In addition to detecting and deterring misconduct, early intervention systems (EIS) give agencies tools to support law enforcement officers who may be struggling with work-related trauma.
Because trauma affects the human brain in so many different ways and traumatic incident triggers can be so insidious, it can be difficult to predict the long-term impacts of trauma on individual officers. The impacts of trauma may be apparent immediately or it may take years of long-term traumatic stress exposure for an individual’s behavior to be affected. The types of trauma the officer was exposed to, the frequency, the officer’s mental state, and many other factors all play a part in determining the outcome.
Tools like early intervention represent the dual responsibility law enforcement agencies must shoulder:
Work-related trauma is unfortunately common aspect for first responders.
Daily stress, violent situations, and even internal pressures can take a toll, with disastrous consequences if left unaddressed: suicide, deterioration of personal relationships, addiction, poor health, and more.
Moreover, law enforcement work often comes with both direct and indirect exposures to trauma:
In addition, officers may be subjected to acute trauma or chronic trauma. Acute trauma exposures are the result of a single critical incident, such as a line of duty death, whereas chronic trauma exposures are the result of prolonged trauma, such as constant fear for one’s life or smaller exposures that build up over time.
When it comes to trauma, an early intervention system will focus mainly on the accumulation of acute traumas, but this is up to the organization and the tracking tools they use.
While every early intervention system will depend on an individual agency’s needs and wants, most organizations can benefit from the following tips.
It seems like obvious advice in an article focused on trauma, but a system that offers no place for noting critical incidents fails to help officers from the start. Your system should provide a transparent, concise platform for recording traumatic exposures and looking for patterns.
In some situations, it is apparent that a specific critical incident should be added to an officer’s file. In others, more subtle traumas or their effects may accumulate.
In either instance, an early intervention system flagging trauma should result in some sort of support for the officer. In other words, what does your organization do for officers once the recommendation has been made?
Key pieces for supporting mental wellness and maintaining the mental health of the agency include:
In some instances, noting an officer has hit “thresholds” of trauma can prevent adverse incidents from taking place and save careers.
The reverse can also be true. Certain types of concerning behavior can indicate that an officer has experienced an influx of workplace trauma.
Systems should be configured to look for both, with high-level categories that might include:
Nobody understands cops better than other cops.
Agencies can use this sense of fraternity to push programs that allow traumatized officers and others with direct experience to talk about their problems, which is one of the best ways to work through traumatic incidents.
Adding early trauma flagging in your early intervention system is a good start, but how do you continue from there? If your organization doesn’t approach critical incidents with due respect from the top, it’s illogical to expect those in the rank and file to do the same.
Let your people know trauma is something you are committed to helping them with and offer multiple ways to raise issues as they arise. Addressing mental health is crucial to your officers’ long-term health and their ability to serve the community.
To learn more about how an early intervention system can benefit your agency, please request a demo today.