Archive for the ‘Officer safety’ Category

The tragedy of Baltimore

March 13, 2019

Baltimore has just confirmed the appointment of a new police commissioner, Michael Harrison, recently retired from New Orleans. This article reviews the last few years of crime and policing in the city, describing in detail the tension between residents’ critical need for more safety through engaged policing, and the social and economic factors fueling high levels of street crime. People attending recent community meetings “were not describing a trade-off between justice and order. They saw them as two parts of a whole and were daring to ask for both.”


Focus on wellness in Stockton

February 23, 2019

This article describes Stockton, California PD’s wellness network aimed at helping officers deal with stress and trauma. The award-winning initiative includes a significant orientation for new recruits and proactive measures when officers encounter difficult situations in the field. The police department endured layoffs earlier in the decade while the city went through bankruptcy, adding to the burdens facing officers in a violent, high-crime environment. So far, worker’s compensation claims are down as are citizen complaints.

Resilience training

February 8, 2019

This new COPS Office publication describes resilience training being tested in the Milwaukee Police Department. Initial results indicate some positive early-career effects on new officers who get the training in the academy, but no significant impact on mid-career officers who get it later as in-service training. Final results are pending but will include “development of a model to guide effective delivery of resilience training at the academy and … validation of the effectiveness of this training for recruits.”

Police suicide

December 21, 2018

This article recounts the heartbreaking circumstances surrounding an officer’s suicide in Wisconsin. His mother put some of the blame on “years and years of this drip, drip, drip of evil and unappreciation.” Nationally, police suicides outnumber felonious deaths by at least 3-1, with many unreported. One expert notes that police face “elevated risk of depression, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder” while “shootings are the biggest stressors.” The work can affect officers’ mental health, but experts say police “are often particularly adept at hiding the warning signs. They are practiced at burying their emotions on the job.”

Pain in the … back

October 31, 2018

This article reports a study by the Eau Claire, Wisconsin PD testing the impact on back pain of the traditional duty belt versus a load-bearing vest. The police partnered with local researchers to carry out the 6-month study in which 30 officers rotated between the two equipment options. Participants reported less pain wearing the vests and the department will make the switch. Besides the relief for officers, a deputy chief noted “Lost time due to injury or medical cost related to back injuries are significant and the entire community shares that cost.”

Getting the facts out quickly

September 26, 2018

This article reports an incident in Prince George’s County, Maryland of a SWAT raid at a wrong apartment, resulting in two officers being shot (not critically) by the startled resident and one round being fired by police. Noteworthy is that the police chief held a full press conference in less than 24 hours, providing the facts, apologizing for the bungled operation, halting serving search warrants until the cause of the mistake is determined, and announcing that the resident would not be charged. The reporter comments on the rarity of such quick and full disclosure in the aftermath of a controversial incident.

Looking at edged-weapon tactics

August 25, 2018

This article reports a delegation from Elgin, Illinois visiting Scotland and England to examine police tactics for dealing with subjects armed with knives and other edged weapons. “We are exploring less lethal tactics that are not prevalent in the United States and believe it’s important to learn those tactics from agencies that have cultivated best practices with policies, procedures and training,” according to the Elgin chief. The city recently had its first fatal police shooting in 19 years, and it was someone armed with a knife.

Emerging issues in American policing

August 9, 2018

The Vera Institute has a periodic online publication titled “Emerging Issues in American Policing.” The latest one, available here, summarizes recent studies looking at shift work and de-escalation, mental health crisis hotspots, officer wellbeing, trauma resilience, body-worn cameras, and community policing. Previous iterations are available here.

Mental health services for police

August 8, 2018

This article from Austin, Texas reports increasing use of mental health services by police, particularly through the department’s peer support program. The police chief notes that “This is a career where you can’t unsee things that you have seen” but that traditionally “it’s OK to be injured as long as it’s below the chin. It wasn’t OK to be injured above because that was seen as a weakness.” Heightened public scrutiny is cited as one source of stress and burnout, along with stalled labor negotiations causing financial struggles for more officers. A pending proposal at the state level is to require periodic psychological exams, which are currently mandated only at the stage of initial hiring.

Drones for crash investigation

August 7, 2018

This article reports growing police use of drones for crash investigation. Estimates are that the overhead technology cuts the time needed to document the scene by half or even two-thirds, which saves money, reduces traffic disruption, and puts officers in less danger on the highway. This type of drone usage does not generally arouse the privacy and civil liberty concerns associated with surveillance and has been permitted in some states that have otherwise restrictive legislation.