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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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Texas Launches Peer Support Program for Law Enforcement


Dallas Chief of Police Eddie Garcia speaks at the Texas Law Enforcement peer network update, Thursday, September 8, 2022, at the University of North Texas in Dallas, Texas. | Image by Rebecca Slezak, The Dallas Morning News

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Texas has launched a first-of-its-kind program for providing critical peer support for law enforcement personnel.

The Texas Law Enforcement Peer Network (TLEPN), housed at the Caruth Police Institute at UNT Dallas, trains law enforcement to provide mental and emotional help to other officers for the trauma they face on the job.

State Senator Royce West (D-Dallas), who co-sponsored the bill that created the program, said, “We’ve witnessed too many times the toll it can have on an officer’s career. Not just on the officers themselves, but on their families and home lives.”

Between 2017 and 2021, 98% of first responder suicides in Texas were committed by police officers. In recent years, more law enforcement officers have died by suicide than are killed in the line of duty.

“That’s a problem. That’s part of what is driving this need,” said TLEPN state director Dustin Schellenger.

More than 70% of the state’s law enforcement had no peer counseling before this program, which has now trained more than 300 officers.

“We offer peers who are trained to be able to have discussions with the officers who are dealing with a stressful job and the traumas associated with being law enforcement officers,” Schellenger explained.

“They are fellow police officers who have a passion for looking out for one another, and they go out of their way to try to help their peers,” he continued. “They bring a lot of experience, and they bring a lot of having dealt with it before, to given scenarios.”

Schellenger said the trained officers “are able to offer those police officers someone to talk to.” It allows them the opportunity “to vent some of the frustrations and stresses that are related to what they’re doing.”

One of the program’s many tools is an app that officers can use to anonymously speak with a peer as far as 500 miles away.

Schellenger said, “It’s amazing because it gives officers the ability to be completely anonymous and to reach out for help and have discussions they may not normally have the ability to have.”

Since April, hundreds have downloaded the app, and 46 officers have sought help with their struggles.

Schellenger said the most important thing they teach is for peers to “have compassion, empathy, and listen.”

“This is one of the most important things in law enforcement that I have seen,” Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia added. He said the program and its app offer “a true culture change” from how Dallas practiced policing “many years ago.”        

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15 days ago

This sounds like a very powerful move to help support first responders. I hope it’s successful.