After Shootings, Dallas Police Seek To Stop ‘Tough-Guy’ Mentality And Push Counseling

One of the most difficult challenges for police after traumatic events is getting officers the counseling and mental health services they need.

By Stephanie KuoAugust 19, 2016 9:30 am| , , ,

From KERA News

Dallas Police Officer Frederick Frazier was downtown that night.

“We saw the dead bodies. We saw the families that were affected,” Frazier said. “That doesn’t ever leave you.”

Frazier has been an officer for 21 years. And the shooting in downtown Dallas last month, which killed five officers, weighs on him constantly.

“Cause you start thinking, ‘Do I really need to do this job? Can I do something else that’s not going to affect my family like that?’” he said. “When you leave to go to work, your wife’s thinking about it. My 13-year-old, who’s having the hardest time with this, is the one that makes me think about it every day. And they’re thinking ‘Why can’t Dad just go do something else?’”

It’s moments like these that remind Frazier how important it is to be able to talk openly about what happened on July 7. He’s the First Vice President of the Dallas Police Association and Chairman of the Assist the Officer Foundation — an organization that provides financial help and counseling to Dallas officers.

Frazier said that the old-school police mentality of “suck it up buttercup; if you can’t make it, get the hell out,”  is a relic of the past. Younger officers are helping to chip away at that attitude, but most agree that it still lingers. In the last several weeks, Frazier has been encouraging officers to seek counseling.

“The guy that’s going to run into a gunfight, you can’t change overnight. And that’s who we all are,” Frazier said. “So that resistance is there because our minds are resisting it. Also our peers, if they found out, they’d be like ‘Oh my god, wait, is he OK to work with?’ So it becomes even a factor of trust.”

The Assist the Officer Foundation provides free access to the Meier Clinic in Richardson as well as to two suicide hotlines. The foundation has five counselors on staff — one ex-cop, two police spouses, and two military veterans. And Frazier said for them, confidentiality is critical. The names of officers who use the services never make it back to the Dallas Police Department.

Frazier said their counseling services were flooded by police employees after the shootings. He sees that as a good sign, but it’s not the end. Even after July 7, officers will have to continue dealing with stressful issues like low morale, low pay,  physical altercations and life or death decisions.

“The nature of it is, if we as a society expose people, through their job, to repeated traumatic events that involve fear of loss of limb or life, we know that creates a biological change,” said Dr. John Burruss, CEO of Metrocare Services, a nonprofit mental health care provider in North Texas.

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