Unique state-sponsored training designed to help law enforcement agencies improve assistance provided to officers, families coping with line-of-duty deaths, PTSD, suicide
More than 100 professionals from 16 counties attending two-day training in Syracuse
New York State is offering a unique training program today for law enforcement, aimed at giving agency executives resources and information to better address critical incidents, such as the death of one of their own in the line of duty or as a result of suicide.
The state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) developed the TRAUMA (Trauma Resources and Unified Management Assistance) program as part of its mission to offer training to law enforcement agencies and their officers so they can better serve their communities.
More than 100 law enforcement professionals from 45 local, county and state agencies from Central New York and beyond attended the two-day training, which began yesterday and concluded this afternoon at Syracuse University. Approximately 1,200 law enforcement executives across the state have taken the two-day course since its creation in 2012.
DCJS Executive Deputy Commissioner Michael C. Green said, “As a former prosecutor, I have seen first-hand the toll that a line-of-duty death or devastating injury can have on a department. Men and women on the front lines of this state’s fight against crime may be reluctant to share their grief or on-the-job experiences with co-workers, family and friends, which can lead to extreme stress. The aim of this training is to provide a line of defense for those officers to help themselves, each other and their families.”
Representatives from the following local, state and federal agencies were registered to attend the training: police departments in Camillus, Canandaigua, Canastota, DeWitt, Geneva, Ithaca, Manlius, Rochester, Seneca Falls and Sherrill; sheriffs’ offices from Chenango, Cortland, Greene, Madison, Onondaga, Tioga and Ulster counties; and probation departments in Allegany, Chemung, Delaware, Onondaga, Oswego, Wayne and Yates counties.
Representatives from state, out-of-state and federal agencies also were registered: the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Law Enforcement, New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), New York State Police, New York State University Police, State University of New York, FBI, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of New York, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Marshals Service.
The DCJS Office of Public Safety developed the program after the state Office of Mental Health requested that training staff identify how the state could help agencies that employ Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans who may be facing post-traumatic stress disorder as they rejoin the police force. Incorporating strategies and support to help officers and agencies deal with line-of-duty deaths and officer suicides made sense, since the topics often are interrelated.
These statistics provide additional perspective:
- Over the past six years, the names of 95 law enforcement officers who died in the line of duty or due to illnesses related to work at Ground Zero have been inscribed on the New York State Police Officers’ Memorial in Albany.
- Badge of Life (www.badgeoflife.com) found that 126 police officers died by suicide in 2012, although experts caution that number could be higher because some agencies are not required to classify a suicide death as such, or may classify it as an “accidental discharge.”
The class is designed for law enforcement executives – chiefs, assistant chiefs and other front-line supervisors – and other law enforcement officers with a minimum of five years on the job. It explores all of the issues that can affect police departments and their members in the wake of any critical incident. The training has two main objectives:
- To assist agency executives in formulating plans to deal with an officer’s death, including creating policies for handling family notifications and funeral arrangements; helping survivors obtain benefits and other assistance; and providing counseling for other department members both immediately and in the long term.
- To help agencies provide support services for law enforcement officers to deal with stress management and stress following critical incident situations, including learning how to establish and operate Police Peer Support programs and identifying potential Police Peers.
Officers are also instructed on how to prepare for deadly force encounters, with special concentration on what those encounters will do to the mind and body; identifying symptoms of acute stress disorder versus post-traumatic stress disorder; and how best to help a co-worker in such a situation.
The perspective of survivors is integral to the program’s goals. Karen Howard, the mother of New York State Trooper David Brinkerhoff, who was killed in a friendly fire incident in 2007, spoke at the training in Syracuse. “When a traumatic event happens, you’re not aware of what you’re going through, and you need your Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) people or whoever is around you to show you the way,” she said. “We tell our stories and hope somebody realizes something and says, ‘We can’t have this happen to our family or someone else’s.’”
The training also highlights the availability of the Western New York Police Helpline, which offers officers who are dealing with acute stress or PTSD an opportunity to talk directly with fellow members of law enforcement about the psychological and physical and behavioral issues they are facing. The Helpline, which was created in 2008, is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and has been well received since its inception.
“Given the rates of PTSD and other stress-related issues that affect officers, it’s important to bring these topics to the forefront,” said Bonita Frazer of the WNY Police Helpline Steering Committee. “The TRAUMA training offers education about how stress affects performance and how stress symptoms can be mitigated. This is a critical component of the training. Once they know the warning signs of general, cumulative, acute and post-traumatic stress, they are more likely and more empowered to address symptoms early. Doing so results in greater performance and a better quality of life both on and off the job.”
In addition to Onondaga County, the two-day training has been offered in Broome, Cattaraugus, Clinton, Erie, Monroe, Oneida, Orange, Saratoga, Schenectady, Suffolk and Westchester counties.
The DCJS Office of Public Safety provides direct training to New York's law enforcement community in such areas as criminal investigation, traffic safety, law enforcement skills, youth services and management. It is also responsible for administering the Law Enforcement Accreditation Program, as well as several Governor’s initiatives, such as the Police Officers’ Memorial and the Police Officer of the Year Award.
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (www.criminaljustice.ny.gov) is a multi-function criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the state’s DNA Databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; administration of federal and state criminal justice grant funds; support of criminal justice-related agencies across the state; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.