School shootings’ effects on police officers understudied

LITTLETON, Colo. (AP) — Twenty years after Columbine, the effects of the trauma and turmoil experienced by law enforcement authorities who respond to school shootings are still largely unknown.

Experts say agencies are reluctant to let researchers interview officers and dredge up potentially painful memories.

Many officers also view seeking psychiatric help as a sign of weakness, particularly in elite units like SWAT. And they see their own mental health as secondary when civilians are affected by school shootings and other grave loss.

But attitudes are changing. A group of global law enforcement administrators is working on uniform guidelines for psychological care for SWAT teams and other officers who respond to “critical incidents.”

And four states, including Colorado, recently passed laws to extend workers’ compensation for mental health to police and other first responders.

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