensic Treatment Center-North, but that’s still not enough to allay the current waiting list.

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12 Career Tips for Cops

Story By Calibre Press | calibrepress.com

 

When it comes to navigating a career in policing, sometimes even the seemingly smallest pieces of advice from those with years of experience can have a major impact on your job and your life. In his co-authored reference guide, Pocket Partner, which is packed with helpful informational tidbits that span a stunning range of topics, Dennis Evers shares 12 tips that can prolong and improve your career. We felt they were worth sharing.

If you have any additional advice you would like to share worth fellow officers, let us know! We may share them in an upcoming newsletter.

Here are the 12 keys to a longer, safer and healthier career Dennis shared:

1. Attitude: Attitude is everything. If you bring your personal problems to work, or simply fail to remain focused, you, your partner, or a citizen could pay the price.

2. Lifestyle: Not only is adequate rest important, but overall physical fitness as well. If a foot pursuit kills you, get in shape. Mom’s right – eat more fruits and vegetables.

3. Equipment: You are only as good as your equipment is functional. Keep a clean weapon, fresh ammo, and know how to use it in high stress situations. Fresh batteries in your flashlight and radio are a must. Maintain and know all of your gear. Wear a vest.

4. Intuition: After working the field you should develop a “sixth sense” that intuitively alerts you to the possibility of danger. If you don’t, consider a different line of work. If your inner voice tells you something’s not right, don’t shrug it off.

5. False bravado: If you need back-up, call for it. Never be afraid to admit to yourself that a situation is bigger than you are. Denial can hurt.

6. Position is everything: Never, ever, under any circumstances, let anyone you are questioning get into a better tactical position than you. On traffic stops, takedowns, domestics, and life in general, maintain the most advantageous position you can.

7. Dropping your guard: Treat all false alarms as real, all domestics as critical, all arrests as hazardous and no call as routine, and you should finish your shift.

8. Vigilance: Always watch a suspect’s hands and be aware of “suspicious” moves. “Tune in” to the entire scene, ambushes, hidden suspects and on and on and on…

9. Handcuff when justified: Always properly handcuff when appropriate. Love isn’t the tie that binds, it’s a half pound of cold steel.

10. Search: Weapons come in all shapes and sizes. Thoroughly search all suspects and use proper personal protection against needles, razors, etc. A ball point pen stuck through your eyeball can ruin your day.

11. React: Many cops that have been shot and survived stated they just couldn’t believe it was happening to them. Gun, knife or fist, BELIEVE IT, react immediately, and with appropriate force. Bad guys are called bad for a reason.

12. Think cover. If all else fails, leave yourself an out. Avoid open spaces. Remember the three “Cs”—COVER! COVER! COVER!

Have additional wisdom to share? What’s the key to making a career in policing better, safer, more emotionally survivable? We’d love to hear your tips. We may share them in an upcoming newsletter.

E-mail us at: editor@calibrepress.com

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Sober Apps: New Tools to Help Those in Recovery

Addiction counseling, in-person meetings, new hobbies – all of these activities are used by those in recovery. You can now add smartphone applications (apps) to this list. This technology is now being used by many as a tool to help an individual maintain their recovery. 

Check out a few of the apps* – all free and available to download on both iPhones and Androids – below:

 

Connections App

The Addiction Policy Forum teamed up with CHESS Health to launch Connections. According to their website, this app supports patients in recovery by reducing relapse and promoting pro-social engagement. 

Through the app, you can track your sobriety, message trained counselors, receive clinical support, and much more.

Learn how you can download the app.

 

IAmSoberApp

The IAmSoberApp is an ad-free motivational companion app that tracks sobriety (milestones, how much money saved and more).  In addition, the app reminds users to commit to staying sober through daily pledges, and allows them to document their activities throughout the day (making them aware of any possible triggers).

Google Play:  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.thehungrywasp.iamsober&hl=en_US

iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/al/app/i-am-sober-sobriety-counter/id672904239?mt=8
 

Sober Grid

Sober Grid is an app that connects individuals in recovery. Its features include: a “Burning Desire” button, which someone can press to let friends on the app know when they‘re facing temptation and need help; a GPS locator that can connect you to nearby app users and more.

Google Play:  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sobergrid&hl=en
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sober-grid-sober-social-network/id912632260?mt=8


Sober Tool 

This app, developed by a certified alcohol and drug counselor, focuses on preventing a person in recovery from relapsing. Some of the materials the app includes are related to mindfulness training, 12 step practice, stress reduction techniques and more.

Google Play:
https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.osu.cleanandsobertoolboxandroid&hl=en
iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sobertool-alcoholism-addiction/id863872931?mt=8


Nomo – Sobriety Clocks 

This app, created by two people in recovery, tracks the number of days a an individual has been sober. In addition, a person can track the money saved by not buying drugs, share milestones on Twitter and Facebook, and share their sober clock with others. The app also includes exercises to help refocus the person in recovery when he or she is feeling tempted.

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=air.com.parkerstech.day&hl=en
iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nomo-sobriety-clocks/id566975787?mt=8


Sober Time – Sobriety Counter

Similar to “Nomo,” this app helps individuals in recovery track their sober days, see how much money they’ve saved by not buying drugs, share progress with others, and more. This app also offers daily motivational messages to its users.

Google Play:  https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.sociosoft.sobertime&hl=en
iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sober-time-sobriety-counter/id1158895079?mt=8

 

Important note: These apps should be used in addition to a professional treatment program. If your loved one is battling addiction, please also take/refer them to a facility. Get started here.

*The inclusion of these links on this website does not constitute an official endorsement, guarantee, or approval by Drug Enforcement Administration.

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Operation Survival NY2022: Key Tips for Staying Safe in the New Year

By Warren Wilson for Police1.com

Well, 2021 certainly was another challenging year. There’s no reason to think 2022 will be any easier. We should probably hope for the best while preparing for the status quo.

I suggest a two-pronged approach to surviving 2022: safety and peace of mind. Over the past year, we’ve given the reader items or activities that we believe are good investments of your money or your time.

The following is a blended list of things we believe will help you get the new year started off right.  

The author strongly believes hobbies are the key to emotional fitness for law enforcement officers.
The author strongly believes hobbies are the key to emotional fitness for law enforcement officers. (Photo/Warren Wilson)

PHYSICAL SAFETY

Traditional officer safety is well covered elsewhere. I’d like to address some unconventional aspects of safety for law enforcement officers working in today’s world.

The first recommendation is an investment in your physical health. The average age of heart attack for the general population is 67 years of age. For career law enforcement officers, that number is 49. Since we are many more times more likely to die from heart disease than a line of duty death, my first suggestion is a gym membership. This requires a small investment in time and money, but your most precious asset is your heartbeat.  

Police 1 resource: How to maintain adequate LEO physical fitness

FINANCIAL SAFETY

The vilification of law enforcement hasn’t only threatened the physical safety of law enforcement officers but also our financial security. Bills have been introduced in various jurisdictions around the country to cut police retirements, end qualified immunity and rob funds from agencies that would and have resulted in layoffs.

Like your physical health, your financial health is also in jeopardy. Law enforcement retirement plans are complicated and since most of us who are on a pension plan are not allowed to participate in social security (no matter how much we contributed prior to our cop careers), we need financial expertise from someone who understands law enforcement retirement plans.

Police1 resource: Your pension plan shouldn’t be your only retirement plan

HOME SAFETY 

It’s difficult to focus on your own safety while at work when you’re worried about your family at home. I suggest you spend a little time and money on your home’s physical security.

Many of these improvements come at little or no cost. For example, replacing the screws in your deadbolt lock from what comes with the unit to three-inch versions will vastly increase your security for a matter of pennies.

The days of spending thousands on a monitored alarm/surveillance system for your home are all but over. There are many Internet-based options that will protect your entire home for a fraction of the cost. The one I use allows me to add sensors and cameras one at a time if I wish, which gives me the financial flexibility to build the system over time.

Police1 resource: 6 steps to making your home your castle

HOME PREPAREDNESS

Ensuring your family is set up for emergency preparedness is a must. While most folks are sent home from their jobs during a catastrophe, cops don’t have that luxury. In fact, we are more likely to be required to be at work for long periods of time after a disaster; be it natural or manmade.

Ready.Gov and FEMA have some helpful information on how to achieve preparedness and even a downloadable PDF guide. Get informed and be prepared so you can worry less about what’s going on at home while you’re on the front line of your jurisdiction’s next disaster.  

EMOTIONAL SAFETY

I believe the first step to emotional safety and fitness is turning work off at the door. For me, that means not watching the news. There’s no way to avoid the big stories, of course, but there’s nothing in the national news cycle that gives me hope or peace of mind. Engage in hobbies that have nothing to do with your job. It doesn’t matter if it’s horseback riding, hiking, driving trails, running or whatever. Just find something that gets your mind off your work.

My next suggestion is to turn off negativity. Avoid conversations about all the terrible things about your work, whether on the local or national level. There is solid research that indicates the more negative thoughts you engage in, the more negative you’ll feel long-term. Focus on the positives in your life and at your work. And don’t be afraid to seek mental health assistance occasionally, even if you’re feeling well.   

Police1 resource: Why your off-duty life is important for stress management   

QUALITY OF LIFE

We really don’t have much control over what New Year 2022 will bring. We do, however, have control over how it affects us and our quality of life. Happy New Year, brothers and sisters.

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Mental Health Care Shouldn’t Come in a Police Car

Story By Stephanie Hepburn for #CrisisTalk 

There are police departments throughout the United States that no longer answer calls they believe could result in “suicide by cop.” Around 100 shootings like this happen each year, making up roughly 10% of fatal police shootings. Ron Bruno, executive director of CIT Utah and 2nd vice president at CIT International, says this is a philosophy taking hold in law enforcement agencies all over the country, but he quickly points out, people can’t just be left in distress. “Something has to be done, and that’s why we need to examine our crisis response system as a whole, carving out clear roles for law enforcement and mental health services.” Bruno says that law enforcement has a critical part to play in the mental health crisis response system, but it needs to be in a position of support to the mental healthcare system and only when necessary. “We have to challenge the belief that mental health crisis services must come in a police car.”

While there are law enforcement agencies selectively unresponsive to some mental health calls, others are doubling down on their involvement. The impetus, says Bruno, is that, historically, mental health services haven’t been appropriately funded and so law enforcement became the de facto mental health crisis response system. “It fell to us, but we aren’t the best solution or help to a person in an escalated state.” Bruno travels around the world, speaking to audiences on de-escalation and advocating for clearly defined roles for criminal justice and behavioral health services to create a more effective crisis response system. At some point during a presentation, he often asks the audience to raise their hand if they’ve ever been pulled over by a police officer. Most of the hands raise. Then, he’ll instruct them to keep their hands up if the experience increased their anxiety level. Hands remain raised. “Every time a police officer goes out to a crisis situation, it’s going to escalate the person’s emotional state. Yes, we can and will train officers to de-escalate situations, but often, their mere presence is stressful, and the person in crisis can become fearful and enter flight or fight. That’s when we see major problems.” 

Estimates suggest that 25-50% of fatal encounters with law enforcement involve a person experiencing mental illness. Bruno says that in most cases, the interaction between law enforcement and the person in crisis is unnecessary. Just like audiences raised their hands to indicate the distress they felt when pulled over by a police officer, in de-escalation training, officers share that, in the majority of cases where they were called out, the situation didn’t warrant it. Bruno says having law enforcement be the go-to for mental health crisis care appears and feels criminalizing to the person in need. “Most departments have a policy that the person in crisis will be handcuffed, placed in the back of a caged police vehicle, and taken to an ER. This is traumatizing for the person and will make it so that they are reluctant to call for help the next time they are in crisis.” The result is that people in distress, and their families, allow further decompensation than they should before reaching out for help because they don’t want to interact with law enforcement. “With officers declining calls and people not wanting to interface with law enforcement when they or a family member is in crisis, it highlights that something is wrong with the current system.”

The solution, says Bruno, isn’t complicated (see image below). When a call goes into the Emergency Communication Center—911 dispatch—operators can be trained to triage those calls and identify whether the person in crisis is a danger to her or himself or an immediate threat to someone else. If not, then the person can be passed along to appropriate care in the mental health crisis system through a warm handoff to the crisis line. At that point, says Bruno, the crisis line can also do a secondary triage and determine whether it’s still a safe situation. If they decide that it’s unsafe, Bruno says they can do a warm handoff back to law enforcement, and law enforcement can send out Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) trained officers to go out and respond to those situations. “Most calls that go through 911 don’t require a law enforcement response and can be transferred to a crisis line where we know the majority of calls, 80% and upward, are resolved at that level, and there’s no need for police involvement.”

Dedicated Mental Health Crisis Response Model

If an officer on the street comes across a person in crisis and assesses that the person is safe, she or he should reach out to mobile crisis. The challenge is that each community is unique, and many don’t have a robust continuum of crisis care. Bruno says that’s why each community needs to take a hard (and holistic) look at what’s happening in their public mental health system, addressing potential funding and geographical challenges. Ironically, says Bruno, many communities are defaulting to the least economical solution, using law enforcement as the primary form of mental health crisis services or embedded co-responder models, where law enforcement agencies dedicate personnel and partner them with clinicians to respond. “It’s expensive because now you have dedicated law enforcement officers waiting around for mental health crisis calls or, in some agencies, a clinician rides around with a police officer who is handling unrelated calls.” 

Bruno says it’s time for public mental health to return to the community and allow people in crisis to be treated within it, instead of removing them from their support systems by taking them out of their day-to-day lives and roles. “It’s easier for people to transition back into their lives if they’re never fully yanked out of them in the first place and can be treated in the community.” He says by retraining people to call a crisis line instead of 911, it allows people to be treated in the least intrusive manner as opposed to the highest. “We’ve trained people to think that if a loved one is in crisis, they need to contact law enforcement who will come out and take the person into protective custody. He or she will be handcuffed, put in the back of the police car, and taken to the ER. That’s what we’ve told people is the cost of stabilization.” He says it’s a grueling, stress-inducing process, that more often than not, was unnecessary. A crisis line can help decrease a person’s distress, and if they are unable to, they can send out a clinician and certified peer specialist to talk to the person, and, when necessary, the support of a CIT trained police officer. The idea, says Bruno, is to maximize the use of a person’s natural supports into their stabilization plan. “By doing this, we are going to retrain community members to think, ‘If I become symptomatic, I contact the crisis line. If the specialist deems it appropriate, they will hand me off to a warmline. However, if necessary, they can also send out a professional who can talk to me.” 

Bruno says it’s time for a change, “Let’s treat crisis in the most compassionate and least intrusive manner.”

Want to see a flowchart that gives a clear example of risk assessment? Take a look at the recently released Broome County 911 call diversion emotionally distressed caller risk assessment in the CIT best practices guide.

Visiit CrisisTalk for more information.

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Join the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association and proudly display your support for your local law enforcement and Missouri sheriffs.
Your tax-deductible contribution will go a long way to ensure the office of Sheriff in Missouri remains a strong, independent office answerable to those citizens that it is sworn to serve and protect.