A Brief history of how the Peer Support Team was established.
In November 1995, NYC Benevolent Association established a peer support team of 50 officers within NYPD. The 21 suicides in the NYPD during a two-year period made it very clear that there was a severe problem that officers were not reaching out for the help that they needed, and that their problems were then growing to crisis proportions. The psychological services provided by the department were not being utilized because of the fear of being stigmatized and disciplined or having career goals disrupted.
The PBA realized that more had to be done for officers and their families. It had to find a new way to regain the officer’s trust, and provide real help and confidentiality. This new idea was the beginning of the peer support teams that are forming throughout the country in police agencies. The help received by police officers is strictly confidential; no department records are kept. The overall goal is to change the belief held by many police officers that seeking help is a sign of weakness rather than strength. Although the initial goal was to significantly reduce the number of suicides, the program also addressed a wide range of problem area, such as stress, depression, alcohol abuse, marital difficulties, domestic violence, and critical incident and post-shooting trauma.
Police departments of all sizes are instituting peer support programs to help their officers and families deal with stress and emotional difficulties as a result of their actions on the job. Evidence suggests that police officers are more likely to talk about their problems to a fellow officer than to anyone else. A peer support team can reduce the daily stress of police work and the emotional impact of critical incidents, preventing the buildup of anger, frustration and despair. Peers who are trained to recognize, (not treat), various symptoms and problems, and to make appropriate referrals, can have a strong impact. Although this training model was utilized to train a peer support team for one of the largest departments, it is applicable and adaptable to departments of any size, including even small suburban forces.
The Coventry Police Peer Support Team
In January 2004 the Coventry Police Department set up their own peer support team consisting of 5 members that were selected by their fellow officers. These officers were all trained in basic peer support and line of duty death. As of today the Coventry Police have 7 trained members in peer support. The CPD Peer support team also works with neighboring police agencies throughout the state along with NRI Community Services. Over the past few years, Coventry Police Peer support has held numerous Critical Incident Stress Diffusings and Debriefings.
In order to continue to make this program a success the team needs to reach out to officers and their families away from the police station. The Peer Support Team developed an awareness program with this concept in mind. The peer support awareness program educates officers and introduces their family members to the team. This program opens new avenues by creating an effective way to help officers and their families better deal with stress and emotional difficulties. The awareness program will hopefully encourage officers and their families to seek help before a crisis occurs.
Peer Support Team Members
The Peer Support Team has a member on call 24 hrs a day 7 days a week. To contact a member of the team call the police station at 401-826-1100
Remember all contacts with the Peer Support Team are confidential!