After the Webinar: Burnout and the Law Enforcement Exodus Crisis. Q&A with Dr. Gabrielle Salfati

Webinar presenter Dr. Gabrielle Salfati answered a number of your questions after her presentation, Burnout and the Law Enforcement Exodus Crisis: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions.  Here are just a few of her responses.


Audience Question: So, is burnout the biggest reason for turnover, and what does, what is the role that first-line supervisors play in turnover by comparison to burnout? 

Gabrielle Salfati: That’s an excellent question. And the reason why it’s an excellent question is that it relates directly to how we might want to deal with the situation. Now we are just getting in our first line of research results on exactly these different things and looking at what is actually contributing to feelings of burnout. So, this is all self-reported to give people assessments, to measure their burnout. And then we related to all of these other questions that we have. So, right now I don’t have the answer to this, but hopefully, in the next few months, I will actually be able to provide this. And we will be putting all of this on our website for all of the publications that were deliberately doing everything in what we call open-source journals and also police magazines. So that law enforcement can access it. But my, what I’m seeing right now is that, yes, who you work with and how you work with them, and how you feel that the organization essentially backs you. So that’s part of the pay issue that has definitely an influence on how you feel about the job, and how you feel about the job is part of, whether you get burnt out or not. Because it’s these are all organizational issues, pay and supervision are organizational issues, which we know are directly linked to burnout.


Audience Question: What can direct frontline supervisors do to prevent burnout in their officers? 

Gabrielle Salfati: Another excellent question, and I love hearing questions like this because it tells me that people who ask questions like that are people who really care about their workforce, and they want to support them. There are many things that you can do. One of the things is actually finding out from the offices what is causing the stress but also facilitating on an organizational level as a supervisor conversations with people in your team, where you have if you want, certain tools that you can use to actually open up channels of communication. How you communicate with people in your team can actually foster engagement and positive emotion. And those kinds of things actually have been shown to mitigate burnout. So, things like active listening, things like really listening to when people are doing good things and providing good feedback when they’re doing that. This is all part of what we call positive interventions and positive psychology. And there are actually research-specific resilience tools that we teach, first-line supervisors to use when they engage with their teams. And that is actually part of our resilience training. So, excellent question.


Audience Question: What can a chaplain do in this arena to build officer resilience? 

Gabrielle Salfati: Oh, wonderful, question. So, chaplains have been involved in supporting people within the organization for a long time in many different ways. And, I think, chaplains, because they have the relationship with the people within the organization that they do, they’re not seen as management can really be trained to provide support. And it’s being a peer, as well in many senses, to understand what’s going on in the organization and being that listening ear. There is actually a and I think there’s an organization of chaplains who deal with resilience training. I know that there is we work with one organization in New Jersey where all of their chaplains are going through Resilience Training, so that they have that additional tool set to have those resources when they’re dealing with their offices. And I can provide links to videos that they’ve provided that we’ve done together during the pandemic actually, with chaplains, looking at how do they deal with that. And the nice thing about that is they talk about is that engagement piece. And so, I would definitely suggest the chaplains be part of this conversation. They have a lot to contribute.


Audience Question: With regards to suicide, has a correlation been established with police officers who were also veterans of the armed forces?

Gabrielle Salfati: Yes, I’m loving these questions. This goes back to that, one of the first slides that I showed, just how high the issue is amongst our veterans. We also know that many of our veterans when they leave the services join the police force, right? And so, it’s a double whammy in terms of the different types of stresses that they’re carrying with them. And so, one of the things that we really need to think about is what they have on their plate that is being added to and how can we best support them as they enter civilian law enforcement and deal with these additional issues. There is some work being done on this I’m not aware of how much of that is that something. Definitely. I think that we’re looking into known as service that we have. We ask people whether they have been in the military before we actually ask them whether they have been involved in any way with the chaplaincy. So, these are the sort of factors that we need to understand. So, if you have a subgroup that is people who are law enforcement officers now and previous veterans as a group compared to others, how are they doing? Before we implement training, we need to understand are they are a high-risk group and if so, in what area of stress. Is it compassion fatigue? Is it burnout? How can we best support them? And then what we do is we provide the resilience tool that matches that subgroup. And that is really what we’re hoping to do, that we’re increasing the resilience and lowering any burnout that they may be exhibiting.


Audience Question: What can we, as mental health counselors do when they work for organizations that are not open to allowing their officers to get assistance or they will be terminated for being on SSRI medications? And I know she goes on to share more details, but in general, what do you do about the situation so many officers are facing when they feel like they’re going to be punished once they do seek help? 

Gabrielle Salfati: You know, this is another excellent question. This is something that came up during the suicide crisis, specifically. Because we’re saying we need to give our offices support, but if we give them support, does that mean that they now no longer can do their jobs, because they’ve been highlighted as having issues and not being fit for duty? And there’s a huge conversation going on in the field about this right now, in terms of how we deal with it, and this is at a higher level up. Now, there are some organizations that are trying to provide a framework, but offices can have anonymous support that will help with this. This is very much of an organizational issue. I know that the conversation has been going on a lot in terms of psychologists and mental health professionals who work within police departments or who support police officers, as counselors. And I think the International Association of Chiefs of Police, its wellness section has had a conversation about this. I would suggest that’s starting there. Looking at some of the things that have come out from that, in terms, because it’s actually been regulations on that because now we’re talking about psychology. We’re talking about HIPAA, and, but also fitness for duty, and he said, it’s a really complex thing, but I am so grateful that you asked that question. Because it is essential, that we find ways to support our officers, without this getting in the way.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Burnout and the Law Enforcement Exodus Crisis: Causes, Symptoms, and Solutions.


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