There have been two officer-involved shootings recently in Albemarle County. A tough choice for police means tragedy for friends and family when officers use deadly force. The life or death situations are painful on both sides of the coin. We sat down with the police department to find out how they are helping officers cope.
Albemarle County police say often people forget officers are just like everybody else, that they need time to heal after being involved in a shooting or any other traumatic event. The police department offers three different support systems for officers: peer supporters, chaplains and psychologists.
Peer supporters act as a pair of listening ears for the officer after a traumatic event. Officers go through a 3-day training course to learn the ins and outs of becoming a peer supporter.
Detective Carl Brown says as a peer supporter it's his duty to listen to the officer, it's not a time to critique what the officer has done. "It’s my job, or our job as peer supporters, to make sure that people have available to them the person they are most comfortable with," he stated.
The police department also has a psychologist on hand, as well as a chaplain.
Police chaplain Jeff Villio stated, “I’m here for you, I’m here for encouragement, I’m here if you wanted some kind of help, if you want to go out for coffee, if you want to talk about what’s going on, you need a shoulder to cry on, that's why I’m here."
The police department is trying to be more proactive about the healing process. Instead of having a debriefing days after an incident, peer supporters and the police chaplain meet the officer at the scene of the incident after it happens.
The police chaplain spends time at the station getting to know the officers - by doing ride-alongs and learning about their struggles on the job. He says this way he's a familiar face during a time of need.
Detective Brown says a peer supporter continues to look out for an officer once administrative leave is over. When the officer returns to work a peer supporter will check in with them to make sure they are having a smooth return.
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