The Green Bay Police Department in Wisconsin is prioritizing officer health by launching a range of wellness initiatives that cover physical and mental well-being, as well as finances, and are designed to prevent suicides, keep officers healthy and productive, and ultimately provide better service to the community.
The department’s wellness coordinator, Lieutenant Erin Bloch, emphasized the need for officers to have access to various forms of support, including mental health self-assessments, guides, and videos on nutrition and exercise, as well as chaplain and crisis support contacts.
“It’s a benefit for the community for us to be doing this. Well, officers are going to provide better services and they’re going to be more productive in the community,” Bloch told Spectrum News 1. “We also have a major concern because we’re trying to prevent suicide. That’s our number one goal.”
Officer Chris Kuptz noted that the focus on wellness sends a message to employees that they are valued and cared for.
One of the main tools used by the department is a wellness app designed by technology company Cordico, which offers peer support to law enforcement officers, as well as referrals to resources in the community if needed.
“What we do is provide peer-to-peer support, just like I’m talking to you, if somebody is struggling with anything,” Bloch added. “It can be an issue at home, it can be an issue with work and we try to give them an ear to vent. If it goes beyond that scope, then we give them proper referrals to resources in the community.”
Officer Chris Kuptz noted that the focus on wellness sends a message to employees that they are valued and cared for. The department also offers them an hour a week of on-duty time for use of the fitness room.
“It’s, ‘Hey, we want you. We want you to take care of yourself. We care about you, and we want you to know that as well. We have all these opportunities for you to take advantage of,’” he said. “It’s not just, ‘This is your job. Go do it and go home to your family afterwards.’”
Bloch noted that the cumulative stress of daily exposure to difficult and traumatic situations can take a toll on officers’ mental and physical health. By providing a range of wellness initiatives and outlets for support, the department hopes to enable officers to maintain healthy coping skills and remain healthy throughout their careers.
“When people call us, it typically isn’t because they’re having a great day, unfortunately. When we go out there, we’re seeing things where children are getting hurt or babies are hurt or maybe dying. We’re going to really bad scenes of car accidents or when people become violent with one another, that’s sort of what we’re seeing on a daily basis,” she said. “Whether you recognize it or not, cumulative stress is a thing. You can handle each scenario, but you really have to have good, healthy, coping skills and you have to be a realist person to keep going and be healthy throughout your career.”