IMPD encouraging officers to seek assistance for stress

Asst. Chief Lloyd Crowe
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The Indianapolis Metro Police Department has new programs in place to help officers cope with the stress from the job and at home.

The department is encouraging its officers - from rookies to veterans - to reach out for help, especially in light of a murder-suicide that left Ofc. Kimberlee Carmack and Sgt. Ryan Anders dead Thursday.

Potential recruits have been training this week at the IMPD training academy. When it comes to agility testing, there's no gray area. Recruits must pass in order to become police officers. Just as critical? Mental and emotional stability.

"The chief does not want to sugarcoat that this is an easy job. It's not for the faint of heart. And so we start educating recruits at the very beginning of how stressful this job is," said Valerie Washington, deputy public safety director.

"I'm overwhelmed. I'm still in shock. I don't believe that it's really happened," said Officer Dawn Higgins, a 30-year veteran.

Officers like Higgins are trying to come to grips with Thursday's murder suicide of two fellow officers. Violence escalated after inter-department reports of domestic violence between the two.

Higgins knows the danger signs. In 2002, she shot her brother-in-law moments after he fired a round at her sister and tried to turn the gun on himself.

"He and I both shot each other. I shot him with the hope that he wouldn't kill himself," she said.

Now on the board of Coburn Place, a domestic violence shelter for women and children, Higgins says IMPD is doing good work to address domestic violence and other issues within the ranks.

"It requires constant vigilance on our part. But now we have answers. We're a lot smarter about how we refer officers when they need help," said Asst. Chief Lloyd Crowe.

Crowe says a new program called "Blue Team" allows the department to track officer discipline. They want to identify troubling behavioral patterns before they become major issues. Top brass see it as a safety net.

"We are a profession that's in the business of helping people. And sometimes it's very hard for us to turn around and say we need help," said Crowe. "Law enforcement can be very stressful. It can also be very rewarding. These things happen because we're human. And we just have to deal with that and take care of each other."