Prince William County Police | Peer Support Team Guidelines
Prince William County Police Department
The Prince William County (VA) Police Department (PWCPD) has a staff of 871, with 673 sworn officers and 198 civilian employees; they cover an area of 348 square miles.
Due to several difficult years within the police department and an alarming trend of mental health, diabetes, obesity and other health concerns related specifically to first responders, the Police Department’s Wellness & Resiliency Unit was established in 2016. The police department’s Wellness & Resiliency Unit Supervisor is responsible for overseeing all efforts within the wellness initiatives; they manage the Chaplain Program and the Peer Support Team and act as a liaison to the County’s Public Safety Resilience Program. The Wellness & Resiliency Unit writes and issues a quarterly wellness newsletter.
Before the Wellness & Resiliency Unit was established the police department coordinated a county-wide health and wellness fair with other County agencies. The mission of the fair was to bring awareness of healthy lifestyles to the workplace through educational opportunities, hands-on experience, small group presentations and keynote speakers. The first wellness fair was November 2014 and has been held every year since.
In 2016 the department implemented a Public Safety Resilience Program to provide mental health care confidentially in a way that would help impact the culture of law enforcement. Through a partnership with the Department of Fire and Rescue and County Communications (dispatch) each department is assigned a behavioral health specialist with a director overseeing the program. The therapists provide staff and immediate family with unlimited therapy sessions and offer other services such as acupuncture for stress management. In order to further develop relationships with officers, the therapists will frequently go on ride-alongs and attend roll call trainings.
The Chief of Police approved giving officers the ability to physically train up to an hour a day when staffing and service calls allow. Several officers have lost 60 pounds each through the program.
The department has 13 ACE-certified personal trainings (they are a part of the Peer Fitness Advisor Team) who provide guidance and support to members. The Peer Fitness Advisor Team meets with staff in a group setting to talk about fitness and nutrition or individually with those who would like help with goal setting and to build an accountability partnership. Through a grant each of the Peer Fitness Advisors became a certified personal trainer through the American Council on Exercise.
A Work Hardening Program has been developed in partnership with County Risk Management, the Department of Fire and Rescue and George Mason University’s Athletic Training Program. The police department has a part time certified athletic trainer that works with staff who are on light-duty status or injured while they were on duty. The Work Hardening Program is focused on post injury rehabilitation and allowing the employee to be able to return to full duty.
Through the county age-based physical checkups are done for all public safety staff. The physicals have vision and hearing screenings, pulmonary testing, EKG monitoring, a blood pressure check, cholesterol screenings, weight/body fat and blood work to check on their glucose and hormone levels.
Staff has set up a Total Money Makeover Sharing Group, an email-based group where employees receive weekly emails with money managing and debt reducing tips. To date the group has over 1,000 members and they have paid off more than $10 million in debt.
To help increase overall wellness a Peer Support team is in place to reach out to staff and provide support when the officers need help. During 2012 and 2016 the Peer Support team was vital in offering response regarding line of duty deaths or suicides. Since 2014 the team has responded to 20 call outs and on average receives about three referrals a month. While referrals typically come from a supervisor or co-worker the number of officers who reach out for help is on the rise.
Since the Wellness & Resiliency Unit began the department hosts mandatory in-service wellness training for sworn staff; topics have included stress management, suicide awareness, proper nutrition, hormone levels and sleep.