How Kent County helps address deputy mental health

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – Michigan police continue to mourn the loss of an Oakland County sheriff’s deputy.

Bradley Reckling was shot dead Saturday night while following a stolen vehicle in Detroit. Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said the suspects opened fire and took Reckling’s life.

When officers are called to duty, they get to see some of the worst of our world. It’s a long list of traumatic calls, including the loss of one of their own.

“There are crisis situations that occur daily that our staff has to deal with,” said Lyndsie Cole, chief deputy with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office. “I can’t emphasize the importance of the services here. “Our staff witness some very traumatic incidents, I don’t know how else to put it.”

Cole has worked for KCSO for more than two decades. For a year, she supervised the department’s peer support team, a group of 30 corrections, law enforcement and dispatch officers trained to help colleagues after traumatic incidents.

“Obviously it’s necessary,” Cole said. “It’s obviously very important to our staff. Although there are confidentiality factors, we know that there are a large number of staff who use their services.”

Officers can speak individually with team members or meet in large groups to report emotional incidents.

If they need more help, they are connected through the county’s employee assistance program with ENCOMPASS, a free service that provides 24/7 confidential support to full- and part-time county employees.

Many of the doctors trained with ENCOMPASS have prior law enforcement experience, Cole said. That group can also refer officers to other medical providers in the city.

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The peer support team is also trained to look after their colleagues and communicate with them if there are signs that they need help.

“Our team’s goal here is to identify at any time anyone who appears to be struggling, anyone who has been through a known critical incident, anyone who we know might be struggling personally,” Cole said. “It’s not just a professional service, it can also be a personalized service for our staff.”

Cole said the approach can ensure a happy and healthy workforce and helps officers respond “to the best of their ability on any given day.”

Each agency has its own approach. The Grand Rapids Police Department has a licensed social worker embedded in their building.

“There is always room for improvement in any service provided,” Cole said. “I would say I feel like we do a good job here providing services and connecting with our staff, but there’s always more that can be done.”

Cole as well as GRPD Police Chief Eric Winstrom He said there has been a change in culture in law enforcement regarding mental health. Not only is it okay, but officers are encouraged to talk openly about what they’ve seen and what they’ve been through.

He said older aides on his command staff who once questioned the effectiveness of the peer support team now support the approach and encourage staff to participate.

“We’ve really seen a big change in our department here, especially older command staff saying, ‘No, this is a great service, I’ve used this service or I’ve been part of a briefing,'” Cole said. . “There are many benefits to this and they are now encouraging staff to get involved.”

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