(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — The Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) announced today that the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board has established a new statewide minimum standard for officer wellness, focusing on the physical and mental wellness of law enforcement agency personnel.
“Law enforcement is a rewarding career, but the physical and mental demands of the job must not be overlooked,” said Governor Mike DeWine. “Using this new statewide minimum standard will help local agencies develop a proactive approach to officer wellness that addresses the root cause of stress and invests in their overall health and wellbeing.”
The new standard was adopted during today’s Ohio Collaborative virtual meeting. The Ohio Collaborative has had several discussions around officer wellness with the understanding that a policy should comprehensively consider the impact of critical incident trauma, chronic exposure to traumatic events, and chronic exposure to organizational stress.
“Law enforcement agencies are uniquely situated to address issues of officer stress and trauma, to reduce the stigma of seeking help, and to create an environment of support,” said OCJS Executive Director Karhlton Moore. “Investing in officer wellness is a significant step that agencies can take to positively impact their officers’ overall well-being and, as a result, to improve the community’s trust and perceptions of legitimacy in the organization.”
To gain certification in the new officer wellness standard, agencies must develop a policy that educates officers and executive-level staff on issues of mental and physical health. This education should include suicide prevention, and the range of possible reactions to trauma, as well as the importance of exercise and nutrition as a way of reducing stress and improving overall health outcomes.
“We commend the Ohio Collaborative for developing an agency health and wellness standard. Over the last ten years, there has been an increase in officer suicides and deaths due to heart attacks. This is a dangerous profession, and we need to support those who are sworn to serve and protect,” said Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police President, Chief William Balling, CLEE, Sidney PD. “The health and wellness standard will provide the framework for departments to develop a holistic wellness policy and practice for their personnel. By having these standards and policies, our personnel will be healthier and provide better service to our community and our stakeholders.”
Agencies must also provide access to multiple resources for mental and physical support to officers and their families, awareness of organizational factors that can impact an officer’s mental and physical health on a daily basis, an annual review of this policy, and an assessment of the effectiveness of the agency’s wellness programs with adjustments as needed based on feedback and/or other outcomes.
“I am pleased the Ohio Collaborative adopted the agency wellness standard,” said Keith Sheriff Everhart, the Buckeye States Sheriffs’ Association (BSSA) president. “Policing is very difficult work during the best of times, and the need to provide our personnel with supportive services is necessary today more than ever before. It is my hope this standard will encourage agencies to provide a framework to support their personnel as they put themselves in harm’s way to protect and serve the public.”
The Ohio Collaborative was formed in 2015 to create uniform minimum standards for Ohio’s law enforcement agencies covering use of force, including deadly force, and hiring and recruitment. 527 law enforcement agencies in Ohio have voluntarily complied with these primary minimum standards, and an additional 13 agencies are in the process of certification. These agencies employ 84 percent of all of Ohio’s law enforcement officers and serve 84 percent of Ohio’s total population.
Additional standards established by the Ohio Collaborative address bias-free policing, body-worn cameras, mass protests, community engagement, law enforcement vehicular pursuits, investigation of employee misconduct, and telecommunicator training.
A listing of agencies certified in standards is available in the 2021 Law Enforcement Certification report.