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Badge of Life: Survival for police officers
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Manteca Police Chief Dave Bricker talks over a life-saving program with retired CHP officer Ed Estes. “Badge of Life” is designed to stem the tide of police officers taking their own lives because of traumatic psychological overload on the job over the years. There were 141 police suicides in the U.S. in 2008 alone. - photo by GLENN KAHL

The Badge of Life is a psychological survival program for police officers that may be adopted by the Manteca Police Department in the near future.

Chief Dave Bricker reviewed an outline of the proposal from retired CHP officer Ed Estes of Manteca, noting that the program isn’t just about preventing suicide in a stressful occupation but about insuring continued  mental health for all police officers.

Estes said over 100 departments across the nation have adopted the program for the good of their officers – saying it has been well received.

He stressed that the program is designed to prepare for trauma before it happens – not just waiting until an officer is in crisis.

“For every police suicide, there are a thousand more officers out there still working the streets and suffering from the pain and trauma of their experiences,” he said.

Not all traumas are what the public expects them to be – the shootout, the daring rescue, the child that could not be save, he added.  These are things that can be understood by others and talked about.

Most damaging are the secret traumas – the mistakes every officer makes sooner or later.  The humiliation of failing in front of their peers, the regret of a decision gone wrong and costing a life, the fear of being seen as cowardly – all weighing heavily on some officers, Estes added.

The Badge of Life is a group that was organized in January of last year in Sacramento.  It is a non-profit charity with all services and lectures as well as materials remaining free.

The program is new and unique, Estes said.  It is built around annual mental health checks where officers are asked to see a therapist of their choosing once a year.  This is designed to give them a chance to look back at the past year, examine coping skills, develop the art of resilience, giving them the ability to bounce back – an individual learning process.

The program promises to be voluntary with no tracking allowed by the department.  Its goals include a:

•commitment to finding meaningful purpose in life.

•belief in one’s ability to affect the outcome.

•a belief one can learn and grow as a result.

•willingness to accept uncontrollable outcomes.

Estes said it is like getting a dental checkup, a physical, a flu shot, practicing on the range, staying in shape — and the very important element of staying fit psychologically despite all the pressures of police work.

The board of director of the Badge of Life program is made up of nine professionals from psychiatrists and psychologists to retired officers.  The program is designed to supplement existing programs within police departments.