Critical incident debriefing: Don’t forget your civilian employees

A critical incident can be anything from an officer-involved shooting to a terrible house fire, a horrific traffic crash, or the death of child at the hands of a parent. When you are debriefing such an incident, don’t overlook your civilian employees. The dispatcher who took the call, the records clerk who transcribed the report, or the detective division secretary who logged in multiple anonymous tips all need to be a part of the immediate and perhaps the long-term critical incident care. These personnel not only need to be able to connect with others about their role in the incident and their feelings about it, they can often offer invaluable insight into how the agency can improve its response, conduct its follow up, and change its procedures in the future.

Police agencies often overlook the impact of a critical incident on our civilian employees. Don’t let this happen in your department!

About the author

Sergeant Betsy Smith has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, retiring as a patrol supervisor in a large Chicago suburb. A graduate of the Northwestern University Center for Public Safety's School of Staff and Command and a Street Survival seminar instructor for more than 9 years, Betsy is now a speaker, author and a primary PoliceOne Academy consultant. Visit Betsy's website at

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