Our deputies walk into risky situations and encounter tragedy on a regular basis. Some may witness horror that stays with them for the rest of their lives. Others are physically injured in carrying out their duties, sometimes needlessly, through mistakes made in high stress situations. As a result, we are like every law enforcement agency in that physical, mental, and emotional injuries plagues all of our staff, which includes our dispatchers and jail control room operators.
Officer suicide is problematic with a national study finding police die from suicide 2.4 times as often as from homicides. And though depression resulting from traumatic experiences is often the cause, routine work and life stresses such as serving hostile communities, working long shifts, and lack of support are contributors. One of our deputies received a telephone message this week from the father of a young girl who died in a vehicle roll-over. This heart breaking thank you message was “Super cool of him to call, and no wonder cops deserve early retirement.” Images of our friends, family, children and community members in horrific scenes forever changes us.
Our Officer Wellness & Safety programs have improved over the past three years. Nevada law mandates each deputy undergo an annual heart and lung physical. Last year, we completely shifted mandated physicals to a health provider who better understands police and their needs. With offices in Carson, Reno, and a mobile testing facility, they have provided better services at reduced costs.
We recently received grant funding to buy and purchase tactical first aid kits and naloxone. The first aid kits can significantly reduce the loss of both deputy and civilian lives due to blood loss by controlling hemorrhaging. The naloxone is being added to the kit to counteract opioid overdoses and accidental/intentional exposures to fentanyl and car fentanyl. Each of these kits will be placed in a mandated location in every patrol vehicle.
With the assistance of grant funding, we invested in an 8-year educational contract designed to enhance employee professionalism – as it develops their character and sharpens their skills to lead with compassion, make ethical decisions, and improve their emotional intelligence and moral courage. This program is endorsed by the National Sheriff’s Association and is now mandated for all probationary employees hired after July 1st of this year to complete assigned phases of a four phased program.
This program is available to all our employees as it takes a comprehensive look at leadership and ethics, identifying the most common ethical dilemmas and how they destroy public trust and individual careers. For those employees who complete all four phases of this research-based, self-paced online educational program, they will have earned college credits at no cost to the employee as part of the educational contract.
And although we will never completely eliminate risky situations or exposure to traumatic stress they encounter in today’s world, we are putting out a better product through sound recruitment practices, a standardized career progression track that begins in the jail, and investing in both our sworn and non-sworn employee’s wellness and safety through cost-effective programs. Our employees are important and must be invested in, which I believe is why we have an almost zero percent turnover ratio against a public sector hiring frenzy that should be stealing valuable employees.
Our prisoner workers are now wearing orange to identify them from non-sentenced prisoners who are still wearing black & white stripes. This past week we have providing sentenced prisoners to help with the County Fair & Rodeo set up. And finally, I am off to watch my grandchildren enter the mutton busting event. Should be a fun event!
As always, keep the faith!