Recommendations for Executive and Senior Leadership

This guide defines Lieutenants, Captains, Commanders, Chiefs, Commissioners, Sheriffs, and Superintendents as executive and senior leadership. The individuals who occupy these ranks represent the entire organization, its culture, and its value system. The focus on physical and mental wellness must be ingrained in your agency, and also in all of your actions. Messaging about the importance of wellness cannot be a “check-the-box” activity. Your organization must live and breathe the tenets of officer safety and wellness, and it all starts with you. Establishing a sound foundation of wellness within your organization prior to a traumatic or stressful event, such as a mass demonstration or protest, will allow your officers to approach the event with a healthy mindset and react appropriately during the event itself. After the event, they will be able to come to terms with and hopefully resolve the stresses and trauma they endured.

Preparing for Physical and Mental Wellness in the Fray

There are multiple things that you, as police organization senior leaders, can do prior to and during an event to set your officers up for success in terms of safety and wellness:54

Physiological and safety needs

The following considerations should be something that all department heads must account for in any agency operations plan, no matter the event. As executive and senior leaders, you should also equip your mid-level supervisors with the resources and understanding to assist with addressing these needs (this includes any necessary training that clearly establishes your expectations).

When planning and implementing support for your officers and other agency staff during times of protest, it may be helpful to consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see diagram to the left),55 which states that basic needs must be met before any others to build upon as a foundation of health and wellness.

  • Provide food by having energy bars and other healthy snacks available. 
  • Confirm that there are hydration stations or another form of access to water. 
  • Ensure your officer have access to restrooms; consider partnering with the local fire department for use of their canteen truck. 
  • Provide sources of warmth, or in warmer weather, provide access to SPF, cooling stations, or misting fans. 
  • Afford opportunities for rest, including decompression break zones for officers (preferably with a barrier between this zone and the protest), rotating officers off of the line at set intervals of time, and adhering to general orders for break times. 
  • Determine whether it’s possible to establish a secure sleep station for officers who are on break if the event is set to last through multiple shifts. 
  • Recognize the importance of maintaining healthy sleep-work cycles of your officers, particularly when your officers are working: 
    • In high stress environments 
    • Outside of regular assignments 
    • Extended shifts 
    • On regularly scheduled days-off
  • Ensure your officers have access to the appropriate PPE for the event. 
  • Create a non-human barrier between protesters and your officers when possible. 
  • Rely on mutual aid as much as possible to provide an extra layer of support and security for your officers; have a plan in place ahead of time to avail your department of this resource. 
  • Coordinate with local EMS to have them stationed in the vicinity for assistance. Make officers aware of their presence and location. 
  • Place a high priority on the security of your stationhouse. 
  • Determine whether your officers can be transported to and arrive at the scene in unmarked cars for their safety. 
  • Assess whether or not a line of officers is actually needed on scene. Determine if it’s possible to mobilize close by without activating. Stay ready in the event that the situation escalates. 

Things to Consider from an Administrative Standpoint

There are a number of steps that law enforcement leaders and supervisors can take in creating an executive operations plan. Many strategies can be put in place to bolster the overall culture of wellness:56

Supporting Health and Wellness in your organization

Sources57, 58, 59

Supporting Your Officers After the Fact

After a stressful event, several things can help to ensure the continuity of health and wellness in your organization:60, 61

Related Publications

Seeking Help is a Sign of Strength

Valor Officer Safety and Wellness Program, Bureau of Justice Assistance

Reach out to others and use the resources available if you are struggling. It’s okay to not be okay.

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