Mental Health Among Law Enforcement

Police Actions Scrutinized

Police officers have arguably one of the most difficult jobs out there. Witnessing death, crisis after crisis and violent crime can put a toll on the mind, and the body. Recent events involving police mistakably pulling the trigger or using excessive force when dealing with a person has put the limelight on police. They are forced to make split-second decisions in untimely situations with suspects who may be armed. Naturally, they would fear for their life or the life of another. Unfortunately, actions taken by police are not always made in the best judgment, and certain cases of such have caused a national uproar.

Policing Becoming Less Popular

When certain instances of police not following protocol are put in the spotlight, many of the nation’s police are put under a magnifying glass. The job itself has become less attractive. The N.J. State Police usually sees anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 applicants right now, but there are only now about 2,000 applicants.[1] Early in the month of April, in NYC, a police car was set on fire, and two more cars had their rear windows broken.[2] In addition, a Brooklyn man has recently pleaded guilty to cutting the brake lines on an NYPD vehicle.[3] These are only a few examples of incidents. Policing has become more dangerous.

Mental Health of Police Officers

Under a bill signed by N.J. Governor Phil Murphy, N.J. police officers can now retire early after 20 years of service under the “burnout bill”.[4] Burnout, stress, anxiety, and depression have all been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, not just for police officers, but for all workers.[5] Yet, for this occupation, it is higher than the public. “There’s a higher suicide rate among first responders than the general public, and research indicates more law enforcement officers and firefighters die of suicide than in the line of duty.”[6] Law enforcement are known to deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to shock and strain. Often, these mental health problems contribute to physical ailments that make it harder for them to do their job.

North Carolina Bill

One state is choosing to act. In North Carolina, a bill currently in the legislature would treat mental trauma for police officers and first responders more similarly to physical injury.[7] For physical injury, police would otherwise get time off through the workers’ compensation system to recuperate, but that could soon be possible through mental trauma. This would allow police officers to spend time off to work on their mental health. This may not influence some police officers, however, with some viewing mental health problems as a stigma and choosing not to acknowledge it, fearing their jobs may be at stake. A police officer experiencing mental trauma may also exacerbate or introduce familial issues within their nuclear family due to a spillover of stress.[8]

Maryland Lending a Helping Hand

Another state, Maryland, currently has a bill pending in the state legislature titled, The Police Officers Mental Health Employee Assistance Program. These assistance programs include “confidential counseling services, crisis counseling, stress management counseling and peer support services…” aimed at providing police officers with access to mental health treatment.[9] The result of such an effort may provide a huge boost to policing.

Communities and Police

Communities and police need to work together to solve issues. Relations between the two have worsened, with some communities having an outright adversarial relationship. A cohesive relationship based upon mutual understanding and trust would improve the mental health of police officers as well as community members. Police and community partnerships that engage “local law enforcement and community leaders in a dialogue to identify issues and collaboratively develop solutions” are initiatives that may provide healing.[10]

Call Us Today

If you are a police officer and have been injured in the line of duty, or have experienced mental trauma, we encourage you to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to explore your options. Our law firm has a storied history of representing police and their families. Call us for a free consultation at (973)-718-5173.

[1] News 12 Staff. “All NJ Police Officers to Wear Cameras by June; State Police Struggle to Get Recruits.” News 12 – New Jersey, News 12 New Jersey, 12 Apr. 2021, newjersey.news12.com/all-nj-police-officers-to-wear-cameras-by-june-state-police-struggle-to-get-recruits.

[2] Anonymous. “NYC Police Union Claims Cop’s Car Was Set on Fire.” NBC New York, NBC Universal Media, LLC., 8 Apr. 2021, www.nbcnewyork.com/news/local/nyc-police-union-claims-cops-car-was-set-on-fire/2987450/.

[3] Brown, Stephen Rex, and Noah Goldberg. “’I Cut the Wire’: Brooklyn Man Pleads Guilty to Sabotaging NYPD Car during George Floyd Protests.” Daily News, New York Daily News, 30 Apr. 2021, www.nydailynews.com/new-york/nyc-crime/ny-jeremy-trapp-nypd-car-wire-cut-brakes-guilty-plea-george-floyd-20210430-7utjkgzn25d7dgit2pk7k5u3eq-story.html.

[4] Marcus, Samantha. “N.J. Police Officers, Firefighters Can Retire Early under Bill Signed by Murphy.” NJ.com, Advance Local Media LLC., 20 Apr. 2021, www.nj.com/politics/2021/04/nj-police-officers-firefighters-can-retire-early-under-bill-signed-by-murphy.html.

[5] Moorcraft, Bethan. “The Importance of Holistic Care When Tackling Chronic Pain and Mental Health.” Insurance Business, Key Media, 30 Apr. 2021, www.insurancebusinessmag.com/us/news/workers-comp/the-importance-of-holistic-care-when-tackling-chronic-pain-and-mental-health-253802.aspx.

[6] Fain, Travis. “’There Was No Help for Me’: Officers, First Responders Seek More Mental Health Supports.” WRAL.com, Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc., 30 Apr. 2021, www.wral.com/there-was-no-help-for-me-officers-first-responders-seek-more-mental-health-supports/19652103/.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Steinberg, Jacob. “Police Officers’ Mental Health Focus of Bill Moving through Maryland Legislature.” Delmarva Now, Delmarvanow.com, 25 Jan. 2021, www.delmarvanow.com/story/news/2021/01/25/police-officers-mental-health-focus-bill-maryland-legislature/6662813002/.

[10] Anonymous. “Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships.” The United States Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, 16 Mar. 2021, www.justice.gov/crs/our-work/facilitation/strengthening-police-community-partnerships#:~:text=Strengthening%20Police%20and%20Community%20Partnerships%20(SPCP)%20is%20a%20one%2D,that%20improve%20police%2Dcommunity%20partnerships.

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