In our 2019 report, An Occupational Risk: What Every Police Agency Should Do to Prevent Suicide Among Its Officers, PERF recommended that law enforcement leaders make employees’ mental health care a priority and provide robust officer wellness programming.

The need for such programs has increased dramatically over the past 11 months. The COVID-19 pandemic and the often violent protests following the killing of George Floyd have increased the stress on police officers and sheriffs’ deputies in countless ways. And the deaths by suicide of two officers following the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol were tragic reminders of the consequences of traumatic events in policing.

In response to these new stressors, many agencies are taking steps to help their members and ensure they receive needed support in this difficult environment. Today’s Critical Issues Report summarizes what some agencies are doing and provides resources that departments may find helpful.

If your agency has recently implemented or expanded wellness programming to help employees cope with the pandemic and civil unrest, please forward details to PERF Senior Research Associate Sarah Mostyn at [email protected].    


Key Takeaways

  • In response to the COVID pandemic and protests, agencies are taking additional steps to ensure that officers and civilian employees are aware of the services that are available through their agency. This is being accomplished through video conferences, roll call meetings, and other department-wide communications.
  • Police executives and their command staffs need to take the lead in discussions of mental wellness, and should be part of efforts to disseminate wellness information to the rest of the agency.
  • Many agencies are focusing on resiliency training, a practice that focuses on helping individuals cope with daily stressors and crisis events.
  • Peer support programs can be especially important for agencies that may not have the resources to devote to dedicated wellness initiatives.
  • Agencies are utilizing technology, such as video conferencing, telehealth options, and mobile apps, to provide greater access to wellness resources.


Chicago Police Department

In September 2020, the Chicago Police Department (CPD) launched two pilot programs focused on mental health and wellness. Both programs were created with input from current sworn CPD members, and they aim to provide wellness support at every level of the agency.

Officer Support System

The Officer Support System (OSS) assists supervisors in proactively supporting officers. The OSS is an early intervention system that uses administrative data to identify officers who may be in need of support services. Supervisors can then provide the officers with information about services that correspond to their needs. Supervisors received training on how to use the system and how to best engage officers about the system and the services provided by CPD.

Officer Wellness Telehealth Pilot

The Officer Wellness Telehealth Pilot provides CPD officers with expanded access to mental health professionals. Through this pilot, CPD officers can access free services from clinicians who are experienced in working with members of law enforcement. Access will be through an app that is available 24/7.

Click here for more information


New York City Police Department

The NYPD has focused on building resiliency following the pandemic and civil unrest.  In October 2020, the department held a one-day resiliency training for the 1,000 new police officers who graduated from the Training Academy at the height of the pandemic. These officers didn’t have a formal graduation ceremony and began policing in the COVID-19 environment, followed by a summer of numerous protests.

At the special training, the new officers received information on resilience tips, nutrition, finances, fitness, and other topics. Members of the NYPD executive staff also spoke at each of the trainings.

NYPD also introduced resilience training into the recruit academy curriculum. Over the 21 weeks of academy training, the recruits receive a 15-minute, evidence-based podcast each week, followed by 15 minutes of class discussion. The podcasts focus on resiliency and methods for managing stress, such as controlled breathing exercises.

Through the NYPD’s Health and Wellness Section, members of the department can also access a variety of resources, including fitness programs, financial and retirement webinars, and critical incident debriefings.


Evesham, NJ Police Department  

The Evesham Police Department’s (EPD) 360 Wellness Committee oversees the department’s officer safety and wellness programs. Since the start of the COVID pandemic, Chief Christopher Chew and members of the Wellness Committee have regularly communicated about the supports that are available to sworn and civilian members of the department.


In March 2020, EPD hosted a video conference with the department’s psychologist. All members of the department and their spouses/significant others were encouraged to attend. The video conference included topics such as how to process stress and develop resiliency; discussion points with spouses, children, and other family members; healthy ways to reduce stress; and emergency preparedness.

Members of the 360 Wellness Committee also visited every roll call, and they were available to answer questions and address officers’ concerns and anxieties. Roll call conversations also covered how to help family members, particularly children, cope with anxiety about the pandemic. Members of the department were also reminded of the supports available to them, including the Employee Assistance Program and confidential visits with the department’s psychologist.

Civil Unrest

Chief Chew and members of the 360 Wellness Committee continued to communicate with members of the department following the summer protests. The 360 Wellness Committee sent information about how to practice resiliency during turbulent times in policing. Additionally, reminders were sent about the resources available to the department and the message that “it is okay” to seek access to those services.


Wisconsin Department of Justice

 In January 2021, the Wisconsin Department of Justice launched a peer support program to improve mental health and wellness training for law enforcement officers across the state. The goal is for every police agency in Wisconsin to have trained peer support staff. The program is particularly focused on reaching smaller agencies that do not always have the resources for dedicated employee wellness programming.

A statewide Peer Support Advisory Committee will guide the program and is comprised of law enforcement leaders, psychologists, and other stakeholders. The program will work to increase the number of instructors for the Basic Peer Support course, which in turn will increase the number of peer support officers in Wisconsin’s police agencies.

Click here for more information


Toronto, Ontario Police Service

 In September 2020, the Toronto Police Service held a department-wide meeting to talk about mental health and wellness plans. The meeting was called after three Toronto police officers took their lives over the past year.

Chief Jim Ramer, Executive Director Ryan Teschner of the Toronto Police Services Board, and Acting President Brian Callanan of the Toronto Police Association all participated in the discussion as part of Suicide Awareness Day. The meeting highlighted the services available to members and overall wellness of the department.

Click here for more information


Recent Legislation

Recognizing the importance of officer wellness, some states are looking to direct funding to help agencies provide more support to their members. Two states recently introduced legislation to increase funding for mental health services for law enforcement.

  • Maryland – The Police Officers Mental Health Employee Assistance Program would mandate that every law enforcement agency in the state establish an employee assistance or mental health program for its members. The legislation also emphasizes the need for confidentiality for those who access services. Family members of officers would also be able to refer their loved one to services.
  • Utah – Through proposed legislation (HB248), first responder agencies in the state could submit a proposal to create or expand their mental health programming. Under this grant program, agencies could fund assessment, peer support, and treatment services. For smaller agencies that cannot house such programs, the funding can also be used to pay for officers’ treatment services.

Additional Resources

Here are some mental health and officer wellness resources that agencies may find helpful.


The PERF Critical Issues Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting this work.