The Garland Police Department is adjusting its guidelines to address the mental health needs of its officers.
Starting soon, every new recruit will be assigned one of 10 officers, who will volunteer to receive stress management training.
These officers will act as a “go-between” for rookies and their supervisors and will serve as a confidante when that officer needs help but may not feel comfortable reaching out to higher-ranking officers.
The move is a change from the traditional debriefing, which officers say didn’t always offer ample opportunities for officers to talk through symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorders.
“We want to give them a few days to calm down, to return to a normal baseline, and if we see or hear things that are alarming, that they’re not returning to normal quite as fast. Then we want to give them some options on steps to take,” said Mike Hatfield, community relations officer with Garland Police.
Officer Brandon Hernandez, a patrolman and SWAT member, knows better than most how the job can affect an officer’s mental state.
He was involved in an officer-involved shooting in 2008 in the parking lot of a Rockwall church.
He says he and his family had just arrived when a road rage incident spilled into the parking lot.
“Next thing I know, I find myself with a gun being pulled on me, and I’m having to pull my gun while I’m off duty and take someone’s life. My family and people I associate in life witnessed it. That was something that I didn’t really expect, that I didn’t want. I felt like I took the innocence away from my family because they should have never had to see that,” said Hernandez.
In the months that followed, Hernandez said he experienced symptoms of PTSD.
“Kind of quirky things that don’t keep us from doing our job, but make you stop back and think, ‘Wait, why am I feeling this?'” he said.
He believes in the new era of policing – which includes counter-terrorism – a renewed focus on the mental health needs of officers is vital.
“If you’re a new officer entering now, you’re entering in a very challenging time because there’s some new issues that we are having to deal with. Not just the latest two incidents, Baton Rouge and Dallas, but also now counter-terrorism,” said Hernandez.
“We are not robots. We are humans,” he said.
Source: Garland Police Puts Renewed Focus On Officers’ Mental Health Needs | NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worthhttp://www.nbcdfw.com/news/health/Garland-Police-Puts-Renewed-Focus-On-Officers-Mental-Health-Needs-392674431.html#ixzz4JoUoWLS8
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