Creating Peer and Family Support Groups for Police Agencies

I had a chance to interview three people who are involved in the Evansville Indiana Police Department’s Peer Support and Family Support Groups. I spoke with Police Chief Brad Hill, Sgt. Dave Barron and his wife Lori Barron in what proved to be a very informative interview.

Sergeant Barron was involved in a fatal shooting in 2003 and was then instrumental in the creation of the the department’s Peer Support Team. Because of what happened to her husband and it’s effects on her and other members of their family Lori, who is a cardiac rehab nurse, was involved in starting the Family Support Group for their Police Department. Chief Brad Hill, a 29-year veteran of the Evansville Police Department, was sworn in to office as chief in January 2004 and has been instrumental in the development of both teams through his support and leadership.

If you are considering starting either or both of these kinds of groups for your department you might ask yourself:

How does your department support officers involved in a shooting?
What about other traumatic events like the injury of an officer or their partner, how do you support them then?
How do you handle the effects of major natural disasters or mass injury accidents on the members of your department?
Do you provide support to officers who have handled cases of injured or murdered children?

What about the family of those officers involved in any of the events mentioned above?

The Evansville Police Department in Indiana has experienced all of those things and they have learned from their experiences and recognized that they need to provide… support for both their officers and their officer’s family members.

In 2003 Evansville Police Sergeant Dave Barron was involved in a shooting where he took the life of a criminal perpetrator. Following the shooting Dave was able to get some informal support from another officer within the department who had been through a similar situation. Together they worked through the stresses and issues that arose for Dave following the shooting. They also were able to attend some training and decided to develop a more formalized Peer Support Team for their police department.

Dave’s wife Lori also experienced some stress effects after Dave’s shooting and wasn’t sure who she could talk to about those issues. She attended some critical incident stress management courses with Dave and they both attended the Traumas of Law Enforcement seminar put on by The Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) organization. From what she brought back to their department Lori worked to create their Family Support Group which helps spouses and other family members during critical incidents that affect their family members who work for the police department.

Now Dave and Lori work to help other departments who want to create similar programs.
You may have read our CopsAlive article a couple of weeks ago about Heidi Hansen and Michael Mejia another nurse and officer couple from the Twin Cities Police Authority in California. They have also started similar programs and you can listen to our Interview with them and find other Law Enforcement Family Support Group Links in that article at:

Heidi and Lori knew each other from their activities within the National Police Wives Association and networked to help each other succeed.

If you would like to listen to our interview please click the replay button below or RIGHT CLICK HERE to download (that’s CONTROL CLICK if you use a Mac then SAVE LINK AS…) a copy of the mp3 file.

To learn more about how Lori & Dave might help you start programs for your department visit their website at

Here are some links that offer training and resources in the areas of CISM and Traumatic Stress:

The International Critical Incident Stress Foundation

CISM International

Victim Assistance Online

North American Fire Fighter Veterans Network

The American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress

The United States Search and Rescue Task Force
Critical Incident Stress Management Team
has some Stress Survival Suggestions on their page

The Statewide CISM Initiative in the State of Nebraska

The Suicide Prevention Action Network USA which is a part of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

In Canada:
The Centre for Suicide Prevention which is a program of the Canadian Mental Health Association offers resources and training on Suicide Prevention and PTSD


Critical Incident Stress Management: A program dedicated to New Brunswick’s Front Line Workers

CanuckCare: effective training and consulting for victims/survivors, professionals and volunteer service providers dealing with trauma.

In Australia:
The Critical Incident Stress Management Foundation of Australia

Here is the information about Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) main website: and their Concerns of Police Survivors: Traumas of Law Enforcement Training 2010 link:
This is great FREE training but they only have a limited number of courses each year and this year they only run through March so hurry and check it out!

Our experience attending this training is described in the following article

Thank you for supporting our CopsAlive Audio Bulletin Interview Series. was founded to provide information and strategies to help police officers successfully survive their careers. We help law enforcement officers and their agencies prepare for the risks that threaten their existence.

We do this by Helping Law Enforcement professionals plan for happy, healthy and successful lives on the job and beyond. We think the best strategy is for each officer to create a tactical plan for their own life and career.

About Editor

John Marx was a Police Officer for twenty-three years and served as a Hostage Negotiator for nineteen of those years. He worked as a patrol officer, media liaison officer, crime prevention officer and burglary detective. Also during his career he served as administrator of his city's Community Oriented Governance initiative through the police department's Community Policing project. Today John combines his skills to consult with businesses about improving both their security and their customer service programs. John retired from law enforcement in 2002. When one of his friends, also a former police officer, committed suicide at age 38, John was devastated and began researching the problems that stress creates for police officers. He decided he needed to do something to help change those problems and he wanted to give something back to the profession that gave him so much. He started a project that has evolved into Put simply, the mission of CopsAlive is to save the lives of those who save lives! gathers information, strategies and tools to help law enforcement professionals plan for happy, healthy and successful careers, relationships and lives.
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  1. Pingback: Today is National PTSD Awareness Day | Cops Alive | Police Stress and Health - Career Survival

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