4 critical days: LASD's transition from foreign battlefield to domestic streets

Dr. Audrey Honig, chief psychologist for the Los Angeles County (Calif.) Sheriff’s Dept., provides PoliceOne with description of the department’s process for reintegrating combat veterans back into a domestic street environment:

The LASD Repatriation program began with the LASD Personnel Administration Bureau assisting employees leaving for and returning from active military duty with issues related to pay and benefits. It has grown in scope from that time. Cmdr. Lynda Castro chairs the department’s Military Activation Committee and has taken the lead role in directing the development and coordination of the program.

The program today consists of a four-day repatriation program and on-going support and reorientation. On the first day the employee returns to Personnel Administration and re-establishes benefits and pay.

During the second day the employee obtains updates on Department policy and laws that may impact the work. The employee is also reissued the duty weapon and must qualify on that weapon. The employee returns to the unit of assignment on this day, is welcomed by the unit commander and is reacquainted with the unit’s Military Liaison Officer. This person acts as a point person for navigating reintegration issues. The employee is also assigned a mentor who can assist with specific training issues should the need arise.

On the third day the employee meets with a department psychologist. This meeting is not a Fitness for Duty Assessment. Rather it is an opportunity for the employee to be made aware of the services available to him and his family as well as to normalize the potential reactions he may experience over the next six months or so during his re-integration into civilian life and the department. It is also an opportunity for the employee to address any issues related to the deployment. The meeting is mandatory. The content of the discussion in the meeting is confidential and only attendance may be disclosed.

The fourth day, and newest addition, is a tactical refresher course. This refresher is used to reorient employees to the tactical approaches approved for use by the LASD as well as sensitize the employee to issues regarding the differing rules of engagement between the military and civilian policing.

The program is ever evolving and improving. We are currently in the process of making operational a cadre of peer support personnel specifically trained to assist employees returning from active military service. The group will be made up of individuals who have had military experience. In addition, we recognize that many of our new employees are coming to us from active military service. As a way of assisting them we have developed a class, presented during their custody training, on recognizing and managing traumatic stress.

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