Lawmakers urge studies on how trauma, post-traumatic stress impacts police officers’ use of force

Washington

WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) – As lawmakers consider police reform, some are looking at offering more help for officers dealing with trauma and post-traumatic stress. 

Some lawmakers say on-the-job trauma could make police officers more likely to use deadly force. 

“I’ve seen good officers go from call to call to call, and having to deal with really violent situations. These are very gory scenes,” Representative Norma Torres, D-California, said. 

Congresswoman Norma Torres says giving officers more mental health resources to help with post traumatic stress could make them less likely to reach for their guns when the situation doesn’t call for it. 

“It’s important to ensure that we’re taking care of their mental health,” Torres said. 

Torres included a measure in the House Democrats Police Reform package to pay for studies that would examine the effects of trauma on officers’.

Clinical psychologist Ellen Kirschman says officers’ untreated trauma can lead to rash use-of-force judgement. 

“Decision-making obviously will not be as good if you are pumping out all kinds of adrenaline,” Ellen Kirschman said. 

But she says it’s important to distinguish inadequate training or inherent bias from trauma. 

“That feels like when you bring that up, you’re excusing bad behavior or racism,” Kirschman said. 

Steve Maritas is Director of a Police Advocacy Organization. 

“Address the problems, and try to correct it. Try to get the help that these officers need,” Steve Maritas said.

He says he wants to see departments nationwide address both systemic racism and mental health but these programs will cost money.

“If you defund the police, you’re not going to have a police force,” Maritas said.

The Senate failed to act on its own police reform bill last month and may not take it up again, if at all, until after the August recess.

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