Their conversations are a form of peer counseling, Whitcomb said.
He places a heavy emphasis on PTSD awareness and treatment in his department.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is not uncommon among police — about 24 percent are affected by it, Whitcomb said.
When an inmate died by suicide recently, he said, he made sure those in the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department who were working at the time of the incident spoke with a trained peer counselor that day.
While PTSD awareness is much higher today than when Whitcomb began his career almost 25 years ago, he said it’s still not getting the attention it needs.
A December 2012 incident in Altona shed light on the need for departments to address possible emotional stress within its workforce, Clinton County Sheriff David Favro said.
Sheriff’s Deputies Jason R. Winters and Andrew J. Bertrand were faced with “a split-second decision between life and death,” Favro said in a news release, referring to the death of Dusty Clark, 28, who was fatally shot by one of the deputies that day.
Clark had brandished a knife at Winters in what court papers say was “a threatening manner” as the two attempted to arrest him.
“It proved to be a traumatic situation for all of us,” Favro said. “Until you actually live it and see it, it is hard to understand just what the aftermath of a deadly force encounter is like.
“This training goes a long way toward giving an agency a sense of what can happen and how to have a plan in place to handle it when it does.”
Learning how to create a plan was one of the two goals of the two-day training.
The other was to help agencies learn how to provide support services to officers who have been thrust into incredibly stressful situations at work.