Charlotte-Mecklenberg (NC) Police Department
Award Year: 2021
Safety Category: Officer Wellness
State: North Carolina
Additional Award Year: N/A
1,900 Sworn, 500 civilians
The Charlotte-Mecklenberg Police Department (CMPD) in North Carolina has resubmitted their Officer Wellness program with some additional improvements. The agency submitted in 2017. The program is designed towards the “Whole Person,” meaning that it focusses on every aspect of wellbeing, by addressing key points of mental and physical wellness and supports officers into and through retirement.
Physical fitness is stressed and supported, as the department has been phasing in a minimum fitness standard and assists members with a health coach, who develops personal action plans to get them on par. Each facility has a training room, and individuals can get nutritional counseling as part of their action plan. In conjunction with an emphasis on healthy living, there is a strong mental health component created to support those at high risk and to address critical incidents such as Officer involved Shooting (OIS), or other high stress situation. The program offers trained Peer Support officers, professional Employee Assistance Program counselors that provide 6 free sessions of mental health counseling.
The program also looks for signs of addiction or mental illness and is bolstered by a team of 13 chaplains from different faiths, who are on call 24 hours a day and participate in critical incident debriefings when appropriate. Any officer who suffers a critical incident may choose from three local mental health care providers, which supports confidentiality and the outside providers are all given enhanced training about dealing with police officers and their unique concerns.
The CMPD surveyed its members and found that financial issues were the top concern listed. The CMPD, along with the Department’s Chief Psychologist, Dr. David Englert, designed a financial support program that brings financial counselors in to meet one on one with officers to discuss their specific needs. CMPD has held six “Financial Peace Seminars” and is continuing to hold them as they are well attended. The CPMD also has two different programs to help families in financial emergencies.
The CMPD program also places an emphasis on building resilience. The psychologist teaches new officers at the academy about vicarious trauma, stress, sleep deprivation, as well as relationships and a healthy lifestyle. A part of the resiliency building is through monthly messaging in every bathroom. The “U R ine the Know” flyers are placed over urinals and in every stall with health and wellness information.
The CMPD program has a unique program to help reduce the often-overlooked stress and frustration experienced by Police Dispatchers. They have a game called “Nuisance Call Bingo.” This offers a prize to the dispatcher who completes a bingo card after having handled series of common, yet still maddening, senseless call to 911. This cognitive reframing of the issues helps their attitude.
This program in its “Whole Person” approach also help officers as they prepare to retire. They receive directed counseling on finances, job hunting and the CMPD created an alumni association of retirees to keep their members connected.