The New York Police Department announced Tuesday that officers who reach out for help to address their own mental health will not automatically lose their badges. The policy change comes as the department seeks ways to encourage officers to seek treatment following a spate of officer suicides among their ranks.
What are the details?
The New York Post reported on the NYPD’s revision of its fitness-for-duty policy, which was handed down by Police Commissioner James O’Neill. “If you, one of your colleagues, or anyone else you know needs help — please reach out,” O’Neill wrote in a memo to the force.
Newsday reported that “under previous NYPD policy, when cops surrendered their service weapons for non-disciplinary reasons, the shield, a basic symbol of membership in the force, also had to be turned in.”
The department also distributed a video featuring retired NYPD narcotics detective Matt Hickey, who told of his battle with depression and suicidal thoughts. According to Newsday, O’Neill told officers of Hickey’s testimony, “He’s alive today and able to tell you his story for one reason: He needed help, and he reached out. And he wants you to do the same.”
NYPD Detective Shares His Story
According to former NYPD psychologist Dr. Tom Coghlan, the department needs to make major changes to its wellness policy to address the mental health treatment of its officers. Coghlan told SI Live.com that during his 21-year tenure at the department, officers who sought help — even on their own accord — through a department psychological evaluation feared losing career opportunities or facing punitive measures like a change in command.
“These are human beings in need of treatment, who won’t come forward for help because of the way they’re treated,” Coghlan told the outlet. “What they need to do is remove all punitive things that come along with being placed on restricted duty, so that cops will be less afraid and hesitant to come forward voluntarily.”