Critical Incident Stress Debriefing was developed by professionals acutely aware of the painful toll stressful events take from the professional helpers of our world. We come from various disciplines: police psychologists, chaplains, emergency health service professionals, and other public safety support. Our common goal is to take care of our brothers and sisters who have been injured by exposure to stressful events.
Critical Incident Stress Debriefings (CISDs) are conducted to minimize the damaging effect of a stressful event on police officers. We want the participants in such stressful events to see their reactions as normal responses to abnormal situations. When police officers engage in a shooting, or work to save an injured victim, or pull bodies out of wrecked cars or planes, retrieve the body of a child, or witness the death of a colleague, they are going to experience major disruptions in their biology, cognition, belief systems, and emotional life. These disruptions can result in "acute transient stress reaction" or they may accumulate to accelerate the wear and tear on the body and psyche of the officer. We know that traditionally police officers have been taught to stuff their feelings and deny their hurt, ("If you can't stand the heart get out of the kitchen"). The CISD allows the effected officers to recognize and cope more effectively with their personal reactions to a traumatic situation.
Ideally, all involved personnel should be part of a CISD, particularly if the magnitude of the critical incident is a major event for the department or agency. The primary attention should go to those immediately involved in the action, however, peripheral and support personnel are also often deeply affected by the critical incident. Dispatchers should also be a part of the CISD because they are the link that ensures the cohesion of the operation in the first instance. Officers on the perimeter of the scene may have as serious stress reactions as those in the center of the activity.
There are a number of fine organizations for CISD, but the Morris County Police Critical Incident Debriefing Team is geared for the police community only. Members of the team are volunteers from the police departments and agencies of Morris County, and is sponsored by the Morris County Police Chiefs Associations. Officers from Morris County have been trained and certified as "peer debriefers" and make up the team from departments and agencies around the county. Any officer can request to meet with a team or if a chief or superior deems it necessary, they may contact the Director, Deputy Director, or one of the coordinators and they in turn will contact the appropriate team members to set up the time and place for debriefing.
All debriefings are strictly CONFIDENTIAL, and if ongoing counseling is necessary, mental health personnel who serve on our team can be utilized.
By the utilization of the CISD team, an officer who is in pain from trauma would realize that he/she is not alone, productivity would be increased for an officer who couldn't produce, and we could actually treat police officers as people first, and gain an understanding of what the term "law enforcement community" really means.