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  • Writer's pictureSgt. Robert Bauer JD MA (Ret OPS)

Who Are You Talking Too

I am writing to address a critical issue that affects the mental health and well-being of our law enforcement officers. Fear is the driving force preventing many officers from seeking help when dealing with emotional trauma. While they readily call for backup on the streets, they often suffer in silence when facing personal struggles. Why? Because of the fear of being labeled as weak or broken by their peers and potentially facing ostracization.

In today's society, police officers feel undervalued. Communities have demonized them, despite the fact that not all officers are bad. Trust in leadership, legislatures, and even unions has eroded, exacerbating the problem. This distrust has led to a decline in the quality of recruits entering law enforcement, with many carrying intergenerational trauma as baggage.

While agencies have a responsibility to recruit top-quality candidates and provide proper training, individual officers must also take responsibility for seeking help when needed. Establishing "battle buddies" within the force to share emotions without fear of judgment is crucial. Spouses, too, should have support networks outside the family unit.

Recently, I received distressing news about a local police officer who attempted suicide. His family is understandably shaken, questioning why he would take such drastic action. When I spoke with the officer's wife, she expressed disbelief that he hadn't confided in her about his struggles. This highlights the pervasive culture of silence among law enforcement officers.

When I finally spoke with the officer himself, he admitted to feeling isolated and afraid of being judged by his peers and superiors. Despite loving his job, he had been grappling with the loss of his partner in a line-of-duty death. His suicide attempt was impulsive, born out of a moment of intense despair.

This incident underscores the urgent need for change within law enforcement culture. We must prioritize mental health support for officers and break the stigma surrounding seeking help. No one should suffer alone, and no one should fear being labeled as weak for acknowledging their pain.

I urge you to take proactive steps to support the emotional well-being of our officers. This includes providing access to counseling services, promoting open dialogue about mental health, and fostering a culture of support and empathy within our law enforcement agencies.

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