Law Enforcement Officers Should Never Suffer in Silence
We ask law enforcement to remain tough in times of adversity, unshakeable in times of crisis. However, when the dust clears and the threat has abated, I have a personal plea for officers struggling in the aftermath: Don’t suffer in silence. There is never any shame in reaching out for help.
Thanks to a new program at the Department of Criminal Justice Training – the Kentucky Post-Critical Incident Seminar (KYPCIS) – support for law enforcement is more available now than ever before.
I was fortunate earlier this year to attend the opening session of KYPCIS and witness the impact of this effort. I heard stories of transformed lives and careers saved. I met officers who reported feeling hope for the first time in years. Some said just knowing the seminar is available provided a sense of relief.
These interventions are both cutting edge and long overdue.
As of writing this column, the Las Vegas massacre remains fresh in the headlines. It’s a reminder that, on any ordinary day, law enforcement can face conflict akin to armed warfare. Even the most routine traffic stops can threaten an officer’s life or require the use of deadly force.
In fact, a 2013 study on post-traumatic stress among law enforcement professionals found that 82 percent of male officers and 76 percent of female officers had experienced a traumatic event within the past month. It’s no wonder that 15 percent of men and 18 percent of women in the study experienced partial or full symptoms of PTS.
Meanwhile, a flurry of similar studies also have shown that PTS increases stress and substance abuse while impairing physical health, sleep and concentration. Such factors have an untold impact on an officer’s day-to-day service, and we have a collective obligation to ensure those on the front lines are functioning at the highest levels – both physically and psychologically.
Kentucky’s three-day seminar was modeled after proven programs developed by the FBI and South Carolina Law Enforcement. The depth of each seminar is impressive. It involves a mix of group discussions, one-on-one sessions with mental-health experts, peer mentoring and training.
South Carolina’s seminars have helped close to 1,200 officers since inception, along with 215 spouses or significant others. That’s a testament to the value of these investments, and I want to commend DOCJT Commissioner Mark Filburn and Deputy Commissioner John McGuire for their vision to bring this program to Kentucky. I also want to thank DOCJT Criminal Investigation Branch Manager Travis Tennill and the many DOCJT staff members who have been instrumental in making it a success.
Kentucky has long been a national leader in law enforcement training. The Post-Critical Incident Seminar is more proof that, in Kentucky, our law enforcement professionals are not alone, are valued and the state has their best interest at heart.
If you or someone you know would benefit from these services, please don’t hesitate to step forward. We have your back.