‘Our agency is made up of people’ Staunton Police Departments prioritizes officer well-being
STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - Staunton Police Department has set officer well-being and human resources as one of their top priorities, offering support to officers who need it.
September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and according to the National Institute of Health, police officers are at a higher risk of suicide. The national suicide rate for officers in 15.3/100,000. Comparatively, the U.S. general population suicide rate is 11/100,000.
In a study by the Office of Justice Programs, police officers are often in high stress situations. They are one of the few professions that may require someone to put their life on the line and face physical dangers.
Sergeant Butch Shifflett, public information officer for the Staunton Police Department (SPD), said SPD has adopted new policies and models to offer support to officers going through tough situations.
“The past two years, our staff’s health and wellness have become a priority with it being a top priority with out department’s goals and objectives,” Shifflett said. “Each year, chief William’s works with command staff to develop goals and objectives for the department. In 2023, the number one goal is human resources.”
The increased recognition for the services helped drive a peer support program in the agency. The program is designed to give officers someone to talk to who has experienced similar things. Shifflett said talking to someone with shared experiences not only helps the officer mentally, but gives them connections to professional resources in case they need those.
“The peer support program is designed to give the one-on-one, emotional, social and practical support,” Shifflett said. “Having the opportunity to talk to someone who has been in a similar situation can really help alleviate some of the stress and trauma that is induced through responding to severe situations and intense calls.”
Shifflett emphasized the need for healthy officers to provide professional support to the community. He said SPD is dedicated to supporting the community they operate in, but needs officers to be both physically and mentally fit to effectively serve the Queen city.
Shifflett said community support is a two-way street for the department. SPD works to protect and serve the Queen city, but community support and words leave a lasting impact on the officers. Shifflett said the Staunton community does a lot of unseen work to help motivate officers and support them when they need it.
”Community support is very important,” Shifflett said. “We have, in my opinion, the best community around. A very supportive community and we work well with the community. Having mentally and physically healthier officers, we can provide better services to the community and we are a service oriented agency.”
Shifflett said that no matter their position in SPD, the agency works to remind its employees the human aspect of their job and offer support for them.
“Our agency is made up of people,” Shifflett said. “That’s how we function; through people and through communication. With our officers at their best health and best mental well-being, we’re able to provide these services to help them get there. Therefore, we are able to provide the better services to our community.”
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