The Miami Police Department is launching a new program to train officers to manage job-related trauma and rely on each other for peer support.
Since taking over as President of the Miami-Dade County Association of Chiefs of Police earlier this year, South Miami Chief Rene Landa has made mental health a top priority for his department and others in the Miami area.
“So that’s what we’re trying to do now is to break that barrier to make sure we’re all communicating and letting go of maybe the stress that you have inside of you,” Landa said of the purpose of the new program.
The program is designed by the Boulder Crest Institute, a nonprofit focusing on the “science of posttraumatic growth.” The organization initially worked with combat veterans suffering from PTSD. Now, they are shifting their approach to help the law enforcement and first responder community.
“There’s a lot of talk about officer wellness and peer support and a lot of it seems to be repeating a similar approach that is very much based on helping people cope with the struggle,” said Josh Goldberg, Executive Director of the organization.
The program will include 5 days of classes scheduled alongside other routine training for departments in the Miami Dade area.
Goldberg said the training gives officers the skills to support each other and cope with mental stress themselves based on PTSD scientific research.
“One of the things we seek to do is bring in external training but it enables men and women in the same profession to support each other and to lean into each other and that’s something they haven’t been doing for far too long,” Goldberg explained.
South Miami Police Assistant Chief Charles Nanney, who is all too familiar with mental health crises on the job, thinks the program will be helpful in managing job-related stress before it builds to the point where officers have to see a psychologist.
“Myself, as well as my old department we’ve had to take guns away from people who threaten to kill themselves…Of course there are mechanisms in place to get them help but we want to get the person help before it gets to that point,” Nanney said.
The program’s goal is to create a peer-to-peer support network of trained personnel within a department or even establish partnerships between several departments.
“A lot of cops don’t trust psychologists but they’ll talk to another cop,” Nanney said.
“It’s between me, I’m the one being counseled and my peer counselor, he or she, I’m talking to them, I’m the one spilling my guts, I feel better, they’re giving me advice they may give me a referral, but it’s confidential,” he continued.