EAST LYME, Conn. (WTNH) — Every police officer knows they may be putting their life on the line every day, but the killing of two Bristol officers may make that reality hit home even harder for officers everywhere.
The long line of police cars escorting the fallen officers to the Chief Medical Examiner’s office on Thursday showed the endless supply of support officers have for one another.
“Law enforcement comes together. They truly are a family,” noted Jim Rascati, a licensed clinical social worker and behavioral health consultant.
Some officers are even answering calls for the Bristol Police Department, which may be even more stressful now as Sgt. Dustin DeMonte and Officer Alex Hamzy were killed doing just that: answering a simple call.
“When you start hearing a situation that could be purposeful targeting and ambush that’s a lot different than a domestic violence situation that goes wrong,” said Chief Michael Finklestein with the East Lyme Police Department.
Finklestein said that action rises to a different level, and raises even more concern.
“Officers are always going to have this in the back of their mind that, well, is this a possibility on every call that I’m going on,” he said.
The chief also said that there are police officers who are trained to offer peer support and that it’s especially helpful in times like these. Especially because officers who need that support know they are talking to someone who knows exactly what they’re going through.
“We’re consistent with this message,” said Rascati. “They have a stressful job they have to talk to someone.”
Rascati works with 57 police departments and has developed 48 peer support teams. Police say there is more help out there now than there used to be.
“It’s a sign of strength when you take care of yourself. Because when you don’t take care of yourself you can’t take care of anybody else,” said Dr. J Craig Allen, the chief of psychiatry at the Midstate Medical Center.
Dr. Allen said there are a number of different psychotherapeutic approaches that can be taken, especially if an officer develops intrusive thoughts, such as when they are getting a call or trying to sleep.
Those are all symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD. Dr. Allen stated that tragedies like the one in Bristol can be hard on officers and also on their families, who may be experiencing more stress and sadness.