Law enforcement officers regularly experience stress and secondary trauma during their shifts and rely on their families and friends as a positive social support network to maintain holistic wellness.
From the News Tribune
Two Mid-Missouri sheriffs agree a state bill banning police from enforcing federal gun rules is necessary to protect the constitutional rights of citizens.
Gov. Mike Parson this past weekend signed the Second Amendment Preservation Act, which would penalize local police departments if their officers enforce federal gun laws.
Under the bill, Missouri agencies that knowingly enforce any federal gun laws could be sued and fined $50,000 per violating officer.
“I was concerned with the first version of the bill because there were a lot of issues with it, and some of them were huge,” Cole County Sheriff John Wheeler told the News Tribune. “With any new bill, there are some unforeseen consequences that we could not support. It is still not a perfect bill, but in the end, the sheriffs were able to work with legislators and fix the language in a manner that we could support it.”
Wheeler and Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism, along with Audrain County Sheriff Matt Oller, worked with members of the state Senate on a final version of the act that made it through the Legislature and on to the governor.
Most state and federal gun laws are the same, and federal law enforcement may enforce gun rules that are only in federal law.
“I think some people don’t realize U.S. marshals can still come in and take away weapons,” Wheeler said. “What this law says is we won’t help them. They can still come in and say they are going to do this, but my agency won’t do it.”
Republican lawmakers who worked to pass the bill have said they’re motivated by the possibility of new federal gun restrictions under Democratic President Joe Biden and the Democratic-led U.S. House.
But Democrats warned the measure unconstitutionally seeks to supersede federal laws and predicted it would be shot down by the courts.
House Minority Leader Crystal Quade in a statement described the law as “radical, dangerous and obviously unconstitutional.”
“The new law even allows criminals who violate federal gun law to sue our local law enforcement officers for a minimum $50,000 fine if they in any way assist with federal investigations,” Quade said. “It quite literally defunds the police and gives that taxpayer money to convicted criminals.”
“Contrary to some political and dishonest rhetoric that was disseminated, most Missouri sheriffs, including myself, wholeheartedly support the Second Amendment,” Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism said. “It was paramount, though, to ensure SAPA was passed to protect law-abiding citizens and not give refuge to criminals who need prosecuted for their bad acts.”
The Republican-led Legislature passed a similar bill in 2013 declaring any federal policies that “infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms” shall be invalid in Missouri. It would have allowed state misdemeanor charges to be brought against federal authorities who attempted to enforce those laws or anyone who published the identity of a gun owner.
That bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat. The Legislature fell just shy of overriding Nixon’s veto.
News Tribune reporter Jeff Haldiman and the Associated Press contributed to this article.
By Dr. John Azar-Dickens for Force Science News
Enter the police profession and risk higher divorce rates, alcoholism, suicide, PTSD, and early death. At least that’s what they told us at the academy.
I’m not convinced this is actually the case, but it is easy to believe when we watch fellow officers gain weight, lose health, drink more, sleep less, increase cynicism, and decrease job interest. We are taught that officers will be challenged just to survive the emotional toll of a law enforcement career—and that’s just the way it is. Except that it’s not.
In this article, I propose we move beyond the expectation that simply surviving is the best we can do. To that end, I offer habits that can dramatically increase the likelihood of surviving and thriving in law enforcement.
There is no doubt that law enforcement is challenging. In addition to the personal danger, officers can see more pain, suffering, and conscience-shocking depravity in one day than most people see in a lifetime. On top of that, it is hard to imagine another profession that falls under such enormous scrutiny from civic leaders, courts, and community groups. Controversial media and anti-police activist groups ensure officers are followed by cameras 24-7. Every word, movement, and decision may be recorded and available for strategic editing to support false and misleading narratives. Low pay, understaffing, politicized command staff, and erratic schedules can create work conditions that leave little time for mental and physical recovery.
Although admirable, the selfless service, duty first culture of policing, coupled with the strong independence of officers, can lead to an unwillingness to accept limitations, or admit when it’s time for help. In the short term, these qualities may allow officers to stay in the fight a bit longer, protect their communities for another day, or catch one more bad guy. But the benefits of selfless service can be short-lived, and the costs too great when officers fail to engage in necessary self-care.
The good news is that by committing to a habit of self-care, officers can not only survive their experiences, but they can also bring the best version of themselves to their community, their agency, and their family. In other words, they can thrive.
Habits of Health
Exercise for thirty minutes, three times per week.
Physical movement can improve mood and a sense of well-being. While exercise may not always feel great while you are doing it, the psychological health benefits are well documented. You don’t have to train for a marathon or become a fitness model, simply find an activity that allows you to move your large muscle groups at a moderate pace. Aim to work out for a sustained 30-minute period, during which your exertion is greater than resting but not so great that you are gasping for air. A brisk walk is one of the best exercises we can do.
Discipline Your Eating.
Dieting is too often associated with short-term, extreme food and calorie restrictions. Instead of “dieting,” commit to studying how the foods you eat can impact your energy levels and body composition. Learn how your body type and energy needs influence your dietary requirements and then discipline yourself to stay within those limits more often than not.
You do not have to resort to hyper-restrictive, impossible eating regimens. “Yo-Yo dieting” is the weight swing that results from mindlessly overeating after engaging in restrictive, unrealistic diets. It is frustrating and often leads to weight gain that exceeds any weight lost from the diet. It’s not necessary to eat healthy all of the time. Instead, focus on being mindful of your eating and strike a balance between eating what you want and eating what you need. If you hit your favorite high-calorie wings spot for lunch, focus on reduced-calorie vegetables and lean meats in the evening.
Sleep for an average of 6-8 hours per night.
Sleep is critical for the proper functioning and restoration of physical and mental processes. Many of the problems experienced by law enforcement officers have been linked to sleep deprivation, including unhealthy weight management.
For many in law enforcement, getting 6-8 hours of sleep per night is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible. Even so, the goal is to average those numbers over a week. If you have to be awake for an extended period, find ways to add those missing hours back into your sleep on the other days or nights. Study the science of “sleep hygiene” and set the conditions that allow you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.
Engage in activities outside of law enforcement.
Police are frequently immersed in the darkest side of the human experience. It is easy to lose perspective, and that can take a toll. You must step out and enjoy the positive side of life. If you do not have hobbies outside of law enforcement, find some and focus on actively engaging yourself in these interests. Coaching kids sports may be just what you need.
Monitor your emotions and talk with the experts.
Sadness, anxiety, and depression are normal, even for police. One test for deciding when to check in with mental health professionals is whether you feel these discomforting emotions (sadness, anxiety, anger, fear, etc.) during more days of the month than not. If these feelings are persistent, think of them as you would the “check engine” light on your vehicle. Don’t wait until emotional distress becomes a formal disorder. Be proactive. If you were having shortness of breath or chest pain, you would not wait to have a heart attack before seeking help.
If possible, identify a counselor or psychologist who specializes in work with law enforcement. Be sensitive to the limits of your primary care provider and carefully consider any recommendations that you use medication. Too often, medicine is a band-aid and can prevent you from identifying and implementing the healthy lifestyle habits that lead to long-term resiliency and improved performance. Medicine certainly has its place, but it should not be your only response.
Schedule an annual consult with a police psychologist or counselor.
Be proactive. Just as you would get your teeth cleaned to avoid cavities, get in the habit of a routine “mental health cleaning.” Take time at least once a year to pause and assess your habits with a mental health professional. Ensure you are continuing to experience policing (and life) in the most productive manner possible.
Periodic health assessments can identify symptoms and risks of cumulative trauma. In addition to the effects of a single incident of trauma, an officer’s psychological well-being can be impacted by the cumulative effect of repeated exposure to traumatic events. Annual consults can help ensure you are effectively managing these insidious issues.
Monitor significant conflict with your family and talk with family counseling experts.
Law enforcement work can take a toll on families. Left unnoticed, the stressors can grow until they negatively impact and degrade relationships. Law enforcement work is hard on police families. Your partner and children know the dangers you face, they know how the media portrays you on a daily basis, and they are concerned about your well-being. Ignoring the problem, hoping it simply goes away, or accepting the harm as a necessary part of the profession is no longer expected or necessary.
If family conflict threatens to get physical or you are experiencing conflict more days out of the month than not, take advantage of family counseling experts. The key is to identify the stressors and conditions that lead to conflict early. It does no good to save your community and lose your family.
It is no longer acceptable to view the loss of families, mental health, and physical well-being as costs of serving in law enforcement. Technology and mental health strategies have advanced well beyond helping officers to simply survive their profession. Committing to simple, healthy habits, including making routine appointments with mental health professionals, ensures you’re bringing the best version of yourself to your family and community. Your commitment to serving others should include a commitment to care for yourself. It’s no longer enough to simply survive; it’s time to thrive.
Dr. John Azar-Dickens is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist specializing in Forensic Psychology and a Certified Force Science Analyst. In addition to instructing nationally for the Force Science Institute, Dr. Azar-Dickens provides professional debriefing support and psychological assistance to officers involved in force incidents. A widely published author and active expert witness, Dr. Azar-Dickens continues to serve as a sworn patrol officer with the City of Rome, GA Police Department.
A poll conducted from May 20 to June 2 by Police1.com asked:
Have you received training to recognize the signs of and appropriately respond to a person with dementia?
Of the 515 who participated, 51% responded “Yes” and 49% responded “No.”
The Alzheimer’s Association hopes to change that by providing free online training.
As a first responder, it’s critical to understand how to best approach situations involving someone with Alzheimer’s disease. Approaching Alzheimer’s: First Responder Training program is a free, online training that features high-quality content in an interactive format, developed by the Alzheimer’s Association with input from first responders. It can be accessed:
- Anytime of day, or night, accommodating for shift work and new hires
- By anyone with access to a computer and the internet, making it easy to take from home or work
To promote the training within your department or agency, use this downloadable flyer to distribute or post in your breakroom.
The training also includes a downloadable tip sheet, Quick Tips for First Responders. This handy page can be folded to fit in a visor or emergency kit, and includes helpful phone numbers and strategies to help a person with dementia and their family.
Other resources for families in your community:
- Safety information: Taking measures to ensure safety at all times can help prevent injuries, and it can help people with dementia feel relaxed and less overwhelmed. The Alzheimer’s Association safety section provides valuable information on safety in the home, driving and other safety issues.
- MedicAlert® with 24/7 Wandering Support: A nationwide emergency response service for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia who wander or have a medical emergency.
Alzheimer’s Navigator®: Alzheimer’s Association’s Alzheimer’s Navigator is an innovative online tool designed specifically for families, to create a personalized action plan and linking them to information, support and local resources.
For more information on the MedicAlert Law Enforcement Agency Portal (LEAP), click here. The LEAP program provides FREE enrollment into the MedicAlert + Safe Return program for people living with dementia who are registered through a law enforcement agency’s online portal.
More information on the free first responder course
The course has an interactive map that allows you to explore topics relevant to your role. Once you have completed all topics, you can print a certificate celebrating that you are Ready to Respond! Training topics include:
- Briefing (Dementia Overview)
- Abuse and Neglect
- Disaster Response
Sign up here.
For a video explaining the program, watch this YouTube video.
Unsplash photo by Huy Phan
Simulation training from VirTra can help officers learn how to effectively communicate with someone experiencing a mental health crisis to delay or avoid use of force. (VirTra)
By Margarita Birnbaum for Police1 BrandFocus
The Los Angeles and San Antonio police departments are among agencies that have partnered with mental health professionals to handle emergency calls that involve people in emotional distress. In doing that, police departments hope to reduce use-of-force incidents.
Nicole M. Florisi, a former police sergeant and current instructor at the Force Science Institute, says departments must offer their officers targeted training to help reduce use-of-force incidents involving people in emotional distress.
Specifically, the veteran SWAT officer and counselor says departments need to educate officers about behaviors associated with mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and schizophrenia. That training should include effective communication skills so officers can learn to successfully interact with people in emotional distress.
To get the most informative and realistic experience, Florisi recommends simulation-based training programs, such as those offered by VirTra, because the information and skills officers learn through simulation training involves mental and physical elements, as well as decision-making, and therefore sticks much more than what they learn through classroom lectures and passively watching videos.
“How we train most of the time isn’t really how the brain learns,” said Florisi, a part-time officer with the Jerome Police Department in Arizona. “We need to be in reality-based, scenario-based integrative training that hits all the components to create both psychological arousal and physiological arousal.”
She believes that simulation-based training may help prevent excessive force incidents raging from unnecessary arrests to fatal shootings.
Properly communicating with someone in emotional distress, Florisi says, “can be the difference between life and death. It can also be the difference in keeping your career or not.”
COMMUNICATION APPROACH IS CRITICAL
Certainly, most encounters between police officers and people who have a mental illness do not end in use of force, in part because many of those encounters have nothing to do with a person’s mental illness. Data, however, show that officers spend more time dealing with mental disturbance calls than they do on calls involving traffic accidents, burglaries and assaults.
The more information and context officers have about the circumstances that triggered an incident, says Florisi – such as a divorce, change in medication, loss of a loved one or drug use – the more likely that they will be able to keep everyone safe.
“Helping officers identify what type of communication is best in those situations is what’s really critical in dealing with anybody, not just someone who has a mental illness,” said Florisi, who wrote VirTra’s mental illness simulation curriculum.
Officers who go through VirTra’s mental illness training program learn basic information about depression, anxiety, schizophrenia and other disorders, including the physiological processes and harmful behaviors associated with them. They also learn the best tone, words and phrases to use to effectively communicate with someone experiencing a mental health crisis due to illness or substance abuse.
Two common mistakes officers make when dealing with a person in crisis, says Florisi, are:
- Thinking that they can make the person obey them.
- Thinking that they can reason with the person.
VirTra’s simulation training drives home that officers need to learn to respond to the individual’s behavior, rather than the emotional trigger.
“What we’re trying to do is reduce the emotion that’s driving the behavior,” Florisi said.
AWARENESS OF TRIGGERS, BLIND SPOTS IN TRAINING
Perhaps one of the most important things officers learn in the simulation training is managing their own emotions that may affect their job performance.
Many officers live with depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses and aren’t aware of how deeply they are affected by them or how their illnesses affect their job performance, Florisi says. In addition, many don’t understand how the body’s physiological responses to stress may affect their decision-making process.
“There’s a misconception, from the public but also among police officers, that you’re immune to human psychology and human factors, “Florisi said. “The brain doesn’t work like that.”
It’s important for officers to be watchful of the verbal and nonverbal triggers that may cause them to become aggressive, she says, which can lead to inappropriate use of force and potentially dire consequences.
One of the benefits of simulation training with reality-based scenarios is that officers can identify areas where they need improvement when responding to emotionally charged, high-stakes calls. As instructors shift the way the scenarios unfold to challenge officers during the simulation sessions, they can learn how to identify when they are responding poorly to a situation and use breathing and other techniques to calm down.
“We are tasked with the sanctity of life, and that requires some professional neutrality,” Florisi said. “To achieve our police objective, officers have to be able to successfully navigate their working environment — and part of that is learning to regulate emotion and communicate effectively.”
Visit VirTra for more information on mental illness and de-escalation training.
By Lindsay Chetelat, RD, CDN for Working Dog Magazine
In a profession founded upon dedicating long hours to protect and serve others, it can be difficult for members of the law enforcement community to make themselves a priority. It is all too often that the health and wellness of police officers fall to the wayside as they spend day in and day out working tirelessly to defend their communities against evil.
Optimal nutrition and physical fitness are unique in the law enforcement world. Their lives depend on being fit, yet there are many obstacles to achieve the level of fitness necessary for the job. This three-part nutrition and fitness series will be geared towards providing the information to overcome these obstacles and build the foundation for lifelong health and wellness. The first installment in this issue will detail the ins and outs of macronutrients, while the second and third installments will encompass hydration and fueling for exercise, respectively.
Macronutrients – What you need to know:
Macronutrients are the components in the diet that provide energy, or calories.
There are three macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Carbohydrate and protein provide four calories/gram and fat provides 9 calories/gram.
Each of these macronutrients confer a unique benefit to the proper functioning of the human body.
There are foods and beverages in each of these macronutrient categories that you should limit or avoid.
Carbohydrates are chains of simple sugar building blocks that the body prefers to burn for energy. Examples of “short” chain carbohydrates include lactose, which is found in milk, and sucrose, which is table sugar. “Long” chain carbohydrates can be found in starches, such as bread, pasta, and rice. Regardless of the chain length, all carbohydrates are broken down into the basic sugar building blocks to be used as fuel for your brain and muscles.
Fiber is an indigestible form of carbohydrate that is found in plant based foods. It has beneficial implications in heart and gastrointestinal health. Fiber helps you feel fuller longer, and therefore proves to be an essential tool in weight loss.
Carbohydrate is stored in the body as glycogen in the liver and muscle. As needed, the body breaks down glycogen and releases a simple sugar building block called glucose. Glycogen stored in the muscles is readily available for use during exercise, while glycogen in the liver is used to maintain normal glucose levels in the blood and provide fuel for the brain.
Based on Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, the average 150-lb male has 1800 calories of carbohydrate stored in the body. Of these 1800 calories, 1400 calories are stored in the muscle to be used during exercise, 320 calories are stored in the liver to be released into the bloodstream, and 80 calories exist in the plasma and bodily fluids (1). This same man also has 60,000-100,000 calories of stored fat. Technically, this amount of calories would be sufficient to run hundreds of miles, but muscles need carbohydrate to function properly and fat cannot be used as the sole fuel source (1).
The American College of Sports Medicine cites carbohydrate needs for physically active adults as 3-5g/kg of body weight per day for low intensity or skill-based activities, 5-7g/kg for moderate exercise (~1 hour/day), 6-10g/kg for endurance exercise (1-3 hours/day), and 8-12g/kg for extreme exercise (>4-5 hours/day) (2).
If you do not eat enough carbohydrate, this will translate to inadequate glycogen stores and, therefore, suboptimal mental and physical health. Making sure the patrol car and the police canine are well fueled are essential job functions that ensure efficient and effective job performance. Maintaining a consistent intake of nutrient dense carbohydrates to promote adequate glycogen storage is of equal importance to the law enforcement officer.
Choosing the right carbohydrate sources also yields the benefit of receiving a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. Vitamins and minerals, or micronutrients, play a multitude of roles including promoting optimal brain health and energy metabolism, and even reducing cancer risk in some cases.
The best sources of carbohydrate include whole grains, beans and legumes, starchy and non-starchy vegetables, and fruits. Dairy products are unique in that they are a good source of both carbohydrate and protein (see the protein section for more information). Carbohydrates dense in added sugar should be limited or avoided. These foods include sweets and desserts, soda, fruit juice cocktail, and fruit canned in syrup.
Protein is a building block for repair, growth, proper immune function, and many other vital bodily functions. The simple unit of protein is an amino acid. Amino acids unite in different combinations to form protein chains of varying lengths. Our bodies can produce some amino acids, but we must obtain other amino acids from the food we eat (these are called essential amino acids).
Adequate protein intake is crucial for muscle growth and repair after enduring strenuous exercise. Equally as important is the role of protein in supporting basic bodily functions such as the immune system – your body’s defense mechanism against germs. Protein rich foods also contain beneficial vitamins and minerals. The body prefers to use protein for the functions described above. If you do not consume adequate carbohydrate, your body will break down protein to produce glucose for energy, therefore distracting protein from its primary functions. Stay tuned for the third installment in this series on nutrient timing for recovery!
The average, inactive adult requires 0.8 g/kg of body weight per day, while active adults require 1.2-2.0 g/kg (2). The ultimate goal is to incorporate a variety of nutrient dense, lean protein sources throughout the day. Excessive protein intake on a gram per kilogram of body weight basis or consumption of more than 20-25 grams of protein at one time does not equate to more gains (1). There is no storage capacity for protein in the body. The excess protein will be burned for energy or converted to triglycerides, a form of fat. Excessive protein intake also puts a person at risk for dehydration as the body seeks to eliminate urea, a waste product of protein breakdown.
Protein supplements have surged in popularity in the health and fitness world, but there is no evidence to indicate that providing these protein supplements in an already nutrient sufficient diet provides any benefit (1). Protein supplements can be used to achieve adequate protein intake in a person unable to meet their protein needs solely through food.
Lean proteins are the best food sources to choose. While animal sources of protein are denser in protein and contain a complete amino acid profile, it is possible to meet protein needs through plant-based foods. These plant-based proteins must be consumed in larger quantities to match their animal-based counterparts.
People who completely avoid animal products (i.e. vegans) must compensate for the incomplete amino acid profile in plant-based proteins. Combining grains with beans or legumes and legumes with seeds will help ensure that a vegan obtains a complete amino acid profile (1). Adding soy products to all meals will also improve protein intake in this population (1).
High fat and highly processed proteins should be limited or avoided. These foods include meats with significant marbling, fried fish, fried chicken, highly processed cheeses (i.e. American cheese, Colby jack cheese), and highly processed deli meats (i.e. salami, bologna).
Fat is an energy packed nutrient that insulates the body and cushions our organs. Fat is important for the body to work properly in that it forms a protective layer around cell membranes and even serves as a carrier for vitamins A, D, E, and K. Choosing healthy fats (unsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3 fatty acids) has been shown to promote heart health. In contrast, high intakes of saturated fat and trans fat contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Recent studies have even shown that saturated fat contributes to high cholesterol. For the most part, saturated fats are solid at room temperature and unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.
Fat sources to limit or avoid include deep fried foods, butter, hydrogenated shortenings, lard, coconut oil, palm oil, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, full fat dairy and cheese products, and fatty red meats.
Fat intake at 20-35% of total caloric intake is regarded as healthy. Saturated fat should be limited to less than 7% of total calories and trans fats should be avoided at all costs. Food sources of fat should be primarily mono- and polyunsaturated fats.
The Registered Dietitian’s Macronutrients Tips for Success
A nutrient dense whole grain/starch should be consumed at every meal. For those involved in strength training and endurance exercise, half of your plate should be a nutrient dense whole grain or starch on tough workout or competition days.
Aim to include one green, red, yellow/orange, blue/purple, and white fruit and/or vegetable daily. Have fruits twice per day and vegetables at least three times per day.
Choose a lean protein at all meals and snacks. Protein intake should be evenly distributed throughout the day.
Include at least one healthy fat source at every meal.
Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables have the same nutritional quality. If opting for canned vegetables, choose low-sodium and run water through them before cooking. When selecting canned fruits, choose fruit canned in water, not syrup.
For someone who does not typically eat fruits, two cups per day of 100% fruit juice is an acceptable method to obtain adequate fruit intake.
Compare food and beverage products using the nutrition facts labels.
(1) Clark, N. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook Fifth Edition. Champagne, IL: Human Kinetics; 2013.
(2) Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 2016;48(3):543-568.http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2016/03000/Nutrition_and_Athletic_Performance.25.aspx. Accessed November 15, 2016.
About the Author
Lindsay Chetelat, RD, CDN is an NYC-based registered dietitian who focuses on empowering individuals to take charge of their bodies through utilization of evidence based nutrition guidelines and theory based physical training techniques. Her approach is rooted in helping others gain an appreciation for their bodies and creating a mindset that transformation is about the progress one is willing to make in their journey, not quick fixes.
Many people across Missouri have wondered why no AMBER Alert was issued for a missing Pleasant Hope father and his two sons.
Darrell Peak and his two young boys, Mayson and Kaiden, were found dead near Warsaw on Monday.
Missouri State Highway Patrol says the case did not meet certain criteria. While no one with the MSHP headquarters would do a camera interview with KY3, the agency issued a statement instead.
“The Missouri State Highway Patrol issued a state-wide Endangered Person Advisory for Darrell Peak, Kaiden Peak, and Mayson Peak,” the statement read. “This advisory informed the media, the public, and law enforcement agencies across the state of the situation involving the Peak family. An AMBER Alert was not issued, as the statutory requirements for the activation of an AMBER Alert were not met.”
It was 16 hours after Darrell Peak left his home on Thursday when authorities were notified to be on the lookout.
“Any and every lead that is coming in we’re following,” Greene County Deputy Jason Winston told KY3 prior to the discovery. “We’re exhausting this investigation in every way we know how.”
The Greene County Sheriff’s Office said it asked several times for an amber alert to be issued.
Requirements for issuing an Amber Alert include timely requests, as more time goes by, the usefulness of an alert diminishes. Alert requirements also note parental disputes do not apply unless there is concern that a child could be harmed.
Some wonder why Peak’s history of depression and suicidal thoughts did not merit an AMBER Alert.
”My understanding is the family, the wife or a family member, went on the air and said he would never hurt his children,” Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox said. “My mindset is the family didn’t think he would ever do something like that, therefore it doesn’t meet the criteria.”
Would that have changed if authorities feared Peak could hurt his two sons?
”Yes, I believe it would have,” Knox said. “Again I cannot speak for their people, but if you meet all the criteria of the AMBER Alert there is no reason they couldn’t do one.”
The Greene County Sheriff’s Office previously told KY3 about their AMBER Alert attempts.
”We would definitely like for this issue to meet the criteria for an AMBER Alert, but at the same time we realize criteria is in place for a reason,” Winston said.
After this case, Sheriff Knox said many have asked him if the AMBER Alert system should be changed.
“My statement to that would be no,” he said. “The AMBER Alert is set up with criteria that is fairly stringent to keep that very serious when an amber alert goes off.”
Knox fears a change could lead to people ignoring alerts.
”Something we see day in and day out is people fighting, take off with the kids,” he said. “Happens all the time. I think everybody did exactly what they could do with the information they had. If you set off an AMBER Alert for every husband and wife that had an argument and walked away with the kids, people would ignore it. It would be a nuisance instead of something serious.”
Knox said he feels this case does draw attention to the need for more mental health outreach efforts at the state level.
“Society lets these people down,” he said. “We do not have the proper mechanisms in place to deal with mental illness anymore. And at the state level I think there needs to be help for mental illness.”
By Michael Van Schoik | KY3
Bryan Simpson Hixon, owner of Hixon Motor Sports (HMS), wrapped two IMSA Pro cars at Hixon’s own cost to represent Blue H.E.L.P. and law enforcement suicide awareness for the 2021 Mazda MX-5 Cup series. (Hixon Motor Sports)
Law enforcement faced many challenges in 2020 including COVID-19, movements to defund the police and what could be perceived as a loss of public support. There has been increasing concern for the emotional well-being of officers and significant efforts have been made to normalize seeking help in the profession.
Proof that more officers are seeking help has been reflected in the increased number of voluntary calls to national hotlines. “The content of the calls has changed. The social shift has taken a toll on officers from all over the United States of America,” said Stephanie Samuels founder and president of COPLINE.
By raising awareness about law enforcement suicide, we have seen an increase in the number of departments and organizations working toward prioritizing officer emotional wellness. While not widely acknowledged, the motorsports industry has become one of the first sports to truly take notice of police suicide.
Indiana Race Saver Sprints cars featured the Blue H.E.L.P. logo and raised awareness and funds for the organization. (Indiana Race Saver Sprints)
In 2018, Thin Blue Line Motorsports revealed a dragster that bears the dates of all officers lost to line of duty death and to suicide from January 1, 2008, to October 5, 2018. It became the first known car to honor officers lost to suicide side-by-side with traditional line of duty deaths.
In early 2020, Indiana Race Saver Sprints cars featured the Blue H.E.L.P. logo and raised awareness and funds for the organization.
Finally, Bryan Simpson Hixon, owner of Hixon Motor Sports (HMS), wrapped two IMSA Pro cars at Hixon’s own cost to represent Blue H.E.L.P. and law enforcement suicide awareness for the 2021 Mazda MX-5 Cup series. The HMS team made its debut at the World Center of Racing, Daytona International Speedway, on January 27, 2021. Before the weekend was out, motorsports enthusiasts could find the HMS car on the iRacing platform.
Bryan Simpson Hixon, owner of Hixon Motor Sports (HMS), wrapped two IMSA Pro cars at Hixon’s own cost to represent Blue H.E.L.P. and law enforcement suicide awareness for the 2021 Mazda MX-5 Cup series. (Hixon Motor Sports)
Hixon is no stranger to emotional struggles and understands the challenges of finding the right treatment, sharing your story, and helping others to heal.
“I went through a dark period in my life. I have hit rock-bottom. I’ve had PTSD. I have had major depression. If it weren’t for Phoenix Mental Health, I’m not sure I would be here today to tell my story,” said Hixon. “Because of what I went through, I believe we can all recover if we seek the appropriate help. Do not give up. Somehow, I made it over to the other side, the good side, and I’m alive to talk about it and to help others.
“I was proud to have two police livery Blue H.E.L.P./Phoenix Mental Health race cars at Daytona. We had a lot of TV time, and I hope every police department in America sees our phenomenal first race. The commentators loved that HMS drove for a cause and showed that motorsports aren’t just about being a race car driver, it’s also about showing we care as a team and as individuals about our social responsibility.”
Thin Blue Line Motorsports revealed a dragster bears the dates of all officers lost to line of duty death and to suicide from January 1, 2008, to October 5, 2018. (Thin Blue Line Motorsports)
While the motorsports industry continues to raise awareness about LE suicide and mental health, let’s do our part by continuing the conversation with our brothers and sisters in blue. You can start by watching something you don’t see every day, a police car leading a chase. Bring it up on your phone or laptop and use it as a conversation piece. We never know what will encourage someone to open up about their struggles, be ready to listen.
From choosing the right mental health clinician to breaking the mental health stigma in law enforcement, the following is a collection of content on Police1 for police officers at all levels.
How to prevent police officers from dying by suicide
Emotional wellness and suicide prevention for police officers
Are we complicit in police suicide?
Policing Matters Podcast: How to help prevent police officer suicide
7 ways to prevent police suicide by focusing on overall officer well-being
Police health and wellness: 5 myths we must bust
Suffering in silence: Mental health and stigma in policing
4 things police leaders should be doing to stop police suicide
How to launch a successful peer support program
My husband’s suicide: Recognizing predictors of police suicide
Breaking the Silence: Preventing Suicide in Law Enforcement
How to prevent PTSD from leading to police suicide
9 ways for cops to fight mental health stigma
What first responders should seek in mental health clinicians
By Karen Solomon | Police1.com
About the author
Karen Solomon is co-founder of Blue H.E.L.P, creator of www.1sthelp.net and the author of “Hearts Beneath the Badge” and “The Price They Pay,” as well as many articles about law enforcement suicide. Her focus is on the stories of the families who have lost an officer to suicide and the officers who suffer from the feeling they have nowhere to turn. Karen is also the wife of a police officer.
The impact of 2020 was felt across the globe, by every individual, in every industry, across every country. However, no profession was impacted by the events of last year in quite the same way as American law enforcement.
Between the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest and responding to “standard” emergencies on a daily basis, law enforcement has been forced to take on more responsibility while addressing evolving public needs and ways of communicating and responding within communities across the country.
While a challenging year, 2020 brought with it the opportunity to rethink approaches to many pressing issues. Like other professions, public safety and law enforcement can learn from the events of 2020 and re-evaluate operations, communications and interactions with each other and the public going forward to create a more connected and safer community for everyone.
Here are a few changes that will take place in 2021 that will help law enforcement respond to ongoing challenges.
MORE INFORMED FIRST RESPONSE
One of the biggest conversations of 2020 revolved around law enforcement response to mental health crises in the community. Important questions have been raised to ensure that first responders who arrive on scene have the context and training needed to deliver the appropriate response.
Having critical background information – such as if the subject is an autistic person or has a mental health condition that may impact their reaction to responders – can lead to a response that results in successful outcomes for all involved.
Innovative communities in Suffolk County, Chicago and Seattle are leveraging technology to allow residents to create safety profiles that allow the public to opt in and share personal information – such as medical history – in case of an emergency. Through innovation and rethinking public safety response, these communities and law enforcement have more real-time context and information about the situation they are walking into and how they should best approach a person in crisis.
No matter who ultimately ends up responding to these types of incidents – be it police, mental health professionals, EMTs or a combination – this critical information can help any first responder provide a well-informed, appropriate response that keeps everyone involved as safe as possible.
COLLABORATING WITH KEY STAKEHOLDERS
Police are typically first on the scene in an emergency, but in many cases other departments or agencies need to get involved quickly – whether that’s emergency management, fire or, as we have seen with COVID-19, public health. These different entities need to be on the same page when it comes to coordinating the best and fastest response possible.
Emergencies unravel quickly and can be chaotic – especially when multiple players or stakeholders are involved, so the ability to know the role every department plays in a response can save time and lead to better outcomes. By using technology to collaborate, share data and communicate effectively and in a streamlined manner, departments can better manage major crises, like the pandemic, but also be ready for daily emergencies that are shorter in duration, such as fires, medical incidents or acts of violence.
The right technology not only coordinates incident response with task management, activity status, reminders and reference resources, but also dramatically accelerates the response, allowing for those involved to return to safety quicker.
Solutions that allow law enforcement to better coordinate incident response, share real-time data and communications among multiple responder teams or departments, ensure compliance with task lists and protocols, and record all actions taken for audits and reporting will become critical to our emergency responses.
This allows law enforcement and other emergency personnel to do their jobs to their greatest ability, knowing that there is one source of data that can guide actions, support on-the-fly changes and escalate past due tasks to the appropriate personnel.
TARGETING COMMUNICATIONS TO RESIDENTS
Public safety and law enforcement are often leading the charge when it comes to communicating to residents about new protocols and guidelines around COVID-19. This can be especially challenging when living in a large city or town where some areas are more affected by the coronavirus than others. Communication to residents must be customized based on their unique population and experience with the spread of the virus.
However, despite the need to communicate and inform the public, many are getting weary of notifications and reminders about the pandemic. Up against this challenge in particular, public safety will need to get creative in how they communicate with their residents in 2021, taking both geography and channel – like phone calls, emails, apps, and text alerts – into consideration.
As public safety and law enforcement consider their go-forward strategy, officials should consider the modes and tone of various communications. For example, reminders for mask wearing, social distancing and the like could be kept to social media channels or digital signage around town while direct communications, like calls and text messages, should carry some weight of urgency and be used only for the most important information. Otherwise, residents may begin to tune out mass notifications – a potential risk to a community’s public safety.
Like many others, I’m excited to turn the page on 2020 and look forward to seeing how our communities become stronger from lessons learned. Public safety and law enforcement have always been resilient, despite the many challenges they have faced over the years. By learning from events of 2020, law enforcement can prepare for future emergencies and focus on what matters most: protecting their communities. And while 2021 may ultimately be as unpredictable as 2020, it is certain that law enforcement will be ready to adapt and serve.
By Todd Miller | Police1.com
About the author
Todd Miller is the SVP of Strategic Programs at Rave Mobile Safety. Prior to joining Rave, Todd managed the self-service consulting practice at Oracle where he was responsible for the delivery of customized software solutions for clients in North America, supporting millions of users. At Oracle he was awarded recognition as a member of Oracle’s top 10% in consulting. Todd’s previous experience includes leading consulting teams for Siebel and eDOCS in North America, Europe and Australia.
Photo by Jakayla Toney
“Officer needs help!”
There are no phrases emanating from a police radio that evoke a more visceral response than that one. Regardless of the size of the department, the demographics of the community served or the type of jurisdiction, that phrase means an officer is fighting for their life! It may be an ambush, gun battle, foot chase or hand-to-hand combat, but to any officer who hears that call, the physiological response is the same: hearts race, minds plot the quickest route to the call, palms sweat, pupils dilate and even the least religious utter a word of prayer. But what happens when officers need a different type of help?
In 2019, the national media became acutely aware of police officer suicides and ran story after story, special after special. As quickly as their interest peaked, it waned. But the officers with problems, the officers who needed someone to talk with because of personal and/or professional issues, became unimportant to the media.
I’m a huge proponent of peer support programs; my first department launched peer support in the ’90s, modeling off the successful Secret Service and BATF peer-to-peer programs. At its zenith, the peer support program in that agency had over 200 peer members for a department of 13,000 officers. Times change and that agency now has fewer than 200 peers.
Smaller agencies can benefit from peer-to-peer programs. My current agency is a 100-person department serving a community of about 60,000 people in a major metropolitan area. When I first was appointed chief in 2012, I was approached by our police counselor, Victoria Poklop, who asked my feelings about peer programs. After some discussion, we decided to restart the long-dormant peer support program at our P.D. We began by having the officers on each shift nominate who they would feel comfortable sharing their problems with. Once we had nine members (six police officers and three sergeants) named by majority, we approached those officers and asked if they would be willing to become peer support team members. We relaunched our peer support team in early 2013.
A few departments near us began expressing interest in establishing peer teams as well, and while we assisted them, we also heard concerns from some of the smaller agencies; the concerns centered on the “beauty shop” mentality. The concern, real or imagined, is that an officer will share something with a peer supporter, who will then tell someone else, and that person will tell another, ad infinitum, until the chief finds out and takes disciplinary action. This concern led us to think of creative ways to form a peer support task force.
Task forces in law enforcement are nothing new; there were task forces formed to take down Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, and even Al Capone. This would be different. We looked at how we could utilize our existing Major Case Assistance Team callout framework and apply it to the peer supporters. Any way we looked at it, it was going to be a daunting challenge to ensure the right people were on the call-out list every day. Enter VJ.
Victoria met the owner of Velan Technologies, a young brilliant web developer named VJ Harikrishna, through a mutual friend. Victoria started explaining what we were trying to do, and he offered to help. Through his selfless dedication and IT wizardry, VJ met with us and demonstrated which platform could best be utilized for this web-based peer support program.
What had started as an attempt to provide a method to make peers available to officers 24-7/365 had grown into a much larger venture. WeNeverWalkAlone.org was launched on May 13, 2019, from our P.D.’s Emergency Operations Center.
The simple idea now offers:
- An interactive listing of peer support officers, both active and retired, from a variety of local, county, state and federal agencies, available to active and retired officers and their families
- Over 50 vetted mental health professionals who are dedicated to giving scheduling priority to LEOs and their families
- A list of external resources from financial counselors to white papers
- A list of peer support coordinators
Departments can join WNWA for the low cost of $2 per officer per month; WNWA is in the process of applying for grant funding in order to make the system free to any agency that wants it.
By William Kushner | American Police Beat