Police spend a lot of their time helping others, but on Wednesday the focus was on how to help them.
Stress of the job can sometimes be too much, but an initiative is expected to focus on the wellness of police officers.
It has been a difficult few years for Connecticut’s police officers after two of their own committed suicide this year, in one month.
Waterbury’s Deputy Police Chief Christopher Corbett ended his life in June, and a few days later Milford Police Officer Michael Compare did as well.
Two years ago Paul Buchanan, a veteran East Hartford officer, shot himself at the police station.
"The number one priority for leadership in the state of Connecticut, when it comes to focusing on police officers, is their emotional wellness,” said Fairfield Police Chief Gary McNamara.
He said it was one year ago when the Police Chief’s Association started talking seriously about officer wellness.
The association sent a survey to police departments and the overwhelming majority of departments, over 98 percent, have Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).
More than 66 percent tailor those programs for law enforcement, however only 36 percent have a peer support team.
"Peer support is officers at the police department you can go to, share your problems with in a confidential setting,” said Manchester Police Chief Marc Montminy.
For some officers there can be a stigma attached to getting help, like a sign of weakness, or something they are not trained to be, officials said.
"There is the reality of fitness for duty, that if you come forward with emotional and psychological problems it could lead to a fitness evaluation and questions whether you are fit to be a police officer,” said Dr. Hank Schwartz, of the Institute of Living.
Police departments are doing more, but many police officials said they agree more can be done.
Officer Wellness Day in Connecticut is slated for Oct. 7, and May will be the second year. There has been a 5K race with the proceeds going to a wellness foundation.
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