Pillar 6: Officer Wellness & Safety
By Mary O’Connor
Assistant Chief (retired), Tampa PD
Subject Matter Expert, Street Smart®
NC4 has introduced a blog series titled “21st Century Policing: A 6-part Blog Series”, to share with our readers. This blog series introduces each of the six pillars identified by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and the basis of each pillar. This post is the sixth and final blog in this series.
Pillar six brings our blog series to a close, with what likely is the most paramount concern of a police chief: officer safety and wellness. The president’s 21st Century Policing task force summarizes the impact of officer safety and wellness impact on the department’s capability to protect and serve. In short, officers and deputies need to be healthy in order to best serve their communities. Officer physical and psychological health is often tied to their perception of a department’s practices, policies, and strategic decisions. In turn, officer safety and wellness can affect daily decision making and interaction with citizens.
Pillar six describes in detail the negative effects stress can have on our police officers. There are also some ways that these stress symptoms can be addressed. Officers that have clear direction and purpose from their respective departments can feel less of the effects from stress symptoms that plague police departments. Officers often feel like they are “left in the dark” when it comes to decisions that are made and other information sharing (or lack thereof) that affects them. It is discussed in the pillar recommendations that increasing an officer’s participation in the decision-making process can reduce their stress levels. In other words, when officers feel like they are valued, and in turn, are given information by their departments, the effect is a happier and more productive officer.
Sir Frances Bacon dubbed the term “knowledge is power” in the 1500s and the saying still holds true today. Officers need to know details that can affect their daily patrols and safety concerns. They are usually the ones closest to the communities they serve and can only effectively do their jobs if they are well informed. This information can be related to, but certainly not limited to, crime trends and patterns, wanted persons, repeat offenders, problematic locations for nuisance and quality of life concerns, and locations of cameras that can assist in their investigations.
Street Smart is a powerful tool that delivers real-time information to officers in the field 24/7, 365 days a year. The situational awareness that Street Smart offers via real-time delivery of crime bulletins, blogs, and mapping keeps our police officers knowledgeable about their geographical areas of responsibility, and thus better protected against officer safety threats.
This graphic represents one Street Smart customer’s map with various layers displayed that can help officers stay informed about “What’s Important Now” (W.I.N) daily, in their zones.
The author of this blog series, Mary O'Connor, is a recently retired Assistant Chief from the Tampa Police Department (TPD). She spent 20 years with the TPD working her way through the ranks and has experience in most areas of the department including Patrol Commander, Detective Commander, Field Training Officer, Narcotics Officer, Economic Crimes Detective, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Major, and Deputy Chief. She also serves as a special advisor to the board of NAWLEE (National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives). Mary was instrumental in the end-user design of Street Smart and is the subject matter expert on the solution.