Part Two: Enhancing Agency and Officer Resiliency
through Formal Peer Support and Mentoring
September 25-26, 2018
Instructor: Brian Nanavaty
“If you say to one flower, ‘Grow,’ but you water another, the first one won’t grow.” ~
Stephen Covey, The 8th Habit
The first line of defense against employee failure is the recognition of the first stages of peer crisis and by providing early intervention. Even better is to provide support from the first day of hire through employee development. This is difficult in the public safety arena for many reasons. Public safety employees are not trusting of individuals outside their peer groups. Public safety employees have heard hollow promises ad nauseam from those claiming to want to help. Public safety employees can quote horror stories of peers who have stepped forward for help only to face agency or legal sanction or loss of employment. Public safety employees don’t want to appear weak by admitting they need help. And yes, public safety employees sometimes are too smart for their own good and resist attempts from well-intentioned peers unless it is already a formal and accepted part of their agency culture.
Agencies with healthy peer support and mentoring teams can successfully reduce the onset and life cycle of employee distress through a combination of proactive and reactive responses. Mentors are trained to work with new employees and coach them through the early rough patches. Peer support responds to critical incidents or employee personal or professional crisis. Peer support members and mentors work in partnership to ensure long term support for peer employees and their families through a formal cooperative design.
For peer support and mentoring to be successful the teams must be comprised of healthy, well respected peer employees and their families through a formal cooperative design.
For peer support and mentoring to be successful the teams must be comprised of healthy, well respected peer employees selected through an established vetting process. Training must be relative to the function with regular training updates. Resources from within the agency and outside the agency must be identified and made available to the teams for referral. Teams must have the support- both financial and organizational from top administrators and supervisors. Agency policy must assure confidentiality.
Issues that experienced members deal with range from relationship distress to financial distress to addictive issues to stress and trauma. Team members must not feel pressured to provide clinical or professional advice outside their skill, education or comfort level- rather have the resources available to monitor and refer the employee to the proper crisis or education response.
In 2010 the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) established a formal Peer Support and Mentoring program which has become the model for law enforcement employer and employee resiliency and wellness response. In 2015, IMPD received the prestigious DOJ/BJA/NLEOMF Destination Zero VALOR award for Officer Wellness for their innovative programs. In that same year IMPD Captain Brian Nanavaty appeared in front of the U.S. Congress to provide testimony on law enforcement wellness as a panelist at the Congressional Law Enforcement Caucus in Washington DC. In April 2016, the White House identified IMPD