3-year-old’s shooting in Rockford takes toll on police officers’ mental health

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The death of a 3-year-old in a Rockford shooting on Thursday is obviously hard on his loved ones, but it’s also tough on the policemen and women who were first on the scene.

Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea said, “Seeing and dealing with events from yesterday is very difficult for the first responders.”

O’Shea says events like Thursday’s shooting can stick with officers long after they leave the crime scene. 

“They have to deal with that not just yesterday, but going forward,” he said.

Kevin Polky, executive director at KPCounseling, is a licensed clinical social worker who has experience working with first responders.

He says they might be more susceptible to trauma in situations they can connect to their personal lives.

“If you’re a father, you’re an uncle, you’re an aunt, you’re a mom, and then you see a three-year old, then that brings you back to when your child was a three-year old. Or if you’re pregnant or your wife is pregnant, then that brings you back to that space. And there’s that vulnerability.”

O’Shea says there are support services in place for officers who may be struggling to cope.

“We always try to take care of first responders and the officers and detectives. But, we also have multiple avenues that they can get to make sure that they can deal with it as well,” O’Shea said.

Ted Getty, a retired Rockford police officer and now board member with the Greg Lindmark Foundation, said, “Fellow officers are a great support staff, but sometimes you need medical help. And you shouldn’t be ashamed to seek that help because that’s what it’s there for.”

The Greg Lindmark Foundation was created in 2015 to help first responders who may need mental health support.

Getty says a stressful 2020 has led to an increase in people reaching out.

“There’s a lot of depression going on now because of the pandemic and people aren’t able to do the things they want to do: visit with the family they want to visit with,” Getty said. “So, it takes a toll on you, and it also takes a toll on the officers, too, because every time they go on a call that’s what they’re faced with.”

Getty encourages any first responder who needs help to reach out to the foundation through their website or Facebook page.

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