MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The Miami-Dade County Association of Chiefs of Police announced the launch of the Regional First Responder Peer Support Team on Thursday.
It consists of a group of 15 officers from seven different agencies across the county who are specially trained to provide peer-to-peer support for a law enforcement officer in distress.
“It’s a program that allows officers that may be struggling with mental wellness issues, whatever they may be, to be able to share their experiences with people that have been there and done that,” said North Bay Village Deputy Chief Samuel Bejar.
One day, while retired police officer Tim Adams was still on the force, he was serving a warrant when his gun accidentally went off and shot another officer.
“I can’t tell you how my world was then. A very dark, very dark place,” said Adams. “Had it not been support from my team members, my supervisors, and my family, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Adams says that support saved his life and after a number of high-profile crises, including that of Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez, authorities feel the mental health in South Florida’s law enforcement community is at the forefront of many minds right now.
“We’ve seen it first-hand that nobody’s immune from pressures of life,” said Steadman Stahl, who leads the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association, the union representing Miami-Dade police officers.
“Nobody is immune from the stressors of the job. Nobody is immune from the stressors of life and in law enforcement, it’s even worse,” he added.
The program is a collaboration between the Police Chiefs Association, the Community-Police Relations Foundation, and The Boulder Crest Foundation.
It aims to address a major need in the law enforcement community and provide a safe outlet for officers to engage in shared experiences while promoting the idea that they’re never alone in their struggles.
Bejar also added that the program was created in part to let other police officers know “that it’s OK to not be OK. There are resources out there to be able to seek help.”
The program itself will officially be launching on Monday.
Authorities told Local 10 News that there will be a hotline that officers will be able to call to be connected with a member of the support team.
They also said the group of 15 officers is expected to grow with more people being trained from agencies around Miami-Dade.