NJ therapist behind cop crisis hotline: No officer ever wants to use their gun
Police officers have an eight-fold risk of killing themselves or being killed by a perpetrator, and they're exposed to more trauma in one day than most civilians are in a lifetime.
A new national hotline is the first of its kind to offer a safe, confidential ear for cops in crisis to discuss their struggles with a fellow retired officer.
1-800-Copline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and was founded by Stephanie Samuels, a psychotherapist who works exclusively with police officers in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
"The only people that can answer these lines are licensed clinicians that work pretty exclusively with law enforcement, or retired officers," said Samuels.
Samuels pointed out that having retired cops on the other end when a struggling officers calls the hotline eliminates their fears of having their guns taken away, being considered unfit for duty or having other people find out why they're in crisis.
"If any officer believes that there will ever be repercussions for calling the hotline, we will lose our ability to do exactly what we're doing, and we're doing it well," Samuels said.
Samuels noted that only specially trained people or fellow law enforcement officers can truly relate to what a police officer is up against on the job.
With law enforcement across the country under greater vigilance in light of recent police-involved shootings, the need to offer such a hotline becomes more imperative, according to Samuels. She also pointed out that the aftermath for officers involved in fatal shootings is very different than in non-fatal incidents.
"Nobody took this job to ever have to have to use that firearm. They're trained. They're trained well. But it is a life-changing event for them," said Samuels.
Many officers don't see the changes in their own personalities over time, according to Samuels. It's usually a family member or the person closest to the officer.
"Spouses can see the difference that's going on, they're more withdrawn," said Samuels.
1-800-Copline also is a safe place for spouses, significant others and children to call.
Police officer and their families are given referrals for counseling and treatment in the areas where they live.
Contact reporter Dianne DeOliveira at Dianne.DeOliveira@townsquaremedia.com.