The suicides of two Washington police officers following the Capitol riot, as well as the slayings of two FBI agents serving a warrant in Florida, have brought greater attention to the safety and mental health struggles of officers across the country.
The last year was a difficult one for the police in the media, having to deal with heavy scrutiny and public scorn, but the Capitol riot early in 2021 may have marked a turning point in the media’s attitude towards police. Despite the tragic event that led to the loss of three officers’ lives and scores of injuries, the media seems to be changing their attitude by honoring fallen officers, and helping the public to realize that police are humans too with the same struggles as everyone else.
Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith, a retired police veteran, told Fox News, “Cops have all the same problems normal people do. A police officer on the job two years will see more human stress and strife and tragedy and trauma than most people see in a lifetime. It can be very difficult to deal with.”
In the context of the Capitol riot, the media have presented the police in a positive light, which marks a change in tone from the previous year of presenting the police as the bad guys during the George Floyd protests. Sgt. Smith called this switch in tone “disingenuous.”
She said, “There’s a lot of law enforcement officers out there who are finding this sudden concern about our mental and physical wellbeing somewhat disingenuous, because it all centers around one incident – and that’s the Capitol riot. Even though we have been dealing with violent riots, there have been hundreds and hundreds of police officers injured. There have been police officers murdered in the post George Floyd riots that we dealt with all summer and fall and now into the winter.”
Sgt. Smith cautioned against fixating on one incident. “We’d like our legislators, our leaders and our citizens to be concerned with all of us – not just three police officers, and not just one incident,” she said.
She confirmed that police do need more mental health resources. Currently, police advocates are working on solving mental health problems in the police community by advocating for greater, widespread funding into mental health services, from large and well-funded departments to smaller departments with fewer resources.
In the meantime, Sgt. Smith suggested that members of the community could do little things to boost morale, like sending gifts or a pizza to the local station.
For officers who need greater mental health support, here are some recommended resources:
- Safe Call Now, (206-459-3020) a 24/7 hotline for first responders
- That Peer Support Couple, a program run by two cops who provide peer support for officers dealing with emotional trauma
- The Wounded Blue, a foundation that helps wounded officers