This research demonstrates the effectiveness of a peer officer support model among law enforcement personnel. Law enforcement has always been a demanding profession, however, the times are changing and police officers today are exposed to far more stress than ever before. This is evident through their daily responsibility of enforcing the law and the effects of violent crimes. Every day they encounter the worst that society has to offer in this ever changing violent world, however; they are taught in the police academy how to control and suppress their emotions. It is no secret that police officers today have a higher incidence of divorce, domestic violence, family dysfunction and suicide than the general population. (Anderson 2009).Police is trained to be detached and not react emotionally, they push feelings of helplessness and horror away, but they pay a price. Police officers learn to disconnect their emotions in crisis situations, but not how to reconnect them when they go home. The majority of officers mistrust their employer, which creates one of the biggest problems known today in the police force. Because of this mistrust, they also fear reaching out for help, due to issues of confidentiality. Law enforcement administrators today are slow in recognizing the effects of stress on employees. For instance, it is estimated that only about half of the police departments provide some form of psychological services. It also estimated that less than 1% of police departments budgets are allocated towards mental health services. (A&E Investigative Reports 2001). The most appropriate form of intervention is prevention. Police departments who have trained peer support officers benefit greatly, especially when they volunteer their time to speak at their local police academies. Employing peer officer supports teams amongst police officers proves to be one of the key components that can be utilized to bring effectiveness to the law enforcement world. To implement this model successful, it calls for solidarity among the law enforcement personnel.
(a) Stress among law enforcement officers
Police officers are vulnerable to gross amounts of tension and stress, irrespective of the nature and magnitude of agency for which they work. Though a significant number of law enforcement officers have a basic training into recognizing the sources of stress accompanying situations like shootouts and violent crimes, still a majority of them do fail to grasp the size and scope of the physiological and psychological effects of stress on their body and mind (Ford 1998). Police officers often come across horrific and disturbing scenes accompanying violent crime investigations and shootings. Over the years, the cumulative impact of such incidents gives way to physical and emotional disturbances, which can fructify into undesirable results and consequences. Ultimately, injuries to their mental and emotional well-being that are ignored by officers may act like secondary infections that rankle and become causes of injure to their life. Far-reaching research has shown that such patterns of response to the work of law enforcement have resulted in a greater likelihood of sudden-onset coronary death, diabetes, cancer, and thyroid disease -- a risk that increases the longer the officer performs his or her work. (Blum 2000).
There is a silent killer called stress that has a more severe impact on the mindset of law enforcement officers. There have been a number of police suicides nationwide, yet statistics on the number of police suicides are difficult to maintain for a variety of reasons. According to a research study conducted in 2008 by Andrew F. O’Hara and John M. Violent, indicated that 102 actual police suicides were accounted for in 2008 via 119,000 web surveillance hits. In addition, it appears that officers in the age category of 35-39 years are at a higher risk for suicide, with 29% of all suicides found in this age group. Additionally, those officers with 10-14 years of services are at an increase risk for suicide. (O’Hara & Violanti 2008).
Police officers like other people are vulnerable to emotional highs that come with a serious situation. The officers are required to practice restraint under emotionally charged scenarios. They are instructed to remain calm when a situation evokes excitement and unrest. This continual struggle between biological and psychological aspects of their personality takes a ruthless toll on their physical and emotional health this is because Police officers are expected to be combat ready, while at the same time maintaining poise and equilibrium. (Kates 1999).
Studies have shown that occupational stress is one major factor that has a potentially negative impact on the family lives of police officers. Statistics show that approximately 40 percent of the American police officers tend to resort to domestic violence and marital abuse (Gauthier & Gregory 2007). As per the data gathered by the National Center for Women and Policing, a police officer is four times more likely to commit domestic violence as compared to an average citizen (Gauthier & Gregory 2007). This is due to the exposure to distressing experiences on their job which is part of their life as police officers. The need to restrain emotions in the face of innervating and risky situations often endows the officers with a bulky emotional baggage, which they may prefer to lighten at home. One incapacitating influence of this emotional baggage is that it makes them more unapproachable and self contained, shunning any need to communicate their experiences with a friend or a colleague. This cruel twisting comprising of occupational trauma and domestic violence often has the ability to push a normal officer to the brink of disaster. It is not a surprise that the law enforcement organization has an above average divorce rate. Irritability and stress resulting from exposure to trauma is more likely to give way to broken homes and dysfunctional families (Atkinson-Tovar 2003).
Since long, police officers in the US have often resorted to alcohol as a social lubricant to deal with on the job stress (Siegel 2001). As per some conservative estimates, more than 30 percent of the police officers in the country have alcohol or drugs related problems. In fact, this is now an open secret and many states have responded to this issue by running peer assistance programs to deal with alcohol and substance abuse related problems in their rank and file. Police officers definitely are influenced by what they see, feel and hear at work. Not being able to communicate their suppressed emotions in a healthy way has led to some trying to douse these issues with alcohol and narcotics (Constant 1991).
Both the federal and state law enforcement agencies make all the possible effort to recruit officers with right aptitude and qualifications. They resort to elaborate recruitment procedures involving written tests, physical fitness tests, psychological tests, personal interviews and background checks (Lindsey & Kelly 2004). By the time an agency is finished with testing, recruiting and training a police officer, it has spent a substantial amount of the taxpayers’ money in ascertaining the physical and psychological health of that candidate. Minimally, this expenditure often amounts to $100,000 per police officer (Lindsey & Kelly 2004). Still, this is not the be all and end all of police financing. A police department has to spend $50,000 per year to provide for wages and other benefits of a police officer (Lindsey & Kelly 2004). A cursory calculation reveals that total expenditure incurred in retaining and training a police officer over a period of ten years comes to $ 600,000 (Lindsey & Kelly 2004). In such a scenario, if a law enforcement agency ends up losing a police officer to stress related suicide, domestic violence, health problems or substance abuse, the financial burden of replacing that police officer with another officer having the same training and experience stands to be $ 1.2 million (Lindsey & Kelly 2004). Thus, losing a police officer to emotional stress is not only a grave human and social loss, but also a massive professional and financial loss.
During their tenure, police and law enforcement officers do witness situations and incidents involving violence, which could sometimes be way too much for an average human to cope with.” (Anshel 2000). Hence, it will be too naïve and simplistic to assume that such incidents and situations have no impact on the personal and professional life of police officers. Mostly the influence of job stress on an officer is so subtle and prolonged that by the time one comes to realize its potential and gravity; one may have already lost one’s health, family, self-esteem, honor, job and sometimes life. Police departments have started being responsive to occupational trauma and its impact on those officers who are exposed to acts of violence and suffering on a continuous basis. Continual exposure to trauma may make a police officer lose his or her sense of orientation, which may be accompanied by anxiety, panic fits, failure to manage anger, and suicidal tendencies. Some officers may try to struggle with such unbearable situations by succumbing to excessive stress brought about by the various social issues in our societies (Goldfarb 2006).
Most of what police officers have to deal with on a daily basis can no way be classified as normal and bearable. Such experiences make police officers vulnerable to Critical Incident Stress. A Critical Incident is an event that has the potential to stress the involved police officer to the extent of being overwhelmed and unable to cope with it. Critical Incidents are powerful and unusual incidents that do not come within the ambit of ordinary human experiences (Miller, 2006). Critical Incident Stress may leave a police officer feeling unsure of his or her abilities and skills and may shatter confidence. Research has shown that almost 87 percent of the police officers have to deal with Critical Incident Stress, at least once in their life. Critical Incident Stress has a direct negative impact on the physical, emotional and cognitive abilities of a police officer (Miller, 2006). Sometimes, a Critical Incident Stress may so blow apart the professional abilities and competency of a police officer that they may have to literally opt out of the services. Federal and state law enforcement agencies are gradually responding to the stress related problems in armed forces. The latest statutory guidelines and provisions also place the responsibility of treatment and counseling of the police officers affected by job related stress on the respective police departments and agencies. Still, the one key obstruction to any credible solution to this problem is that most of the times, the affected officers evade any sort of medical or professional assistance to avoid being tagged as weak or incompetent (Kureczka 2002).
(b) Justifying peer support programs as remedy
There exists a dire need for extending mental health services to the police force. However, such plans are bound to come across some hurdles (Miller, 2006). One obstruction is that police officers always prefer to consider themselves as being competent and sufficient and hence resist such provisions. Even if they agree to seek help, they find it practically difficult to trust their counselors. Counselors also often being unaware to the details and particulars of policing are not able to respond appropriately to their clients in uniform. One possible way of circumnavigating the officers’ mistrust of internal and external mental health professionals is to engross people from within the police force in stress management initiatives (Miller, 2006). In fact, many police departments and agencies have come to realize the validity of such an approach and have initiated peer support programs. Peer support officers are trained in basic counseling skills and to identify stress related problems in their fellow officers. Officers seeking help also find it easy to trust these officers because of the existing sense of camaraderie and positive respect between them.
Peer supporters can assist officers and their families during times of crisis not only by spending time with them but as well as performing services for them. For instance Peer supporters in San Bernardino painted one widow's house and cut another widow's grass. When an injured officer was hospitalized, peer supporters fed the officer's cat. Supervisors in several departments call on peer supporters to stay with the family around the clock for a week after an officer is killed (Klein 2000).
Stress can come from a variety of sources and situations, even those whose end result is not injury or death. Another instance of police peer supporters that have been effective in handling and containing the stress that police officers go through is Illinois State Police peer supporters. This organization refers officers with money administration problems to the state's credit bureau for help. This has helped a lot of officers having problems making credit card payments by making an arrangement in which the credit card issuer bars extra use of the card but imposes no extra interest on the money payable until the officer can pay it back. According to a peer supporter with the Michigan State police behavioral science section, "Money problems are a sign of or a source of stress for many officers, so it's entirely appropriate for peer supporters to link them with organizations that help them manage their money."(Kureczka 2002).
Peer support can employ different strategies in executing their services for instance some peer supporters always wait for other officers to approach them, but many will approach a fellow officer when they detect he is going through difficult moments. For them to be effective this approach should be subtle and therefore should approach the officer they sense is in trouble in a tender and concerning manner and always be prudent not to offend the officer for he may decide to keep his problems or stress to himself (Burke & Scrivner 1995).
Officers who take time off to recuperate from a severe injury or poor health often feel cut off from their normal way of life and often feel frightened. Responding to this, employees from the Palo Alto, California, Police Department get training in workers' compensation law so they can visit at the Homes of officer who are disabled to provide both emotional and physical support, and also notify them about their human rights to workers' compensation, and support in navigating the multifarious compensation system. Officers who have also fallen victims in a shooting also can feel disturbed over their change of duties and the legal procedures that often follow. In response to this, Peer supporters in the San Antonio Police Department prepare officers for these events to offer the victims (fellow officers) support and to encourage them to be strong for what they are going through is short-lived and that things will unfold to normal soon (Miller 2009).
After 26 suicides in the New York Police Department (NYPD) overtwo years (1994 and 1995), it was resolved that a confidential,non departmental help program was required to help NYPDofficers. Additionally, peers would be required to assist officersdefeat the personal and cultural obstacles in quest of professionalassistance. With the approval of the NYPD and Police Unions,the Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance (POPPA) wascreated. This unique program was intended to help police officers cope with stress. “Peer support and confidentiality is the key for cops feeling safe enough for asking for help,” according to Bill Genet, a 33 year NYPD veteran; and Director of the Police Unions Membership Assistance Program (MAP). (A&E Investigative Reports 2001.
Genet’s program operates independently from the department that was established to help cops get the help they need, while protecting their confidentiality. He believes that if you give them a safe environment where they feel it’s confidential and that you’re not going to judge them and that you’re there just to support them, they’ll open up big time (A&E Investigative Reports 2001).
Allen Kates feels that other law enforcement agencies and police unions should pay attention to Genet’s program. It not only provides peer support, referrals and outside therapists for officers, but also provides for police families so they can better understand what their loved one goes through every day on the streets” (A&E Investigative Reports 2001). Genet feels that utilizing trained peer officers make a big difference in cops getting the help they need because of the concept of one cop helping another. “Getting to cops before they become a headline can save the department money and the cops their careers” (A&E Investigative Reports 2001).
In San Francisco, Dr. Forrest Fulton runs a Peer Officer Support Program similar to Bill Genets’. Located on Treasure Island, he has facilitated their Behavioral Sciences Unit for the Last 28 years for the San Francisco Police Department. Fulton also agrees with Genet, Departments spend millions of dollars each year just to maintain their vehicles but for their officers there is nothing. Healing cops means the money they have invested in training is not wasted. The extensive services offered help cops who come forward for assistance to return back to work and are more productive and use less sick time. It is not unusual for an officer that is dragged in here by a fellow cop to the unit, to become a volunteer peer in the program. Currently the program has 3 counselors, 13 chaplains and over 300 trained volunteer peer officers working the 24 hour help-line. (A&E Investigate Reports 2001).Dr. Fulton believes that it is important for departments to show that they do care about their personnel and value their sacrifices. He emphasizes this when he says “They sacrifice themselves hourly in the department whether physically or emotionally. They sacrifice their heart and souls out there on those mean streets. It’s time for departments to wake up and pay attention in changing the system to be more responsive. If we don’t treat our officers humanely, then they don’t treat the public humanely. The best benefactor of having such a program is the public and not necessarily just the officers”. (A&E Investigate Reports, 2001)
Police officers in predicament often seek assistance from their peers, and in every department, a few individuals who prove adept at helping others are turned to repeatedly. Law enforcement agencies should take advantage of on this natural occurrence by establishing peer support programs. In doing so, they should give training to increase the effectiveness of these natural peer helpers while marketing their services so that as many individuals as possible become conscious of the peer supporters' availability. Organized peer support programs also assist agencies select just the correct individuals to meet the needs of employees in psychological problems (Katz 2000).
A number of law enforcement agencies at present use peer supporters to assist employees prevent and cope with stress that they encounter while executing their duties. Their experiences can aid other agencies put into operation their own peer support programs.
Peer supporters serve two key functions. First, they provide a basis of help for officers who are reluctant to convey their problems to mental health professionals because they mistrust them and would feel stigmatized for not being capable to handle their problems on their own, or are frightened that entering psychotherapy might injure their careers. While peer supporters cannot give the level of service professionals can, they still can help considerably. Besides, peer supporters generally are more available than trained counselors (International Association of Chiefs of Police 2001).
Secondly, peer supporters can refer amenable officers to professional counselors in case they feel that the magnitude of the problem is beyond their capabilities. By doing this, many officers are more likely to make use of professional counseling services when a referral comes from a trusted peer than if they have to make an engagement by themselves or follow the proposition of a family member. In this case, peer supporters operate as a connection to professionals.
Just like professional counselors who are also sworn officers, peer supporters offer immediate trustworthiness and the ability to have compassion. A large cadre of skilled peer supporters can match fellow officers with those who have gone through the same incident, thus heightening the empathy inbuilt in the peer bond. For instance, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) operates three peer programs, each with a different focus, connecting officers with peer supporters who are significant incident survivors, victims of sexual assault, or recovering alcoholics. Besides, because of their daily contact with fellow officers, peer supporters are in a superior position to identify developing problems before they develop into full blown and get out of hand. Consequently, peer support programs have proved to be practical and preventive in nature."(McManus 1991).
Peer supporters are bestowed with three key responsibilities- these is; listening, evaluating, and referring (Nancy 1995). By employing effective listening, peer supporters provide an excellent chance for officers under stress to put across their problems, dissatisfactions, fears, and other emotions to another person who comprehends from personal familiarity how they are feeling and why they are distressed (Klein 2000).
Also through efficient listening, peer supporters also can evaluate whether the officer's problem is of a nature or severity that calls for professional - and urgent - help. With appropriate preparation, peer supporters can be able to identify the signs that indicate an officer may be in the depths of despair, homicidal, severely depressed, abusing alcohol or other drugs, or have other grave problems. If the officer happens to have a serious problem that their mechanism cannot handle then the peer can refer the person for professional help. Professional stress programs give peer supporters with information regarding existing referral resources that will act as an effective supplement to the departments own stress services. Experts concur with the fact that peer supporters prove particularly suitable for supporting officers involved in shooting incidents and officers with drinking problems. This can be done by making use of peer supporters who are recovering alcoholics and thus in a better position to connect fellow officers with detoxification programs, inpatient treatment, and Alcoholics Anonymous groups. These peer supporters also may attend support group meetings with officers commencing the recovery process and, as sponsors, may follow up on their attendance and assist them to steer clear of or deal with lapses (Klein 2000).
Officers who have once been caught up in grave situations themselves can provide effective support to colleague officers who befall victims in shootings. These officers usually have a notion that that no one can comprehend their tumult apart from a fellow officer who has experienced a similar situation. In addition, after being relieved of their weapons, interrogated, and subjected to a departmental investigation and possibly a civil suit, these officers often undergo a lot of stress and misery and become more disturbed by what they see as their department's lack of support. To emphasize the valuable role fellow officers can play; BATF directed that all special agents in charge use the agency's peer supporters after every shooting that results in death or harm. While peer supporters should not provide counseling, they can comfort and help other officers appreciate that the fear, anger, and other emotions they may experience after a critical occurrence are ordinary under the situation (David 2007).
Some law enforcement agencies who have adopted peer support teams have always made a mistake by accepting applicants for peer supporter positions only on the basis of aspiration to assist distressed colleagues. To change this mistake it calls for the program to put in place a selection criterion and establish recruitment procedures to make sure those only qualified officers are selected and acknowledged. An efficient peer program depends on screening out unsuitable officers. Peer supporters should be selected based on some combination of the following criteria: the officer must have a reputation as someone whom others already seek out for informal peer support and who keeps information private. He or she should possess excellent social skills and must be someone endorsed and trusted by other officers. The peer supporters must have also successful undergone through relevant training in addition to having immense experience as a police officer and therefore well acquainted with the associated stress and possible remedies. While some officers who have recovered effectively from serious incidents should be chosen, peer supporters also should have a range of experience so that it becomes probable to match peer supporters with officers under stress based on the resemblance of their critical incidents (Mullins 1994).
This section analyses the system of management that are employed in managing teams and proposes the best option that fits the set up of law enforcement officers. The second part of this section explains why peer support groups are effective as compared to traditional mental health support services.
(a) Team Management
Management of team can take different forms- this can either be self-directed work team or horizontal management. Teams can be employed as effective tools that can be used at the lowest level of organization to facilitate various activities. In his studies Denton focus on horizontal type of management and he says that the most common type of team is the problem solving team and is sometimes known as department team. Denton (1991). Contrary to this, self directed team form of management seeks to empower people and give them greater control over their own destiny (Fisher 2000). Team empowerment is considered as a continuum of employee involvement with lower empowerment techniques like selected employee input on projects on one end. Fisher (2000) thus says that teams create small self supporting businesses that can be jointly managed by the organizational membership. In this context Fisher established that “team members make decisions about who should perform which task rather than having individuals separated into jobs like operators, engineers and sales people” (p. 18). One advantage of this type of team makeup is that everyone may have the same title and therefore have a shared responsibility for the success of the team. According to Denton (1991) teams can be used as an auxiliary or supplemental means of improving cross functional and interdepartmental communication and cooperation. In his view the importance of horizontal teams is that they are designed to help compensate for the inherent deficiencies and difficulties of pyramid organizations. Denton (1991) has indicated that “the horizontal network teams can improve the flow of information through knotted lines of communication and enhance the creative energy of traditional vertical organizations” (p. 118).
Unlike Denton, Fisher (2000) says that self directed work teams are a method of improving results and therefore not a substitution for them. The disadvantage of self directed work teams is that they can cause organizations to lose sight of their purpose by focusing on the care and feeding of the structures. On the other hand Denton (1991) says that network teams and horizontal focus particularly on problem identification and investigation, can be used to change decision making authority. Also these type of teams participate with management in joint decision making.
In his research Fisher (2000) mentioned that “self directedness of the teams can lead people down the wrong path” (p. 19). This is because some people believe that self directed work team means a change in the role of management and not the elimination of supervisors and managers. It is therefore important to note that a team operates within given boundaries stipulated by an organization. The major similarity between these two types of teams is that both Fisher’s and Denton theories of team management outperform traditional operations. In both theories the teams need someone to play the role of facilitator; the person within the team who keeps the meeting on track. Denton (1991) says that he or she does this by keeping members focused on the problem, keeping them focused on time commitments, classifying ideas, remaining neutral and making sure all the members’ ideas are properly discussed.
Using teams in organizations reduces employee burnout and therefore this greatly increases employee effectiveness and helps the teacher to remain focused in the real needs of the students (Fisher, 2000). Considered to be an outdated team consolidation technique, Fisher (2000) advocated for the emergence of high performance work systems. This has been attributed to the fact that self directed work teams have been around for a long time and also because they delivered considerable results. At the same time Fisher (2000) indicates that impatience for results and unwillingness to make the necessary personal management changes have for long foiled many attempts to create sustainable self directed work teams. Another reason that led to the emergence of high performance work systems is the short falls related to organizational unwillingness to provide the required budget and time for training to help team leaders and team members to acquire new skills (Fisher, 2000).
Denton (1991) established that in small work groups effectiveness emerges from the fact that employees in these work groups are given the autonomy to evaluate the current work situation, while employees are also given an overview of the business which includes learning about the available business processes within the organization. Compared to Fisher who says that in self directed work teams employees such as technicians are given the mandate to do presentations about major projects. Fisher (2000) continues to indicate that employees set goals and indicate the milestones and deliverables. This was achieved through the team leaders who have the duty to create strong mutual respect between the workers and the leader, assuring that the job gets done as well as providing leadership in getting problems solved.
From this two systems of team management fishers’ system of management stands out as an efficient tool that can be employed in peer support teams among law enforcement officers this is contrary to Denton’s style would include management into the team which would consequently discourage officers from opening up when they are faced with issues which they deem confidential. But on the other side the small work groups proposed by Denton seem t o have advantage over Fisher’s self directed work systems because they help in quality planning and process control, methods improvement and determining problems and coordinating corrective action. This can never work for officers because Officers are Para-military and do what they are told and have no say over corrective action.
Fischer’s specialty group concept for peer support teams I believe to be the most appropriate and effective form acceptable to officers because they will help effectively resolve many problems that the officers have always kept confidential due to they of somebody they trust. This groups I think can gain a lot of trust among the law enforcement officers and consequently encourage them to open up. One outstanding o advantage of this type of team proposed by fisher every team member is encouraged to play a specific individual role towards the success of the whole organization this makes sure everyone has a shared responsibility for the success of the team.
When comparing departmental support which is not trusted by officers to a volunteer
Officer support which runs its own program is crucial as to the analysis of why traditional methods do not work. Even when offering an Employee Assistance program can pose two issues. 1. The department subcontracts the program which is not trusted and feared to be a management tool. 2. EAP’s may not be specialized in handling the personality traits of police officers.
(b) Superiority of peer support teams over traditional mental health support services
Peer support teams have proved to be of great significance in dealing with the stress that the police go through. Unlike traditional mental health support services, this act of joining together individuals who have gone through the same experience or have a lot in common enables distressed officers recognize that they are not alone and that other people have the same experience and going or have gone through the same experience.
Traditional mental health support services are less likely to be trusted by the affected officers because they think nobody understands their problems better than one of their own. Therefore the use of peer support groups that fellow officer can trust acts as an excellent channel of handling stress among the police. This is because the affected officers are more likely to open up to their fellow officers. These peer support teams can also connect the affected officer to professional medical professional in case they think the problem is beyond what they can handle.
Some members in the support are officers who have gone through the same experience that the victim officer is undergoing for instance being involved in a shootout or drug abuse. Therefore the peer support group is equipped with enough experience and can offer remedy that suits the circumstances. Traditional mental health services tend to offer support services without paying attention to fine details that are relevant to the police officers. Police officers due to the nature of their work require a special approach to their problems which cannot be provided by traditional medical support services this is because the police are not like any other patient or victim.
Police Department that has resort to develop a peer support program that is acceptable to all its members has always made great strides in addressing the stress that these law enforcement go through daily . For instance the Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance (POPPA) that was put in place by the New York police department has proofed to be very effective in addressing the psychological problems its officers go through. POPPA has broken that traditional mental health support services failed to address. For instance the traditional mental health support cannot be able to approach the problems facing police from an informed point of view that peer support groups will do. Apart from being trusted by the officers, these peer groups can be able are able to diagnose a police officer who is going through difficult times and therefore offer remedy earlier before the problem gets out of hand.
Peer Officer Support Programs are emerging across the country as a valuable tool for officers and their immediate family members to utilize on a confidential basis. The basis here demonstrates the help that the support programs offer on helping the police officer’s family in the mental health aspect hence not undergoing any formal social constrain that relate to the misunderstandings that lead to divorce or either alcoholism. Not only do Peer Officer Support programs provide such services as crisis response and referrals, they can also be cost effective by utilizing officers who are trained as volunteers thus proving to be very effective and friendly to the officer- this is something that is rarely achieved in traditional mental health support teams settings.
Although peer support groups have proved to be effective several probable weaknesses of peer programs stay alive. First, peer supporters cannot act as a replacement for the services of mental health professionals. Just as some officers are unwilling to seek professional assistance, others are disinclined to talk with peer supporters because they want to be counseled by a professional or because they fear a lack of confidentiality in talking with a peer (Klein 2000).
Professional stress services will stay essential for serving law enforcement officers in handling the pressure they experience while executing their duties. However, peer support programs can provide outlets for officers who are unwilling or not yet ready to seek professional help, make professional services satisfactory to disinclined officers, and equip assistance that only peers may have the time or understanding to provide. Structured, trained, peer support units are being created and utilized effectively by law enforcement agencies across the nation. Peer support programs in law enforcement are thriving because a trained group of trusted officers can often help out their co-workers with problems and refer them for confidential, professional treatment if necessary. Departments large and small are realizing the benefits of peer support programs. Officers who keep themselves psychologically healthy are better service providers and a number of law enforcement agencies already have demonstrated that officers will welcome - at least over time - the help peer support programs can provide. Furthermore, when employees get the help they need, their agencies also benefit. Sensitively and conscientiously implemented, peer support programs can offer an important source of assistance in every law enforcement agency.