MAYS LANDING- In observance of SUICIDE AWARENESS MONTH, the designated Resiliency Program Officers of the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office have a message for their fellow law enforcement officers, coping with stress on the job and maintaining their mental health.
IF YOU NEED SOMETHING, SAY SOMETHING. WE ARE HERE TO HELP.
In August 2019, the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General unveiled their Directive Promoting Law Enforcement Resiliency. The directive called attention to the men and women of law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to protect the citizens of New Jersey.
“While it takes a strong person to admit they need help, it only takes a caring and alert co-worker or family member to recognize that someone else needs help. If you see someone that needs assistance, say something to someone to ensure that the person gets the help they need. Emergency responders experience a significant amount of vicarious trauma through the events they witness. We are all in this together, so let’s be sure to help one another though the tough times,” said Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon G. Tyner said.
Following the issuance of the Directive, the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office named Sgt. C.J. Durham as the ACPO Team Leader of the Resiliency Program Officers and Assistant Team Leader Sgt. Jason Kangas. Additional ACPO Resiliency Program Officers include: Detectives Christopher Popper, Nina Mitchell and Hannah Piatt.
Atlantic County currently has over 40 RPOs who will soon begin training the 1200+ law enforcement officers in Atlantic County. Atlantic County’s 18 municipal police departments, the Atlantic Sheriff’s Department and the Atlantic County Justice Facility all currently have RPOs within their agency.
Sgt. Durham said it’s about providing the “toolbox” to all frontline workers, but specifically law enforcement to prevent the worst case scenario.
“The events we see each day or participate in that causes stress does not have to be a traumatic event like crime scenes, fatal accidents, domestic violence incidents, etc. It can be the everyday task of working 12 hour shifts and missing vital family events and holidays. It can be giving 100% into an investigation but still not getting enough to get a bad guy off the street. It can be the stress of supporting your family in today’s environment when all of law enforcement is being grouped together as being bad and/or corrupt. So, the tools we teach are to help relieve that stress and as an RPO, be there to support an officer in need of additional support and resources,” Sgt. Durham said.
According to the Directive, “Resiliency” is defined as the ability to overcome adversity, and the New Jersey Resiliency Program for Law Enforcement (NJRP-LE) is designed to do just that. This Directive recognizes that protecting an officer’s mental health is just as important as guarding their physical safety, and strives to create a supportive culture for law enforcement officers, their families and friends, as well as the broader New Jersey community.
Sgt. Kangas added that as a law enforcement officer for over 22 years that the New Jersey Resiliency Program training for law enforcement is the single most important training he has have ever attended.
“It helps with daily stressors, family issues, work issues, substance abuse, mental health and many other areas. Sometimes many of the stressors occur at the same time and really take a toll on law enforcement. Sometimes law enforcement doesn’t know where or who to turn to get answers. This training will teach them how to deals with stressors and who to talk to,” Sgt. Kangas said.
The Directive requires all law enforcement agencies to appoint at least one Resiliency Program Officer (RPO), who will be responsible for implementing the NJRP-LE in their agency pursuant to the structure and parameters outlined below. The RPO will not only train the officers in their agency on the NJRP-LE, but also will be available to all law enforcement officers to answer questions directly related to the training and provide contact information for any other support services and programs. The RPO is not meant to replace existing support programs and law enforcement officers are encouraged to continue to use these and other programs whenever needed.
Anyone with information involving serious crimes is asked to call the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office at 609-909-7800 or go to the Prosecutor’s Office Web site at http://www.acpo.org/tips.html and provide information by filling out the form anonymously on the Submit a Tip page. People can also call Crime Stoppers at 609-652-1234 or 1-800-658-8477 (TIPS) or visit the Crime Stoppers Website at http://www.crimestoppersatlantic.com/. Crime Stoppers offers cash rewards for information leading to the arrest and indictment of those who commit crimes in Atlantic County.