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Local police department selected to be part of statewide peer network

The Belton Police Department is joining the Texas Law Enforcement Peer Network, which hopes to help LEOs.
Published: Jan. 22, 2022 at 11:01 AM CST
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) - More than 100 police officers died by suicide last year, according to the nonprofit Blue H.E.L.P., which tracks those statistics.

The Caruth Police Institute at University of North Texas-Dallas is hoping a new initiative, which the Belton Police Department will be a part of, will bring that number down.

The Texas Law Enforcement Peer Network was created by Senate Bill 64 to offer more support to law enforcement. Jeff Spivey, chief of the Irving Police Department and chair of the executive advisory board for the Caruth Police Institute, said the idea was proposed to create a statewide, state supported peer network to help police departments who don’t have one.

“When you consider that 64% of police agencies across the state have fewer than 10 members on their departments, 91% have fewer than 50 There’s a lot of gap across the state of Texas in providing these peer services,” Spivey said. “And you know, the ultimate goal for the peer network is to stand these regional systems up so that a police officer in Irving, Texas has just the same access as a police officer in Bangs, Texas.”

Spivey said they’ve found peer support networks are one of the best ways to provide support and resources for officers, whether they’re dealing with mental health challenges, personal issues, or work-related concerns.

The TLEPN is made up of six regions, working under a statewide peer director. Each region will also have a director, who is responsible for providing training, recruiting members and marketing the network around the region.

The Caruth Police Institute is working to bring in the statewide director. The Belton Police Department, Pharr Police Department and Irving Police Department will serve as regional hubs around the state. Three additional in-kind hubs will be created as well.

Belton police chief Gene Ellis said it was an honor to be selected as a hub. Ellis said the know the value of a peer network, as it’s something they’ve had for a few years. He said it was something that helped officers and other first responders who were at the scene of a crash in the area last year, where one child was killed and another was critically injured.

“Many of them took turns performing CPR on those children, and it affected everybody,” Ellis said. “And so we came back to the Belton Police Department we had our chaplain, who’s actually trained in it peer support and post-traumatic stress, do a debrief and actually help work those first responders through that trauma to help them be able to deal with it better.”

Ellis said there has been a stigma around seeking help for a long time.

“When I came into this profession, it was suck it up and move on,” Ellis said. There’s calls waiting, work to be done. You know, it basically is a sign of weakness to actually show any emotion or to say you needed help, and it was a stigma. And so it’s good as a profession that we’re moving past that.”

The Belton Police Department is working to hire a regional director, who will be responsible for recruiting volunteers and providing training. The Caruth Police Institute is also working to hire a statewide director, and get the app up and running as soon as possible.

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