NIC’s Becoming Trauma Informed: An Essential Element for Justice Settings Now Available for Viewing

Experiencing or exposure to traumatic events during childhood and continuing into adulthood is all too common. Less known is that trauma is a dominant factor in the lives of individuals involved with the criminal justice system; in what occurs while in the system; and in how transitioning and living in the community is impacted.

With this increasing awareness, criminal justice professionals are considering what this means in their correctional settings, how to manage this population, and provide effective services. Often overlooked is the challenge of staff who are also affected by trauma in their personal and work lives, as organizational stress and trauma create additional challenges for the workplace.

In this Community Services Division-sponsored webinar series, NIC’s Maureen Buell facilitates a stimulating discussion featuring Stephanie Covington, PhD, of the Center for Gender and Justice and Nena Messina, PhD of Envisioning Justice Solutions. This dynamic three part webinar series focuses on the following topics:

1) The Association between ACEs and Criminal Justice Involvement;

2) Trauma Informed Treatment and Theory; and

3) Becoming Trauma Informed and Moving to Trauma Responsive.

As demand outpaced the limited number of registrations, the linked content is now streaming and shareable. The linked content includes the downloadable recorded sessions, a list of resources referenced during the presentations, and a Q&A document that memorializes questions brought up in the chat.

By accessing this robust series you will explore the issues, find helpful answers, and learn from subject matter experts. Below are testimonials from webinar participants. We think you will agree!

Thank you for a wonderful informative presentation.

Thank you, great information I can take to my job.

Thank you for this great webinar and resources. Looking forward to next week’s as well.

Here is the link to the webinar:
https://nicic.gov/series/becoming-trauma-informed-essential-element-justice-settings

Register for Promoting Wellness and Resiliency in Correctional Staff Webinar

Do you want to see what some of the latest data and promising practices are revealing about staff wellness for corrections officers and staff? Would you like to learn how to apply a holistic approach to your workplace along the continuum of preventive to reactive responses?

If you answered “Yes” to either of these questions, plan to participate in the one-hour-long Promoting Wellness and Resiliency in Correctional Staff Webinar, set for ​1 p.m. February 2.

Correctional staff face significant stress and challenges in maintaining wellness and resiliency in the workplace. There is emerging evidence that effective strategies and programs exist; however, they often occur in a piecemeal or sporadic fashion. This webinar provides academic insight into the current research on officer wellness and references emerging areas of innovative practices.

It includes practitioner expertise on valuable resources and support for correctional officers and staff. We will move from preventive to reactive strategies and build on new approaches to increase resiliency.

Participants will learn what research and practice tell us about the short and long-term effects that working in corrections can have and how to promote staff wellness and manage trauma in response to what they experience.

Learning Objectives : During this one-hour interactive webinar, participants will

1) develop an understanding of the current research on correctional staff wellness and resiliency,

2) learn how to apply a holistic approach to their workplace, and

3) gain knowledge on promising real-world practices that can assist and promote both wellness and resiliency.

Speakers

Dr. Hayden Smith is an Associate Professor of Criminology & Criminal Justice at the University of South Carolina. His principal focus of study is the intersection of the criminal justice and public health systems. Core areas include self-injurious and suicidal behaviors in incarcerated populations, physical and mental health needs in correctional settings, jail diversion, reentry initiatives, and correctional staff well-being and safety. Dr. Smith has expertise in program evaluation and policy analysis and has worked with numerous correctional and health systems.

Ms. Karin Ho is the Director for Victim Services with the South Carolina Department of Corrections. She has more than 30 years of victim advocacy experience and over 25 years in corrections. Recognizing how correctional staff were affected by traumatic events, she implemented the Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) Peer Team and Post Critical Incident Seminars for employees with ongoing trauma-related issues. As part of the CISM Team, Karin is the handler for a specially trained trauma dog who responds to correctional staff throughout the state.

The presenters have engaged in several academic-practitioner partnerships that address correctional officer and staff well-being.

Who Should Attend ?

Any employee of a state, federal or local correctional jurisdiction.

How Do I Register ?

Follow this link to register in NIC’s WebEx Event Center: 
https://nicmeetings.webex.com/nicmeetings/onstage/g.php?MTID=e0f972cfffb0d108afe22ad03ebacadfc

For content and technical information, contact Scott W. Richards, Correctional Program Specialist, NIC Prison’s Division at s1richards@bop.gov

How Do I Participate Effectively In a WebEx Event Center Webinar? How Do I Get Ready ?

  • For the best experience in your next NIC WebEx Event Center webinar, you’ll need a hands-free telephone, headset or earbuds, and an internet-enabled computer.
  • For optimum learning, be in a quiet place, free from distractions/interruptions, sight-and-sound separated from others, where you can concentrate on what is happening during the webinar. A separate office space with a door to close is an ideal setting.
  • Connect to the webinar audio bridge via a hands-free telephone, using earbuds/headset connected to your phone/cell phone, so your hands are free to interact with your keyboard.
  • While tablets and smartphones are also compatible with WebEx Events Center, several of the features are limited, and most devices require the installation of the Cisco WebEx app.
  • Regardless of which device you plan to use, test its compatibility here. The link provides a quick test, and we strongly encourage you to do this before the webinar.
  • If your browser does not pass the test, contact Webex Technical Support at 1-877-669-1782 and tell them you will be attending an NIC webinar on NIC’s Webex site at http://nicmeetings.webex.com . They can help you troubleshoot connectivity issues.
  • NIC strongly recommends consulting with your agency/local IT , as you may encounter pop-up blocking and/or firewall issues that block the NIC Webex webinar url.


Click https://nicic.gov/webinar-vilt-readiness for further information on NIC’s live webinars, including (cost = free!), how to obtain training credit from your agency, and much more.

Blue Help to Honor All Emergency Responders

Over the years, we have had submissions from the families of all #firstresponders, not just law enforcement. In an effort to honor all first responders we have lost to suicide, Blue H.E.L.P. will now collect the information for all suicides, any duty status, any year. What does this mean?

It means that we will place the photo and memorial of any #firefighters, #policeofficers, #correctionsofficer, #emergencyservices personnel and #dispatchers on our memorial wall forever remembering their service.

It means that we will track any and all first responder suicides that are submitted to us, we will no longer restrict our honor wall to #lawenforcement.

All information will continue to remain confidential unless we have permission to share from the families. We believe it is important for you to see the number of verified suicides, whether you know their identities is up to the family; we only post personal information with their permission. We do not contact or “cold call” families, we wa​​it for them to reach out to us. Their privacy and ability to grieve properly is of the utmost importance to us, we are counting every death, but we are only sharing the personal details if the family’s request it, matter how public the death.

We encourage you to let us know what you know so we can continue to raise #suicideawareness

Our History

Blue H.E.L.P. began in 2015 after The Price They Pay was written by two of it’s founders; Karen Solomon and Jeffrey McGill. It became clear to Karen, Jeff and Steve Hough that suicide prevention and care for the families afterward was not offered in law enforcement; compassion and understanding took a backseat to stigma and shame. In 2017, they incorporated and received their 501(c)3 designation and are now the only organization in the country that collects law enforcement suicide data and regularly supports families in the aftermath.

To submit a name or for more information visit https://bluehelp.org/honor-wall/submit/

New St. Louis Program to Divert Mental Health Calls Away From 911

Volunteer community health worker Ryan Smith heads out with a goodbye to St. Louis police officer Gary Ruffin as their shift ends December 9. As part of a pilot program ​in north St. Louis to get social services to crime victims, seven volunteers are riding with policer officers on their shifts. They respond to calls where people are facing traumatic events. Photo by Robert Cohen.

 

If all goes according to plan, thousands of 911 calls beginning this month will not reach St. Louis police or fire personnel.

Calls involving pe​​ople with mental health issues, or in a mental crisis, may instead be diverted to specially trained behavioral health professionals.

Tiffany Lacy Clark, COO of the contractor involved in the program, Behavioral Health Response, said the broader goals of the program are to relieve police and EMS workers from responding to many mental health crises, to prevent people undergoing a crisis from going to jail or the hospital, and to help people obtain behavioral health services when needed.

Lacy Clark called the program “cutting edge” and a “tremendous positive collaboration” among the city, police, mental health providers and others.

St. Louis will be the first city in the U.S. to divert such calls outside the 911 system, officials said.

“We’re very excited about it,” St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson said last month.

The new initiative will have two parts: 911 diversion and a co-responder program.

911 diversion

911 calls involving a mental health concern typically end up with a response by police or an ambulance, and often “neither is really the appropriate place,” said Lacy Clark.

In the 911 diversion program, dispatchers will be trained to send calls that don’t involve imminent health or safety concerns to Behavioral Health, which already offers telephone counseling and mobile outreach services.

Wilford Pinkney Jr., Krewson’s director of Children, Youth and Families, said as many as 5,000 calls could be diverted this way a year.

Krewson said the city handles roughly 700,000 calls to 911 per year, although only about a third result in someone being dispatched, due to the number of duplicate calls that are received for some incidents, and other factors.

The program could save money but Krewson said that is not the primary aim. “The goal is to have a better, more appropriate person responding,” she said, and allow emergency responders to do “what they’re most trained for.”

Both Krewson and Lacy Clark said police were looking forward to the program. Calls involving mental health problems are difficult, take considerable time and place officers in situations they’re not trained for, they said.

Pinkney, a former New York City police officer, said officers are generally young and “don’t have the life experience to deal with many of these issues.” Calls for a mental disorder or breakdown can be traumatic for officers and victims as well, he said.

Lacy Clark said those with mental health issues sometimes don’t respond well to authority figures or people in uniforms. Often they are contending with paranoia or have had trauma in the past that they associate with police, she said. People who are having those kinds of episodes have typically fallen away from available social services or have stopped taking their medication, she said.

“We have essentially made the criminal justice system and law enforcement officers mental health providers without the training and resources to do that successfully,” Lacy Clark said.

Krewson said not every call with a mental health concern will be diverted, and authorities may not know what is needed until they arrive at the scene. If there is a safety or public health issue, police and EMS would respond, perhaps with a co-responder showing up with them, or later.

Co-responders

The rollout of the co-responder program follows years of work.

Lacy Clark said she and others, including a staffer from the mayor’s office, began working in 2017 on ways to better provide mental health services and keep those suffering a mental crisis out of the criminal justice system. Pinkney, she said, “was the catalyst we really needed” to pull all the people together, and his police background allowed him to “speak the same language” as officers.

Pinkney said they looked at other programs around the country including in Houston, Phoenix and Charleston, South Carolina. There have also been two pilot programs run in the police department’s Sixth District in north St. Louis. The pilots, originally called “cops and clinicians,” paired police with volunteer mental health workers, substance abuse counselors and others who helped connect victims of crime with social services.

Krewson said that after the trials, officials decided, “We really need to make this a part of the system … to fund it.”

At Krewson’s request in June, the Board of Estimate and Apportionment shifted $860,000 to the program from the budget for the St. Louis Medium Security Institution, also known as the workhouse, amid a decline in the jail population.

In October, the board approved a contract with Behavioral Health Response.

Co-responders will be trained behavioral health professionals who will work in partnership with officers, Lacy Clark said, and will cover the entire city. Their primary focus is behavioral health support and referral, but they will also respond to domestic violence calls and other traumatic situations to “make sure the people on the scene are OK and connected to additional support.”

Krewson said that when someone is in a mental health crisis, it means “all the social systems have failed. That ends up in a 911 call.”

She said the city needs more money for mental health services, crisis services and substance abuse treatment.

“When you’re in the middle of so much trauma … and a pandemic and so many people out of work,” Krewson said, “there’s a lot of stress out there and we’re seeing this come out in so many ways.”

In 2019, a mentally ill man had an encounter with police and EMS at a St. Louis bus stop that led to his hospitalization and, later, his death. He was a former client of Lacy Clark’s when she worked for Places for People, a provider of mental health services.

The Post-Dispatch examined the man’s medical and treatment records after his death, with the permission of his father, and wrote about Julius Graves last September.

“The situation with Julius was exactly why we wanted to do this,” Lacy Clark said, so that police dispatchers can recognize a situation and officials can respond differently, “to save someone in that circumstance so they don’t get tased or arrested and (instead) end up in clinical services where they’re supposed to be.”

 

By Robert Patrick | St. Louis Today

Department of Justice Establishes Community of Practice for Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness

The Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) has established the first-ever Community of Practice for state, local and tribal grantees  to connect, learn, share experiences, and network in an effort to continue the growth of law enforcement mental health and wellness work. Good mental and psychological health is just as essential as good physical health for law enforcement to be effective in keeping our country and our communities safe from crime and violence. The Community of Practice recently launched its work with a virtual meeting establishing short and medium term goals.

“Supporting the health and well-being of the nation’s front-line law enforcement as they ensure public safety is paramount to the Department of Justice,” said COPS Office Director Phil Keith. “The Department has dedicated resources to critical areas of concern for officers including resilience; officer suicides; felonious and other assaults on officers; and mental health peer support networks. Establishing this new Community of Practice will provide the guidance, assistance, resources and support needed to further develop solutions to keep law enforcement safe and well, as they keep our communities safe and well.”

Working with the National Police Foundation, the COPS Office will convene the law enforcement grantees and others to host a series of ongoing webinars each quarter that will provide insight on a number of topics including:

  • How to start a wellness program for small, medium and large agencies;
  • Understanding the critical considerations and benefits;
  • Identifying needed resources, including staffing, and scoping a program consistent with the available resources;
  • Gaining support and resources from local, state, federal, tribal, and elected officials, as well as private and public business and community sources;
  • Building trust and confidence between governmental leadership and law enforcement members;
  • Identifying promising practices related to implementing and maintaining confidentiality and compliance with confidentiality requirements;
  • Identifying and exploring multi-jurisdictional approaches;
  • Extending mental health and wellness to family members;
    Developing program administration promising practices; and
  • Identifying the training and technical assistance needed to develop and implement programs.


The COPS Office is the federal component of the Department of Justice responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. The only Department of Justice agency with policing in its name, the COPS Office was established in 1994 and has been the cornerstone of the nation’s crime fighting strategy with grants, a variety of knowledge resource products, ​​and training and technical assistance. Through the years, the COPS Office has become the go-to agency for law enforcement agencies across the country and continues to listen to the field and provide the resources that are needed to reduce crime and build trust between law enforcement and the communities served. The COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of more than 134,000 officers.

The year 2020 marks the 150th anniversary of the Department of Justice. Learn more about the history of our agency at www.Justice.gov/Celebrating150Years.  

Law Enforcement Hobbies

When I was promoted into the Violent Crimes Unit, I quickly realized that I needed a hobby to help clear my mind and make my off-duty hours as restorative as possible.

I heard about an elderly lady who taught woodcarving from her home. I’m not artistic, but signed up anyway.

I learned techniques that made blocks of w​​ood become beautiful birds, fish, flowers and more. But it was pipe carving that has stuck with me for 30 years now.

When I’m in my little shop carving away with music and a glass of port, my mind lets go of the work hassles, and the hours can feel like minutes. The creative feeling is really uplifting.

“Freehand” pipes don’t require a lathe, just a drill press, a vise and some simple hand tools. I give the pipes to friends. For me, pipe carving became a silver bullet for job stress.

Feel free to write me at dave@360armor.org if you want to know more.

Do you have a hobby that helps with stress from the job? Send a photo and short description to us at articles@apbweb.com.

 

American Police Beat

Eight Myths About Law Enforcement Officers and Mental Health Treatment

​​Most clinicians who work with law enforcement officers will tell you that the experience can be a little different. Sometimes, it seems to incorporate elements of a spy thriller. First, the call from the unknown number. Then, the interrogation from the unidentified caller, asking about your experience with cops, your ability to keep secrets and if you are in any way affiliated with the department. James Bond must be on the other end of the phone.

Let’s start by exploring the impacts that a career in law enforcement can have on officers. Law enforcement officers are a special population (like military and paramilitary personnel and other first responders) who experience coexisting medical and behavioral health issues with links to job-related stressors. According to a landmark study published by researcher John Violanti with the University at Buffalo in 2012, various factors contribute to the very serious physical and mental health concerns experienced by many law enforcement officers. These factors include:

  • Shift work
  • Long hours
  • Unpredictable schedules
  • Exposure to critical incidents
  • Being the frequent focus of public attention and criticism
  • Various physical demands
  • High rates of on-the-job injuries


The major concerns identified in Violanti’s study are high blood pressure, insomnia, heart disease, diabetes, posttraumatic stress disorder, obesity, depression, anxiety, cancer, substance abuse, relational distress and suicide. This special population often presents with higher rates of depression, substance abuse and suicide than does the general public.

In the October 2010 Issue of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, Daniel Mattos, a law enforcement veteran for more than 30 years, described the psychological impact of police work: “By the very nature of what we do as police officers, we are unavoidably exposed to a host of toxic elements that can be likened to grains of emotional sand that ever so gradually are placed on our psychological backs. As time goes on, the sand increases in volume. Without the proper tools to remove it, the weight can become unbearable. In fact, in some cases, the sand becomes so heavy that it can collapse officers. The result of the sand’s weight takes a heavy toll on us; substance abuse, anxiety, depression, failed marriages, and other emotional and physical ailments that rise well above societal averages plague our profession.”

In an international meta-analytic study completed in 2012, researchers Claudia Morales-Manrique and Juan Valderrama-Zurian identified strong links between the high-demand/low-control nature of police work and the high stress levels that negatively impact the physical and mental health of police officers. In high-demand/low-control careers, individuals are required to be at constant peak performance levels, stemming from the unpredictability and wide range of scenarios that can be presented to them.

Research suggests that officer rates of completed suicides are three times higher than in the general population. In January 2014, Perry Mason, a retired Canadian constable (police officer), publicly described in an interview with The Hamilton Spectator his suicidal thoughts and a very near suicide attempt during his career. During 34 years of service, Mason also recounted that seven of his fellow officers had died from suicide. Mason admitted that he sought help, but also kept it highly secret because of his fears of possible repercussions to his career. He never disclosed his suicidal thoughts until after he retired.

Dilemmas and challenges complicating treatment

The high rates of physical and mental health conditions among law enforcement officers reflect the need for medical and behavioral support and treatment. However, treatment resistance is often a significant barrier.

In 2002, the American Psychological Association recognized the need to take a closer look at law enforcement as a special population and to define guidelines for forensic psychology. Ensuring public safety requires that officers are mentally, emotionally and physically stable and deemed “fit for duty” to perform effectively.

Law enforcement personnel often struggle to manage the challenges associated with competing demands. Very intense and difficult circumstances must be addressed while simultaneously mitigating the impact those demands have on personal health and well-being. Seeking and adhering to needed medical and behavioral treatments can present specific dilemmas and challenges.

Law enforcement officers are legally and ethically mandated to maintain good physical and mental health. However, the stressors these individuals face, ranging from inconsistent shift work to frequent and unpredictable threats to life, result in both physical and emotional challenges for the majority of officers during an average career. Law enforcement employers are legally obligated to verify and monitor officers to ensure physical, mental and emotional stability, as well as job performance capability. As a result, any signs of behavior that are in question, either on or off duty, are subject to scrutiny by the officer’s department or chain of command.

Every single law enforcement officer undergoes fit-for-duty evaluations that entail a combination of psychological testing and interviewing. In the book Practical Police Psychology: Stress Management and Crisis Intervention for Law Enforcement (2006), Laurence Miller writes that failure of the evaluation may result in job loss or suspension. An unintended consequence is that the majority of officers are hesitant to seek help with mental, emotional, relational or even physical issues because it could result in their inability to work.

According to retired police officer and psychologist Joel Fay in the April 2012 issue of the POA Journal, officers presenting with medical or mental health concerns often struggle taking medications as prescribed to address symptoms. Officers are restricted from having certain types of medications in their systems. For the safety of the public and the officers, police departments have policies against the use of certain classifications of medications such as strong painkillers and benzodiazepines. An officer-involved accident or shooting is often subject to a review of the incident that includes blood tests to determine the possible presence of chemicals or medications that may have played a role in the incident. Officers recognize that doctors may be unaware of these restrictions. Unable to fully understand the classifications of medications, officers may consequently resist taking prescribed medications.

So, what can we do as clinicians to help reduce the stigma and minimize the fear that going to counseling has for many law enforcement officers? The first step is to help officers understand their rights to privacy. I asked the legal experts at Bruno, Colin & Lowe P.C., with more than 60 years’ combined experience in protecting the rights of law enforcement officers in Colorado, and Mariya Dvoskina, a police and public safety psychologist with Nicoletti-Flater Associates, experts in the evaluation and critical incident response for law enforcement officers, to give me “just the facts.”

Collectively, we identified eight myths that keep many law enforcement officers from seeking support through counseling. Because each state may have some independent legislation in this regard, it is important for clinicians to verify the legal standards in the individual states in which they practice.

The myths

Myth #1

Departments/agencies have the right to obtain information about officers that seek help from licensed mental health professionals.

False! Licensed mental health professionals are legally and ethically bound to protect client privacy. If an officer reaches out to a therapist on his or her own — in other words, if the officer wasn’t ordered to see a therapist by a court or the officer’s department — then the employer doesn’t even have the right to know that the officer is attending therapy. Nothing that is said in counseling can be released to anyone without the officer’s written consent. The U.S. Supreme court has ruled that the confidential relationship between a psychotherapist and an officer is privileged. To learn more, see http://www.apa.org/about/offices/ogc/amicus/jaffee.aspx

The only times confidentiality can be broken are for the reasons below, which apply to every client/patient.

  • A suspected incident of child abuse or neglect must be reported.
  • A threat of imminent physical harm by a patient must be reported to law enforcement and to the person(s) threatened.
  • A mental health evaluation must be initiated for a patient who is imminently dangerous to self or to others, or who is gravely disabled, as a result of a mental disorder.
  • A suspected threat to national security must be reported to federal officials.
  • Suspected abuse of a senior adult (70 years of age or older), including institutional neglect, physical injury, financial exploitation or unreasonable restraint, must be reported.


 Myth #2

Rights to privacy change if you use your insurance or employee assistance program (EAP).

False! Treatment by a licensed mental health professional that is paid for by your insurance company or your EAP is protected by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), and the same rules apply.

Sometimes patients choose not to use insurance benefits so that their outpatient treatment remains separate from their medical record.

 

Myth #3

There is no reason to see a licensed professional because the rules are exactly the same with a peer support team.

False! Limits to confidentiality vary by department and the standards may be different than those that licensed professionals have. The peer support member must disclose these limitations in the first meeting. In addition to the exceptions to confidentiality listed in Myth #1, most peer support teams are also expected to report crimes and sometimes policy violations. Outside of those limitations, conversations between a peer support member and an officer are confidential.

Myth #4

The department or agency automatically has a right to know if an officer receives a mental health diagnosis or takes medication.

False! HIPAA protects both diagnosis and medication or other treatment methods because they are part of the clinical record and therefore confidential. If an officer would like the department to know this information, he or she must sign a release of information. Otherwise, the professional treatment provider cannot disclose anything related to the client/patient to the department or anyone else.

 
Myth #5

If an officer seeks help from a hospital or a rehabilitation facility voluntarily, the department automatically has the right to this information.

False! The department can only access information that an officer has granted it permission to have, as is the case with any other medical condition.

Myth #6

If an officer is placed on an M-1 hold, he or she automatically loses their right to carry and possess a firearm.

False! When there is a court-approved certification for an involuntary mental health hold, restrictions to weapons are limited while the certification is active. If the provider that requested the certification acknowledges that the client/patient is no longer a danger to themselves or anyone else, then the restriction can and should be released as well.

Myth #7

If an officer seeks the support of a licensed mental health professional, that automatically means that the officer is not fit for duty.

False! Seeking counseling voluntarily would NEVER automatically mean that an officer is unfit for duty.

Myth #8

Counseling is the same as a fit-for-duty evaluation.

False! The most important question to ask is “Who is the client?” If the officer is seeking support on his or her own, all of the rights stated above belong to the officer. If the department is the client, as is the case in a pre-employment evaluation or a fitness-for-duty evaluation, then the information most often belongs to the department.

By Jessika Redman | Counseling Today

About the Author

Jessika Redman is a licensed professional counselor, a national certified counselor and the founder of Well Relate LLC (http://www.wellrelate.com) in Castle Rock, Colorado. Contact her at jessika@wellrelate.com.

CopLine: A Law Enforcement Officer’s Lifeline

The perception that ‘​all of America hates cops​’​ ​is taking an emotional toll on law enforcement officers and their families. Photo by Gabe Pierce.

 

“CopLine, what’s going on?” Those are the first words a caller hears when those 10 numbers are dialed, (800) 267-5463 — 10 numbers that will connect you directly to a vetted, trained, retired officer who is there to listen to what a caller wants to address.

CopLine receives between 200 and 300 calls a month, and the numbers continue to increase. When I am asked about the call volume, it is always followed by a sigh or “That’s really unfortunate.” Maybe it’s me, but I have never looked at it that way. I don’t look at checking in with a friend or family member as “unfortunate,” only as a sign that someone cares and isn’t alone. The unfortunate part is those who do not call — those who were struggling with some external issue or internal strife and thought, “I don’t want to burden anyone; there are people who need to call more than I do.” Let me set the record straight: Hell, no, there is no one more important than you are.

That’s the crux of the problem as I see it, all too often. As a therapist, I rarely worry about an officer who is in my practice; I worry about those who aren’t, those who I didn’t reach. That’s why I have chosen to do some Facebook Live talks to help stop the stigma of talking to a mental health professional and to try to reach so many more than I can in my private practice. It isn’t a job or a career, it is a calling and a way of life. I can’t help but hear in my head the words from the opening of A Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness…” That is policing in 2020. No one can go it alone on a social level or personal level, not Lucie Manette, Charles Darnay or even Sydney Carton himself.

I have been asked countless times if CopLine saw an uptick in calls like other hotlines did when COVID-19 became a world “feardemic.” Please don’t misinterpret that as me downplaying the pandemic that has killed more than 800,000 people; I am referring to the fear in the world the pandemic has caused that has immobilized most people. CopLine had not experienced a significant uptick during this time, and callers addressed many stressors, with COVID-19 being only one of them. I pondered why that could be, and it wasn’t until our last training that it occurred to me.

There was a “spirited” conversation about doing our CopLine training remotely. Everything had gone the way of Zoom, and now the pressure was on. The reality is in the training and stringent vetting process of the retirees who answer the lines themselves, the many men and women who have finished their careers and still want to give back to their own and the “uniform” families that support them. Of our nine completed trainings, only three trainings successfully vetted all of the trainees who had taken the class. They all have the heart to answer the phone, but the skill set is far more challenging to acquire. Our success is in knowing that each volunteer has the proper skills to answer the calls and meet each caller where they are, without judgment or the need to problem-solve. This can only be done through grueling role-plays, hours of teaching and daily evaluations by the training cadre. In my true snarky fashion, I have told people there are two things you can’t do on Zoom: You can’t conceive a child and you can’t do CopLine training.

We have seen an uptick not only in calls, but in the emotional toll the societal shift is taking on law enforcement officers and their families.

Each retiree has spent a lifetime fighting invisible enemies and rising to national and international crises. We have seen this throughout history, but what no officer was prepared for was to become “the enemy.” COVID-19 was not the issue; it was the social shift of what at times feels like “all of America hates cops” that has weighed heavily on officers and their families. We have seen an uptick not only in calls, but in the emotional toll the societal shift is taking on law enforcement officers and their families. There are times when I use the word “heartbreaking” to describe what is relayed to me from listeners (who always have clinical support for themselves while they are on the lines). What has been so rewarding is that so many of the listeners have been through riots throughout our recent history (from the 1960s forward), and they really can “sit in the hole” side by side with the caller and understand what they are talking about on a very real and intimate level.

That is the foundation of CopLine, a very simple concept that was not made any more difficult through politics or BS. It’s a great idea, yes, but there is no way to execute it without the help of many. I have always had the easy lift and still do, as the listeners have always chosen the heavy lift and still do. We have ensured that confidentiality is maintained by not taking any government money through grants or loans. That has allowed us to eliminate the fear of cellphones being pinged or calls being traced and anyone coming to the caller’s house to “check up on them” if they talk about thoughts of suicide. Officers and their families need a safe place to talk about these thoughts and feelings, as well as all their other thoughts and feelings, without the fear of losing everything. We are not a suicide or crisis line. We do deal with those calls, but we are here to deal with all stressors in an officer’s life or their families. We believe that if an officer calls when they have “low-hanging fruit,” they will call when they have “high-hanging fruit,” and we have seen just that. More than 90% of our calls are not crisis or suicidal calls — they are about “normal” stressors from a stressful job, and our callers will find a partner on the other end of the line who has the skills and background to help.

It is simple: We are a confidential hotline for officers and their families to call to deal with any and all issues they are having on or off the job, without fear of any repercussions for being human. They will talk to only a vetted, trained retired officer, and from the second they dial (800) COP-LINE, they are never alone.

​​Without the unwavering support of organizations like the Los Angeles Sheriffs’ Relief Association, which generously took out an ad in APB and helped sponsor our 10th CopLine training, we wouldn’t be able to touch as many lives as we have. It truly takes a village, and we couldn’t be more honored to have leaders like the Sheriffs’ Relief Association to help build ours.

​By Stephanie Samuels | American Police Beat 
​Stephanie Samuels, M.A., MSW, LCSW, is a psychotherapist who works exclusively with police officers in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. She has lectured all over the country on PTSD and vicarious trauma, including undiagnosed PTSD and the fallout from departmental silence after officers are involved in critical incidents. She is the founder and president of CopLine, the first confidential international law enforcement hotline answered by retired officers.

Inmates, DOC settle Hepatitis C Treatment Suit

Missouri inmates have reached a settlement with the Missouri Department of Corrections and the department’s medical provider that will ensure that those incarcerated in state prisons will receive treatment for Hepatitis C.

Attorneys from The MacArthur Justice Center, the ACLU of Missouri and the Wilkinson Walsh law firm of Washington, D.C. announced the settlement on Aug. 21.

According to a news release from the ACLU, Hepatitis C, also known as HCV, is widespread in Missouri prisons. If untreated, it can lead to life-threatening conditions including cirrhosis and liver cancer. Drugs that can treat HCV are expensive, however, and routinely denied to incarcerated individuals in Missouri, according to the attorneys for the inmates.

As part of the settlement, the Missouri Department of Corrections and Corizon Health have agreed to spend approximately $50 million to treat incarcerated people in Missouri with chronic HCV and to monitor individuals at high risk for serious health conditions as a result of HCV infection.

In a statement, Amy Breihan, co-director of the MacArthur Justice Center’s Missouri office, said the settlement will “save countless lives.”

“It means Missouri will go from treating less than one percent of its infected prison population, to eventually treating every incarcerated person with chronic Hepatitis C,” she said. “The impact on the health of our incarcerated clients and the public overall will be immense.”

The case is Postawko et al. v. Missouri Department of Corrections, 2:16-cv-4219.

 
By: Jessica Shumaker | Missouri Lawyers Media molawyersmedia.com
 

How to Reduce Stress During Times of Crisis

​Who is taking care of the cops when they are enduring hatred, betrayal and intense scrutiny? (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)​

 

With law enforcement blamed for society’s ills and the future of policing uncertain, officers face new traumas and total exhaustion.

An NYPD veteran said that the emotional toll on cops today is worse than after 9/11. Officers are taxed to the max, under constant media attack and experiencing hatred like never before.

After working 12-hour shifts with no days off, cops go home to teach school lessons to their kids, but only after they have decontaminated themselves and their equipment to protect loved ones from an enemy they cannot see. Spouses have been laid off and officers worry about making the mortgage. Cops have seen death from the pandemic firsthand and have lost colleagues, friends and family members to the virus.

Don’t forget the two-officer families who wrestle with long shifts, household chores and daycare issues. Don’t forget the line of duty deaths that cannot be memorialized properly.

On top of dealing with a pandemic and economic shutdown, add in the protests where bottles filled with concrete are thrown at cops, they are called pigs and murderers and are shoved and spit on. Businesses that supported officers have banned them from entering and denied the use of bathroom facilities. Officers’ wives, parents and children experience attacks of hatred from friends and strangers.

As all cops are unmercifully blamed for the actions and inactions of a few, officers struggle to explain to their young kids why people hate the police.

All cops are serving a sentence for a crime they didn’t commit.

COPS WORRY THAT BY DOING THEIR JOB THEY CAN LOSE THEIR JOB

Officers don’t worry about dying in the line of duty. If that happens, their families will be taken care of financially. Officers worry that despite performing their assigned duties by the book, they can still be sued, indicted, or fired. They fear not being able to put food on the table or a roof over their kids’ heads. Not to mention the humiliation and financial ruin of imprisonment. In this political climate, showing up for work can get you in trouble.

Officers worry about having to use force and being thrown under the bus by their agency and elected officials or fired before an investigation has commenced.

And then there is the talk of abolishing qualified immunity.

WHY DO WE NEED TO TAKE CARE OF THE COPS?

Policing during a pandemic is traumatic enough. With law enforcement blamed for society’s ills and the future of policing uncertain, officers face new traumas and total exhaustion. Throw out the term post-traumatic stress disorder because what cops are currently enduring is way beyond any stress known to mankind or a medical disorder.

Trauma takes a toll on the human physically and emotionally. The brain and memory encode traumatic events differently than normal events. Traumatic events get trapped within the body – the vagus nerve and individual organs. Physical symptoms of surviving trauma can mimic the pandemic virus: fatigue, stomach upset, muscle aches, shaking and chills, shortness of breath, headaches and congestion can be contributed to both. Officers may experience additional health issues like high blood pressure, ulcers, heart attacks and suicide ideations.

Unresolved trauma and stuffing or denying emotions can manifest as anger. Officers cannot afford, during this siege on law enforcement, to succumb to rage roaring out at the wrong moment while on duty.

WHO IS TAKING CARE OF THE COPS?

Who is taking care of the cops when they are enduring hatred, betrayal and intense scrutiny? When they are criticized and denounced for doing their jobs?

Under these dire circumstances, overcoming the stigmas officers face in asking for help and providing emotional support resources to officers will be a monumental task. But departments have a long history of failing to offer adequate emotional support to officers. Officers need more than wellness programs that do little to address their concerns. They want to know that their department’s administration will stand up for them if they use justified, reasonable and necessary force.

Officers are instructed to refrain from answering noncriminal calls and not to escalate situations (as if officers are the cause of such escalations). Officers face having their jobs reformed by people who have never policed and who have no idea what the job entails. That doesn’t constitute emotional support.

Agencies and the public need to wake up to the fact that unless emotional support is offered to officers, who continue to work under these stressful conditions, there will be mass retirements and resignations and recruitment will be impossible.

COPS HAVE TO TAKE CARE OF COPS

Reach out to a peer support team and talk about how you feel. Peer team members are trained to listen, validate and acknowledge your feelings, allowing you to fall apart and be honest with your feelings without fear of the impact on your career. Peer support team members, in most states, are covered by the same confidentiality protections as a doctor, lawyer, or clergy.

Talk to a peer team member and express your feelings in an environment of trust and support. Neutralize your emotions so they won’t come back to haunt you on duty or video. Don’t take what you are experiencing on the job home and take it out on those who love and support you.

If your agency does not have a peer team, seek out a team in your area or another city. A peer team will not turn you away.

TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF AND THE OFFICER NEXT TO YOU

You have to take care of yourself and your colleagues.

Eat properly. Rest when you can. Drink water to avoid dehydration during the summer heat. Don’t self-medicate with booze or junk food. Breathe deeply often to calm your mind and your emotions and reset your nervous system.

Talk to your spouse and family. Keep the lines of communication open and honest.

Care about those you work with. Be alert for signs they are burnt out or struggling. Provide support and assistance. Help other officers maintain composure and keep calm out on the streets.

Don’t take the hatred towards law enforcement personally. Officers are being used as political pawns in a vile election year.

MAJORITY OF AMERICANS SUPPORT AND RESPECT POLICE OFFICERS

A sergeant met two of his officers for dinner at an open restaurant. An older African American couple came to their table after putting on their masks. The man placed his hands on the shoulders of the two officers and said, “I paid for your meals.”

The sergeant said, “Appreciate your act of kindness, but you don’t need to do that.”

The gentleman said, “Yes, officers, I do.” He patted their shoulders, then he and his wife left.

What helps the most, officers say, is when citizens come up and express their support and encouragement.

As psychologist Erich Fromm said, “Love is the only sane, satisfactory answer to the problems of human existence.”

Time to support our officers who perform their jobs professionally and ethically every day under conditions never before seen or experienced in law enforcement.

​​By Barbara A. Schwartz | Police 1
 
About the author

Barbara A. Schwartz is certified as a first responder peer supporter by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF) and the Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support (LEAPS). She maintains specializations in grief, injured officer support, suicide prevention, and traumatic stress injuries.

As a Police Explorer scout and reserve officer, Schwartz served in patrol and investigations. Her articles and book reviews have appeared in American Police Beat, The Thin Blue Line, Command, The Tactical Edge, Crisis Negotiator Journal, Badge & Gun, The Harris County Star, The Blues, The Shield, The Police News, PoliceOne.com and Calibre Press Newsline.

She maintains memberships in the National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA) and the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association (ILEETA).

Schwartz has dedicated her life to supporting the brave officers of law enforcement.