Photo Courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
City cops have a range of support services at their disposal, but these services are underutilized by uniformed personnel as a result of the stigma surrounding mental health issues and treatment, according to an OIG-NYPD survey of retired officers.
By Forum Staff
In a year that has already seen nine City Police Department uniformed personnel die by suicide, the City recently moved to make improvements to NYPD policies, practices, and training on officer wellness and safety.
These improvements are in line with recommendations made by an Office of the Inspector General for the New York City Police Department investigation, and have been accepted by NYPD. OIG-NYPD’s review found that NYPD leadership takes the critical issues of officer wellness and safety seriously and is addressing them, as evidenced by recent improvements and an ongoing commitment to strengthen policies and training in this area. The NYPD provides a network of services to current and former members and the department is collaborating with City and private sector entities, including OIG-NYPD, to ensure that these services continue to improve.
NYPD officers have a range of internal and external support services at their disposal, although these services are underutilized by uniformed personnel as a result of the stigma surrounding mental health issues and treatment, according to an OIG-NYPD survey of retired officers.
According to the Department of Investigation, OIG-NYPD and NYPD agree that there is a need to continue to strengthen NYPD’s support services and create a culture that encourages officers to use these programs. The NYPD has accepted each of OIG-NYPD’s 12 recommendations, and has already implemented some of them or is in the process of doing so. The recommendations include:
- Develop an overarching Mental Health and Wellness policy that articulates goals, establishes standards, and outlines relevant programs and resources.
- Increase the staffing level in the Health and Wellness Section to include full-time licensed mental health professionals and support staff with appropriate levels of competency in the areas of mental health and wellness.
- Study the feasibility of establishing mandatory periodic mental health checks for all police officers or certain categories of at-risk officers.
- Retain outside mental health experts to review and audit the current range of department-wide health and wellness trainings that NYPD is providing to personnel and ask these experts to make recommendations to NYPD on what additional training, if any, should be developed and delivered.
- Modify early intervention—Risk Assessment Information Liability System—to include an “officer wellness” category, based on various relevant indicators, so that NYPD personnel requiring officer wellness intervention can be identified. For example, while NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau has data about officers involved in personal domestic incidents or alcohol-related offenses, the department does not actively review this information or feed such data into RAILS in order to identify at-risk officers who may benefit from intervention.
- Establish a mandatory transitional training program for officers approaching retirement, which would provide helpful information on the availability of support services, adjusting to life as a member of the public, financial advisement, and medical and retirement benefits. In addition, NYPD should allow retirees to make use of departmental support services for a reasonable period of time after retirement or separation.
“Everyone must be comfortable accessing any of the many available resources, and should understand that asking for help is never a sign of weakness—in fact, it is a sign of great strength,” said Police Commissioner Jim O’Neill.