Tense and realistic scenarios are what cadets are drilled on at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training center. It prepares them to save lives, but, also how to mentally prepare for a stressful career.
To try and understand how a critical incident can affect an officer’s mental health, KSN was given the opportunity to go through some of the same scenarios preparing for a situation where lives are on the line.
The guns aren’t real, but, the emotions are. What KSN experienced is just a small taste of what future officers will go through in the 14 week course at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center.
Jeff Ostlund, Senior Instructor ant KLETC, says while these drills will prepare them what to do physically it’s the mental component that is just as important.
“It also gives them a little bit exposure to stress. Obviously, it’s not as much stress as it could be. But, it gives them some exposure to stress. So, we can start working with them to address that stress,” said Ostlund.
Certainly intense, but, still just a scenario, not the real thing. Wichita Police Department Sergeant Steve Yarberry of the Critical Incident Stress Management Team says law enforcement responding to an active shooter or involved in the shooting of a suspect impacts far more than the suspect and the officer.
“Those officers involved in something like that incident, it’s going to affect their family, their spouse, their children,” said Yarberry.
Narciso Narvais, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office Defensive Tactics Training Coordinator, says sometimes the stress and anxiety of a critical incident becomes too much to take.
“While were on par to lose almost 140 officers in the line of duty deaths this year, we are seeing almost the equivalent numbers in officer suicide rates. So, that is one of the main reasons we do want to teach the officers how to manage and cope with their stresses,” said Narvais.
RELATED LINK | Police suicide statistics
According to Jeff Ostlund, part of the coping process starts with a debriefing after a critical incident.
“Letting you kind of talk and vent would be important part of it. You need to express, hey these are things I’m experiencing, these are the things I’m feeling. We need to reassure you those are not unusual feelings,” said Ostlund.
Narciso Narvias says some officers will receive counseling or group therapy to deal with what they experienced.
While were on par to lose almost 140 officers in the line of duty deaths this year, we are seeing almost the equivalent numbers in officer suicide rates.”
– Narciso Narvais, Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office
“One part helps us to try to work with the officers, make sure they are coping appropriately, and, also manage their thoughts and emotions in a way that is not going to be detrimental to them personally or professionally,” said Narvias.
RELATED LINK | Mental help for officers
Trainers say this critical incident education will give officers the confidence that what they learned in the classroom, they will be able to apply in real time, real life.
Law enforcement officials say there are other mental stressors officers can face like the consequences of using force, questions of internal investigations, even criminal charges or lawsuits even if the shooting is declared justified.