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SEPT 2023. Blues Vol 39 No. 9

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SEPT 2023. Blues Vol 39 No. 9


AROUND THE COUNTRY yrs. MAUI, HI. A PD’s response to helping an officer affected by Lahaina wildfire devastation. Police officers are wired to help, not be helped; here are six ways to ensure your officers are supported in their time of need with tangible action items. If your department is looking to help with Maui fire relief and recovery, here is a verified list of organizations you can donate to and share within your community. When we consider the adversity law enforcement agencies are facing regarding unprecedented attrition, public scrutiny, and emerging social and legal challenges, any prudent leader will recognize the need to focus on what we can control. We need to do so in a positive, constructive and collaborative manner – following suit with how we manage public safety, criminal justice and community engagement. I frequently study, write and speak upon foundational issues that will galvanize recruiting and retention. The answer? Culture. At the epicenter of organizational and team culture are our values. Amid the aforementioned challenges, supporting our 46 The BLUES people must be our top priority if we are to thrive as public safety agencies. We need to take care of the people who do the caretaking for our community. This fosters strong individuals, resilient teams and efficacious organizations. By sharing efforts and successes, it solidifies the connection with the community. I come from a long-standing peer support and wellness background, specifically within the law enforcement profession. These efforts are critical, but they’re more than just themes and programs. Leaders need to nurture how we support our officers amid personal, familial or community hardship. An officer who I have supervised for years is from the Maui town of Lahaina, Hawaii. The same town that has re-

cently been ravaged by wildfires, resulting in neighborhoods being reduced to ash and rubble. When the fires devastated that region, his family’s home was destroyed. The following is a case study of how we can put our intent and goal of officer-focused support into action to highlight that pillar of healthy agency culture. SIX WAYS TO SUPPORT OFFI- CERS IN NEED 1. Peer support: This needs to be a defining facet within a successful organization. It is something every member of the team can and should embrace. It is checking in, knowing your people and hedging on over-checking rather than assuming someone is OK. This is something my department has practiced for years. By the time I called my officer, several others had already been in contact with him and his wife to check on his family and see how they could help. Like most first responders, he was stoic, embraced ownership and focused on “handling it.” 2. Be persistent: As first responders and public servants, we tend to want to do things by ourselves. It is not necessarily stubbornness, but often a belief that everyone else has their own issues and we do not want to be a burden. We are wired to help, not be helped. In speaking with his wife later, I believe I was the straw that broke that stance after many others had been checking in and offering help. I relayed how people feel helpless not being able to help. I offered a posed scenario: if the situation was reversed, then how would he want to respond? He was Donated supplies gathered in Kent (Wash.) PD’s recruitment office awaiting packaging for their trip to Maui. (Photo/Eric Tung) humble and open to receiving the suggestions and, frankly, the love we wanted to share. 3. Initiate and identify key players: My part was minimal. There is nothing special about what I did, but someone has to get things in motion. Once I received buy-in from my officer, I recognized needing to find lynchpins that could help carry and continue our momentum. My officer was already going home to Maui. He already got support and the blessing from our administration to help as a first responder with documentation (this was critical; we will return to this). When I learned about this support, I just had to confirm permission to engage the department staff via email, which I was immediately granted. With our officer being boots on the ground, I connected with his wife as a liaison to what resources were needed as there’s currently spotty communication in Maui (phone/Wi-Fi intermittent or down). This process continued with quick adjustments, pivots in the plans and logistics, but nothing we police officers aren’t proficient in! My department already had members who manage a non-profit for funds to support officers and their families in times of extreme hardship and loss. By engaging a representative, I confirmed details on how employees and others could contribute funds in a simple, effective hub. This eliminated the need to utilize a public crowd-sourcing module, which ends up being resource-skimming with associated fees. 4. Give direction: People are willing and want to help. Give them a job! I wrote an email that explained the situation, gave an overview and what the plan was. I outlined the types of items needed and how to donate funds. I gave them a place to drop items, how to access and gave a deadline, which allowed us to project when and where we would ship the collections. Donations poured in and filled the designated office. I was alerted to the volume with a quick photo sent to my phone The BLUES 47

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