One of the most difficult, challenging and sometimes dangerous jobs in our communities is to be a law enforcement officer. We hear about them only when there is a community crisis. Most officers go into this work to protect our communities and help our citizens live safe lives.
They are in the fray of confronting such issues as opioid overdoses, domestic violence, violent crime, mass shootings and sometimes the more mundane issues like traffic accidents, enforcement of our local laws and other related parts of their job.
About a year ago when I had a fender bender, two officers came to the scene to take a report and told me that they had just been at the scene of two different opioid overdoses where death resulted in both cases. They were both stressed and struggling with their morning events. For so many of us we simply see the uniform and have little understanding of what they are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.
Police officers are dealing with trauma regularly. Sometimes they are at high risk in their jobs. They are human like the rest of us and have some of the same issues that we all have in life. They also make mistakes and sometimes those mistakes are life-dominating. My point is that by virtue of what they deal with each and every day they need support just like anyone who deals with trauma and its impact.
One program that is striving to support their police officers is found in the State of New Jersey. It is called COP2COP. This program is staffed by retired law enforcement officers and retired law enforcement clinicians who are licensed mental health specialists and peer support counselors.
They provide crisis support, answers to legal, financial, employment, and relationship questions, clinical assessments, referrals to police clinical network providers, and critical incident stress management services.
Their mission is to provide confidential, 24/7 peer support to NJ law enforcement officers and their families. They even have a confidential telephone line, email and chat capacity for officers and their families to contact for help if they are having a crisis. They also have a blog that discusses some of the issues that they face in law enforcement.
The beauty of this program is that these are trained peers that are training, guiding, and supporting their fellow officers within the State of New Jersey. This type of program is something that we need to have available to law enforcement staff in every state in America. I believe the impact can prevent suicides and help officers maintain a level of wellness when they face the crises that are unique to their job experiences.
Kudos to the State of New Jersey for establishing this vital and important program.