COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Police officers are trained to put away the human tragedies they witness because they need to continue with their mission to serve the public.
So often, they finish one call, get back in the car, and respond to the next.
But Fraternal Order of Police President Keith Ferrell said there’s a growing recognition in the profession that officers need to unpack their own emotional trauma.
“At some point over a culmination of years, there’s only so much room to put stuff away and I’m certainly not a doctor, but at some point when that gets full, you’re going to have problems with anybody,” Ferrell said.
Recognizing the mental health of police officers as a priority, the Columbus Division of Police is creating a Wellness Bureau.
Commander Rhonda Grizzell will lead the new bureau.
“I think it’s a recognition that, as a profession, we need to start confronting the things that we have always ignored,” Grizzell said. “And it wasn’t ignoring because no one cared; it was ignoring because we always had the mission to accomplish.”
Grizzell said she sees the Wellness Bureau as “second responders.”
“If we can come in behind everything else that’s happening and assist the victims, the witnesses, people that experienced whatever happened in a vicarious trauma or developed some symptom like that, then we’re going to do everything we can to try to soften that and help them through it,” Grizzell said.
The Wellness Bureau will include a new therapy dog unit. Grizzell said she will draw on the expertise of the Franklin County Sheriffs Office and their therapy dog experience with K-9 Mattis.
The new therapy dog unit will include three officers, one sergeant, and four dogs. Grizzell says two of the dogs have already been selected.