WKYT Investigates: Officer-Involved Shootings
Warning: Parts of the video attached to this story are disturbing.
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - WKYT is taking a closer look at critical incidents on the Lexington Police force. Our team has been reviewing hours of footage, including two officer-involved shootings.
WKYT requested body-worn camera footage for half a dozen critical incidents in Lexington. We recieved video of three.
Dr. Trevor Wilkins saw hundreds of critical incidents in his 15 years in law enforcement. He is now a professional counselor, and he helps officers after critcal incidents, like shootings.
“We don’t do a good job of telling you what happens after you have to take this very difficult sometimes decision that can feel un moral, when you have to do something that was kind of against the way you were raised morally,” says Dr. Wilkins. “It’s going to sound strange, coming from a counselor, a professional therapist, but I don’t think everybody needs therapy afterwards. I think it needs to be available. I think there needs to be resources for that, but my favorite type of therapy for someone that’s been in a critical incident is peers.”
Peers are a big part of the Department of Criminal Justice Training’s critical incident seminars.
“And these are mental health folks that have worked specifically with law-enforcement or military veterans. We found that that’s a good combination. They understand the officers and dispatchers when they come in, some of the things that they faced. And it gives them an opportunity to get some professional help, not only to go along with the peer support that they get,” notes Larry Conley. Conley helped create the DOCJT’s seminars. He worked for years as a state trooper in Washington, and first attended a seminar similar to what he now runs, in South Carolina. “In 2014 there really wasn’t anything for police officers or dispatchers in the state as far as officer wellness her mental health.”
The DOCJT hosts seven seminars a year. Seats for the three-day event sell out almost a year in advance.
“Truly, the benefactor of this is not the individual. The real benefactor of this is the citizen because they get someone that’s been dealing with all of these traumas and things that they’ve been exposed to over the course of their career, and now they’ve got somebody that’s come back that’s completely revitalized, renewed, and these things are put to bed so to speak. And they develop coping skills, so when they see these things come up again, because they will, and we tell them that, this is not a fix for what you’re going to experience it’s going to happen again,” notes Conley.
The Lexington Police Department offers their own wellness program. They also emphasize the importance of training, of understanding how to respond to critical incidents before being part of one.
“It is something that we can train to a certain extent. We typically have an opportunity for them to go through certain scenarios, whether they’re life scenarios, or written scenarios, throughout their 32 weeks during the Academy,” says Sergeant Michelle Patton. Sgt. Patton has spent ten years on the force. By her estimates, she’s trained 200-300 recruits. “If an officer is involved in a critical incident, obviously, they’re going to be placed on administrative leave until that situation can actually be addressed and investigated,” she says. “We want to make sure that they are indeed OK, mentally, and physically in order to again re-join their partners, and everything back out in the field.”
Training for Lexington Police recruits doesn’t end with graduation. They have to complete a week of service every year, part of which includes training on critical incidents.
Copyright 2023 WKYT. All rights reserved.