Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Is Post Traumatic Stress Related to Shootings?

Besides the officer dealing with the dilemma of a shooting, there is emotional and psychological damage the officer will encounter. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Psychological Services Section produced recommended guidelines for officer involved shootings. The report produces recommended agency guidelines for policy and procedure. Additionally, a section is dedicated to recommendations for post-shooting interventions administered by a mental health professional. The IACP recommends the intervention take place approximately a week after the shooting. In perspective, the officer is dealing with administrative leave, an internal and external investigation, and not to mention shooting at another person.

No wonder the officers have to meet with a mental health professional. First, the officer has just finished being involved in a high traumatic situation. Moreover, the officer involved has to deal with the scrutiny from the public and the District Attorney’s Office to ensure the shooting was within departmental policy, and justified. Naturally, the officer will face high stress levels during this period. The recommendation of an intervention by a mental health professional is essential for emotional survival. High-ranking officers in management of police departments should take into account the recommendation for mental health interventions. Enough research has been done to recognize that officers face mental, and emotional, post-shooting trauma to ensure that police departments take action. In past years, it was common for officers to be placed on administrative leave. However, dealing with such a unique occupation has pushed for research of the effects of officer involved shootings.

Today, departmental leaders are informed of the stress officers encounter. The information provided is pertinent to ensure that an officer is psychologically capable to continue his job. Now that this data has become available, hopefully, police departments are introducing this information to cadets in the academy. The early intervention may allow potential officers to find a comfort zone if they are put in such a situation.

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