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Officers Reach Out to Their Own

Wellness Committee established by PSPD

The-SHIELD-Pg1Law enforcement officers (LEO) encounter stressful situations on a daily basis which can affect both their physical and mental health. Their life expectancy is ten years below the national average at 66, and many are forced to leave the field for medical reasons. Even worse, studies show that the rate of suicide for our men and women in blue is above the general population at an estimated 125-150 per year.1

Most departments offer a Peer Support Program with sworn and non-sworn personnel available to discuss personal and job-related matters anonymously. But the Palm Springs Police Department has gone a step further in creating an internal Wellness Committee made up of members of their own LEO family.

“We know that the stressors of this profession can have a very adverse effect on people,” says Sergeant Kyle Stjerne, Wellness Committee Director. “Our goal is to try to get our team into a healthy mental and physical place so they never feel that there are no other options to move on in life.”

Two elements now in place include a newsletter entitled The S.H.I.E.L.D. (Spiritual Health Involving Emotional Longevity and physical Development) addressing issues and resources with editorials contributed by those within the department, and a Wellness Library with suggested reading on health-related topics.

“We definitely see the benefit in keeping the communication going – and our officers educated on the importance of taking care of themselves,” adds Stjerne.

Future programs include the introduction of activity clubs offering opportunities for department members to socialize as a group. To further build camaraderie around sport, they hope to enter the Challenge Cup Relay, a 120-mile LEO team race between Baker, CA and Las Vegas.

Chief Al Franz adds that throughout his 27-year career at PSPD, he has seen many friends’ and co-workers’ careers cut short due to physical and emotional trauma. “I honestly believe that if there had been a proactive emotional health program in place, some of those careers could have been saved.” The recently launched program is led by Executive Director, Lieutenant Walter Combs.

“Eventually, we hope to form a partnership with the city offering tangible benefits for those who maintain their health statistics,” says Stjerne, “but our overall goal is to provide tools that will allow each person to leave this profession on their own terms with a healthy mental and physical state.”

If you would like to donate health related books to the PSPD Wellness Library, please contact Sgt Stjerne at (760) 323.8115. 

Reference: 1) Aamodt and Stalnaker, “Police Officer Suicide: Frequency and Officer Profiles”; Daniel W. Clark and Elizabeth K. White, “Exploring Law Enforcement Suicide: An Inside Look” 

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