Psychologists from the Los Angeles Police Department are assisting Dallas police psychologists this week with counseling officers dealing with grief and post-traumatic stress after the downtown ambush in July.
“We're all still hurting and missing our officers that were here at southwest,” said Dallas Police Deputy Chief Albert Martinez. “But we're still having to go out and answer calls.”
But to answer the calls, the officers and an untold number across the department will need extensive counseling.
Psychologist Andrea Wise-Brown is not involved in treating the officers.
“What [the brain] actually does is it’s like when you’re in a fearful state, it takes a picture of whatever is going on while you’re experiencing the trauma,” said Wise-Brown. “As a way to protect you in other situations when you may see certain things that maybe was in that snapshot, it brings on fear. It’s like an irrational fear. You start to maybe cry and get emotional because that picture becomes real all over again.”
Wise-Brown believes the officers will need ongoing counseling.
Dr. Robert Gordon, who is not part of the department’s counseling team, cautions individual and group therapy for officers needed.
“Because what we’re doing is we’re training our officers to protect life and peace,” Gordon said. “And yet when they do that, they have to be sensitive to all of the issues that create increased jeopardy.”
Dallas Police Psychologist Dr. Dave Derr says the department is doing group sessions and individual sessions for officers at the scene that night and others.
“These officers have done a fantastic job of pulling together as a team,” said Derr. “It’s been an experience that, while they struggle with it, it’s also unified them as a group.”
As officers continue to do their job with community support, Gordon suggests counseling needs could be longer than five years. He says all of the traumatic stress emotions will be stirred again with what he called the "anniversary syndrome."
Gordon said there needs to be a therapeutic and spiritual eye on officers to help them overcome what they will experience again and again.