California Police Chief- Fall 2013 CPCA_2019_Spring Magazine- FINAL - Page 34

OFFICER WELLNESS IN THE New Era of Policing By John Carli, Chief of Police, Vacaville, California As a police chief, I am troubled by the pressures our officers are experiencing. How can we ensure the safety of each of our employees, both physically and mentally? As leaders, we focus on training so they are prepared to confront the threats faced. Yet, there is another risk lingering each day, the uncertainty that police officers are psychologically prepared to endure each crisis, able to emotionally survive. For many years we have heard the national rhetoric that the police are the problem. Our profession was in shock as we watched the attack unfold against the Dallas police officers in 2016. I vividly recall what I was doing in the moment as many of you probably did as well. Having been at the White House with other law enforcement leaders discussing the President’s Task Force Report on 21st Century Policing, I was traveling home and watching the in-flight television, absorbed with feelings and gripped with emotion. I was experiencing these same emotions again recently, the night Officer Natalie Corona was ambushed and murdered in Davis, California, on January 10, 2019. Our society is facing a crisis, one that depends on logical solutions versus emotional reactions. The death of Natalie Corona drew significant attention, but the impact it may have on our profession in the future is far from over. Several of my officers heeded the mutual-aid call that night in January. An exhaustive search for many hours led an army of officers through the streets of Davis, an unsettling war-like atmosphere that is hard to describe to those who have never served in our profession. The suspect, in an act 34 California Police Chief | www.californiapolicechiefs.org of cowardice, placed a gun to his own head in the presence of officers, and then went inside a house. A single gunshot, which was a self-inflicted suicidal death sentence, and another traumatic scar, would soon rain down on those seeking to end the clash. A few nights later officers in my department descended on a violent scene where a man tried to kill his own family, stabbing two of them, setting the house on fire and trapping the children inside. The manhunt lasted for hours and included several allied agencies. I could feel the stress, just like the night of Officer Corona’s death. “Shots fired” was broadcast over the radio. I knew how much danger our officers were in as they searched for this predator. The use of deadly force against this attacker ended the stressful search and triggered the officer-involved fatal- incident investigation protocol. Our city awoke never truly knowing the danger befallen on a seemingly peaceful town. However, some of our officers and dispatchers experienced a breaking point. I drove to the crime scene and talked with officers, checking to see if they were okay. Some were reeling with emotions. One officer had also been involved in the recent