Many of the calls our deputies respond to are people in mental health crisis. That initial contact often times can be the catalyst in determining if the call results in the person in crisis receiving help or the situation becoming violent. Nearly half of all Americans with mental illness have a co-occurring substance abuse issue. One in four persons killed by law enforcement is mentally ill. As Sheriff I will ensure that deputies are properly trained to recognize individuals suffering from a mental crisis and respond appropriately. This would be accomplished thru training such as M.I.R.A.C.L.E or C.I.T. and the appropriate deployment and use of less lethal alternatives.
We can agree that mental illness is a plague sweeping our nation, what we rarely acknowledge is that our protectors are not immune. In 2021, our nation lost 150 peace officers to suicide. This is unacceptable and cannot be ignored. The average person will experience 1.5 to 2 legitimate critical incidents over their lifetime. The average law enforcement officer, over a 20-year career, will experience 800 critical incidents. The compounding effect of exposure to these incidents can result in PTSD which affects officers in a multitude of ways such as, substance abuse, increased risk taking, aggression, divorce and suicide. It also affects decision making ability, especially in tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving situations, when a correct decision often times has life and death consequences for those directly involved. There is little accurate research related to the impacts of mental illness on first responders due to the stigmas attached. These outdated and harmful attitudes need to be addressed head-on by leaders in the agency and the “buck up” mantra can no longer be tolerated. Deputies need to know that it is a sign of strength and compassion when they are emotionally affected by an event. If they find themselves no longer affected by the terrible things they see, it is time to get out of law enforcement, however; the mental health side effects of these incidents needs to be acknowledged just as any other work injury would be. The impacts of critical incidents should be acknowledged by the administration and support, guidance and resources provided to our deputies. As Sheriff I will provide our deputies with resiliency training to better prepare them for what they will face beforehand and will provide debriefs and counseling following any critical incident. If we expect our protectors to perform their best day in and day out we must take care of them.