The panelists began by discussing what has been going well in their offices, as well as their challenges. It's no surprise that the past year has been full of trauma and adversity for law enforcement officers. As a result, one effort emphasized by departments is giving staff an outlet to express their mental health. For example, some offices implement yearly mandatory “Check up from the neck up” appointments that every officer and department member participate in.
Ramsey County Commander Phil Baebenroth has been studying wellness in law enforcement officers, driven by the rise in officer suicides, divorces, and other mental health related incidents. In their offices, Ramsey County specifically has been having more conversations and check-ins with officers, ensuring they are appreciated and have an outlet to express their emotions through these difficult times.
Relationship-building efforts has been a focus of law enforcement communities, citing that a holistic approach to public safety is necessary. St. Anthony has given their officers opportunities to see a licensed psychologist and have even developed a spiritual program in addition to encouraging physical and mental fitness.
Transparency has also been important, as departments have been posting answers to citizens’ questions on their websites in order to keep their communities in the loop. St. Anthony Police Captain Jeff Spies noted that a golden lining of the past year and a half has been the opportunities of virtual meetings, as more officers can attend meetings and trainings in a virtual format.
Collaboration was a theme that echoed in the four officers’ discussions. Law enforcement departments have worked together to tackle challenges and disruptions that have become more apparent the past year. Tony Paetznick remarked “Over the past 15 months... it’s really forced us to an even greater level of cooperation and collaboration.” An example of an effective partnership is School Resource Officer programs, in which officers can directly support schools and students.
Chief Erika Scheider explained how their multicultural advisory committee has been evaluating reforms in order to better serve the community. Commander Baebenroth discussed how Ramsey County has been listening intently to the community, and in evaluating reforms, their department looks closely at who is advantaged and disadvantages from policies.
We thank the panelists for their efforts in supporting the physical, mental, and spiritual health of their employees, and we thank them for their efforts in collaboration in Ramsey County and abroad. Thank you for keeping our communities safe and healthy!