In 2014, NAMI met with Chief Michael Kehoe of the Newtown (Conn.) Police Department to help develop a roadmap for navigating the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. Working with Chief Kehoe, NAMI convened an expert advisory group—the first of its kind—comprised of police chiefs who had managed departments impacted by mass shootings and mental health professionals who have worked with these departments. Their insights form the core of the report. They vividly illustrate that the mental wellness of police officers is affected by responding to violent tragedies—and also by responding to day-to-day traumatic events.
Our work on officer mental health after tragic incidents reveals unique challenges that police face. At the same time, it tells us something we at NAMI are reminded of every day: Mental health conditions affect everyone. Stigma and the fear of seeking help affect people from all sectors of society – including people who are strong and resourceful. Police officers are part of our NAMI community and their mental health should not be overlooked.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) today announced the release of a new publication to assist law enforcement officers who may experience mental health issues after responding to mass casualty events. The goal of the report, Preparing for the Unimaginable, is to provide law enforcement executives with the knowledge and resources to assist their agencies in coping with the impact of mass casualty incidents on officer mental health.
In response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, the COPS Office, in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Newtown Police Department, developed the guidebook to assist officers who may have to respond to traumatic events.
The report provides police chiefs with the vital information needed to support officer mental health before, during and after a mass casualty event.
“A mass casualty event could happen anywhere, anytime.” said COPS Office Director Ronald Davis. “We must prepare our officers to not only respond to these tragedies; we must also provide them the tools to deal with the aftermath. Thanks to the leadership of police chiefs who have selflessly shared their experiences and lessons learned from living through such tragedies, this report provides guidance on what do before a tragedy occurs, how to prepare for the unthinkable, and what to expect after a mass casualty incident occurs.”
The guidebook includes expert advice and practical tips for helping officers heal emotionally, communicating with the public, working with the media and building relationships with other first responder agencies. Personal contributions of four police chiefs and numerous officers who have lived through incidents such as these and shared their experiences are featured.
The report, Preparing for the Unimaginable, can be found online here: http://ric-zai-inc.com/ric.php?page=detail&id=COPS-P347.
In 2013, the COPS Office awarded NAMI a grant to assist the Newtown Police Department in efforts to support officer mental health in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. To gather lessons learned, NAMI hosted an expert advisory group meeting in February 2015, bringing together police chiefs who had managed mass casualty events, and mental health professionals who worked with them. NAMI consulted with numerous law enforcement leaders and officers, mental health clinicians, trauma experts and media experts.
The COPS Office is the federal component of the Department of Justice responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. Since 1995, 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 127,000 officers and provide a variety of knowledge resource products including publications, training and technical assistance. For additional information about the COPS Office, please visit www.cops.usdoj.gov.