NJ is first in nation to require cops to cope with job stress in mandatory program

David Madden
August 10, 2019 - 6:00 am
New Jersey police officers

Mark Makela/Getty Images

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NEWARK, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — A new directive from New Jersey’s top law enforcement official aims to help police officers across the state cope with the stress of their job — becoming the first in the nation to require all law enforcement officers to participate.
 
Burlington County has had a pilot program in place that serves as a model for the state’s Officer Resiliency Directive, an initiative that helps cops deal with the pressures of the job.

“We will see success in many ways,” county prosecutor Scott Coffina said at a press conference in Newark earlier this week. “In officers leading healthier lives with more job satisfaction and fulfillment in their personal lives. In officers’ families having a better understanding of what their loved ones go through. In officers’ functions in a better frame of mind, and thus having more positive interactions with the community members they serve.”

There’s a disturbing trend within the law enforcement community: Suicide rates are up. At least 167 officers nationwide died by suicide last year. Thirty-seven officers in New Jersey have died by suicide since 2016.

State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal suggests those numbers are probably on the low end of what’s really going on, because cops tend to avoid talking about these issues.

“There’s a fear of being stigmatized, a fear of being seen as weak, or a concern of adverse employment consequences,” Grewal added. “So instead of reaching out for assistance, far too many of our officers suffer in silence.”
    
A deputy in Grewal’s office will be in charge of overseeing that within two years, someone in every police department across the state is trained to find colleagues in need of help and make sure they get it.