Chief seeks funding for officer wellness, body cameras in 2021 budget | News

Northfield Police Chief Mark Elliott knows his officers sometimes face difficult — and often troubling — work situations that can leave lasting mental health impacts.

To lessen those impacts, the Police Department has asked for annual mental health check-ins, In 2021, that would run about $2,700.

The check-ins would allow officers to have annual appointments with a psychologist who can provide support and guidance on how to constructively address stress. The officers can then have a better idea of whether their responses to stressful incidents are normal and become aware of the signs of stress overload.

According to a U.S. Department of Justice study, in recent years approximately 15% of officers in the U.S experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.  

Elliott noted officers are already trained on the signs of PTSD and other mental health conditions. A city employee assistance program is available for officers who self-identify. Supervisors currently receive training, and can refer officers who they feel are experiencing mental health problems. Stress management teams debrief officers and make them aware of available resources.

Elliott noted check-ins would add to the existing service.

“It’s something we really should be doing,” he said.

Elliott is also seeking $10,000 for fitness equipment: weights, at least one treadmill, an elliptical machine, rowing machine and mats.

According to the Police Department, “the overwhelming body of research evidence shows that a fitness program for police officers is crucial to protect the citizens and officers of Northfield.” FBI research has reportedly indicated officers who appear fit and professional are less likely to be attacked.

PD requests workout, body camera-related funding

Council feedback on the plan wasn’t entirely positive. Potential cuts to state aid as the state grapples with an uncertain financial future due to COVID-19 could put the proposal on hold.

Peterson White and fellow Councilor Erica Zweifel said though they weren’t opposed to the concept of body cameras, they weren’t sure they’re needed in Northfield and wanted to see a clear outline of what the cameras would accomplish.

Additional requests identified by the Police Department include $29,000 to replace squad cameras, $19,600 in annual policy manual maintenance and training on Peace Officer Standards and Training-mandated changes on police reform, $18,830 for annual Google Cloud storage and licensing, an annual subscription to the Police Policy Manual for $12,600, and $7,000 for an increase in police training.

Reach Associate Editor Sam Wilmes at 507-645-1115. © Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota. All rights reserved.