Schlosser, the chief psychologist for the N.J. Association of Chiefs of Police, said it’s the combination of traumatic events and the daily stress of the job that really starts to add up.
“A lot of people are always worrying about the ‘big bads,’ like an officer-involved shooting, which are very serious, of course,” he said, “But I’d say more frequently, it’s the kind of cumulative trauma of repeated exposure to stressful events with negative outcomes.”
He added that 2020 was particularly tough for officers because of constant anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic and nationwide protests as a result of numerous high-profile deaths involving police.
“Putting on a blue uniform doesn’t make you Superman,” Schlosser said. “You’re still human underneath the blue uniform. You still have weaknesses and you have family that you care about and you have concerns. There’s almost just a layer of stress that everybody has, both citizens and law enforcement. And then you have the (Derek) Chauvin situation, the anti-police sentiment, the riots, the civil unrest and the incredible divide in our country.”
Through resources such as the resiliency program, Schlosser says, improving the mental health in law enforcement may also improve community relations.
“The whole idea is to have healthier officers,” he said, “and the goal is, if your officer is healthier, they’re going to be better on the job and better off the job. But, of course, if they’re healthier and they’re better on the job, I expect that we will see less use of force, fewer demeanor complaints, fewer abuses of sick time and better outcomes because the officers are going to be happier and healthier.