Staying Healthy in the Fray: The Impact of Crowd Management on Officers in the Context of Civil Unrest

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Abstract

The last few years have presented unprecedented challenges, both to our communities and to public safety officers and first responders—especially law enforcement. Current events, including COVID 19, political rhetoric and chaos, societal conflict and division, and attacks on the policing institution, individual officers, and officers’ families, have created a challenging environment where stress and trauma increased exponentially. High stress police operations such as crowd management during periods of civil unrest is mentally and physically demanding. Crowd management often challenges officers to push their bodies beyond normal limits, leading to poor performance, fatigue, insomnia, and injury. In the summer of 2020, many officers repeatedly worked shifts that, at times, exceeded 12 hours, for 10 to 12 days straight, leaving little time for appropriate nutrition, rest, exercise, recovery, or sleep. Large numbers of arrests, long periods on bicycles, standing or moving in formations, or responding to threats are physically and mentally demanding. In light of the current environment, NPF has developed this brief guide for law enforcement agencies on ways to recognize and protect the physical and mental wellbeing of officers during responses to intense and protracted protests and demonstrations. Both physical and mental stressors are taking a toll on the women and men who have dedicated their lives to protecting our communities. This guidebook offers educational information and practical considerations for sworn officers of all ranks, particularly frontline officers and mid-level supervisors, as well as their families, to better protect officers’ mental and physical wellbeing during times of heightened stress. Furthermore, this guidebook can be used as a resource by police leaders in promoting healthy organizational cultures that recognize  and  prioritize officer  safety  and wellness  as an  integral  part of  policing  protests—which ultimately can help foster better outcomes for all involved. The content in this guidebook has been curated and derived from a review of research from professional medical organizations and has been peer reviewed by licensed mental health clinicians and law enforcement practitioners.

2020 Annual Report

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The National Police Foundation (NPF) is pleased to release its 2020 Annual Report. The report highlights NPF’s work throughout 2020 in four key areas: Building trust and legitimacy between police and communities; leveraging scientific research to advance policing; developing innovative solutions to meet the needs of police and communities; and improving officer safety and wellness through data-driven training and technical assistance.

The work we were able to accomplish during 2020 to advance policing through innovation and science was made possible because of the generous support from our donors, corporate sponsors, and law enforcement and community partners across the country. If you would like to support our mission, you can make a tax-deductible donation here.

How Small Law Enforcement Agencies Respond to Calls Involving Persons in Crisis: Results from a National Survey

Abstract:

Police frequently respond to calls occasioned by people with behavioral health needs (those with mental illnesses and/or substance use disorders). These calls are often time-consuming and potentially dangerous for officers and the persons experiencing crisis. Large and medium-sized law enforcement agencies have increasingly adopted specialized police response models that entail collaboration between law enforcement, mental health agencies, and medical facilities. However, little is known about the adoption of specialized responses by small agencies with fewer resources, less occasion to see persons in crisis, and fewer nearby mental health facilities. This report presents findings from a survey of how small law enforcement agencies respond to incidents involving persons in crisis as a result of mental health or substance abuse issues. It is based on responses of a random sample of 380 municipal police and sheriff offices with between 10 and 75 sworn officers between February and October, 2020. The survey finds that all but twelve responding agencies had adopted some form of specialized response model for dealing with calls involving persons in crisis. More than six in ten agencies has provided some form of crisis response training to all patrol officers, and three in ten provided training to some patrol officers. Three in ten agencies had at least one officer in the agency who had been CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) certified and half of the agencies reported being part of a regional CIT partnership. The regional partnerships gave small agencies access to highly skilled law enforcement and mental health staff, but response times could be long, regional skilled staff unavailable at all times of the day, and mental health facilities a lengthy drive away. The death of George Floyd, which occurred during the administration of the survey, encouraged four in ten survey respondents to reassess their current approach to dealing with persons in crisis.