I was horrified with the alleged misconduct directed at Senator Bob Duff (and his family) by of some of the police officers of the Norwalk police department. Bob, Senate Majority Leader, performs all his duties out of great concern with the larger good, and now more than ever with what has come to light in our country involving maltreatment by the police. Bob has been instrumental in helping us here in CT to be more proactive, in order to ensure interactions between the police and public are safe and healthy.
The unacceptable conduct by sworn-in police officers towards Senator Bob Duff is a sign that the Norwalk police department is in distress and needs some kind of intervention to address these aberrant behaviors. Police tactics of intimidation, and other threatening behaviors, including spitting, or using foul-mouthed expletives towards the Senator (or anyone) only reinforces the need for a legislative mandate for police accountability. Included in the recent legislation is for police officers to have periodic mental health evaluations to identify present or emerging psychological distress or symptoms, before any full-blown mental health breakdown occurs. The goal of such an evaluation would be to appropriately address any mental health concerns and prevent a potential catastrophic outcome for anyone, including themselves, family and society-at-large.
The community can help our police by having an empathic understanding of what it takes to be a good, effective police officer, and support their training and professional development that does not use abusive tactics to communicate distress, dissatisfaction or outright anger. We teach school children to use their words rather than abusive or bullying behaviors to get their point across. What makes the police any different? Their voice needs to come from their mouths (or pen) in a civil manner using social skills becoming of a police officer.
With the kind and severity of stress and trauma police officers face, they undoubtedly will need, sometime in their career, help and emotional support. We in the larger society must recognize that the police are vulnerable to stress, like anyone else, and not stigmatize them for accessing mental health professionals for counseling or therapy. Too many lives are at risk. We all need to work together for a safe and secure society by keeping channels of communication open and dealing with conflict in a mature, sensible way where it is a win-win situation for all. Police included.
Christine Castles, MPH, RN