Protecting the Protectors: The Benefits of Peer Support Groups in Law Enforcement
Law enforcement officers have a stressful and unique job. Most people see the tough exterior of their local police officers but fail to see the internal issues brought on by their emotionally taxing duties. Critical incidents and daily stresses often affect police officers. The police culture, along with the untrusting nature of officers, can result in officers not dealing with emotional issues. Police officers often will not talk to doctors, administrators in their agency, or even clergy. However, police officers seem more likely to speak to other police officers. Other officers have the ability to understand and have often been through the same or similar situations. Often just speaking about incidents can provide an outlet for the affected officer and allows him to deal with some of the things they have seen and done. One danger of this practice is that peers sharing stories and venting about issues can only offer ideas and concepts they know, such as alcohol. Another possible hindrance could be that officers could make things worse by telling coworkers they do not feel the same way, thus giving the officer the impression there is something wrong with them. For these reasons, police agencies should implement a program comprised of peer supporters for officers in their organizations. The only difference of a peer support officer is that they have received some training to offer proper coping solutions. Also, they receive training to take measures to ensure other officers do not feel worse about their thoughts or feelings after speaking with the peer supporter, and they have the ability to recognize when someone may require additional help on a professional level.