The January 6th Committee Forgot About the Officers

After the attacks on 9/11, I provided Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) services for a variety of private companies. In one case, I ended up staying a week – not just because of the attacks, but because the company was undergoing a merger. Employees were on edge knowing some were going to lose their jobs. Middle management literally felt caught in the middle between justifying executive decisions while fielding employee complaints. I was struck by the company’s apparent disregard for human factors. (Did I mention this was a healthcare company?)

A similar oversight is currently taking place in the US Capitol. While the US House and the media have been fixated on justice for the January 6th attacks, not a single member of Congress appears to care about the mental health of the US Capitol Police (USCP) officers to whom they profess gratitude.

As a clinical social worker for almost 30 years, including the Army, I know the long-term impact trauma can have on the brain. After a critical incident, it’s imperative that a team of licensed professionals with CISM training be deployed on site immediately. It’s now been over a year. The officers were never debriefed, as is standard protocol. Nor were they educated on what symptoms to expect (also called “normal reactions to an abnormal situation”) and how to positively cope with them. Command should have also been trained to recognize and properly support officers recovering from trauma.

Because of inadequate support and agency dysfunction, the USCP officers are being perpetually retraumatized – like tuning forks being repeatedly slammed against a table before having the chance to stop vibrating. As a result, officers are still struggling with depression, guilt, panic attacks, nightmares, flashbacks, and anger outbursts a year later.

This is what happens in a society that ignores mental health. As an Army commander once told me, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Congress should have known Officers would need CISM services. The USCP Department should have trained supervisors to recognize symptoms of trauma and how to respond. The media should have held Congress and the USCP accountable for providing Officers with adequate mental health services. These oversights are tantamount to leaving an Officer on the floor bleeding.

As a result, I fear another violent attack toward USCP Officers could trigger explosive anger or debilitating anxiety.

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