In a 10-hour shift, police officers see a lot more tragedy than what most people see in their lifetimes.
“You see a lot of stuff that's probably not natural for us to see,” said SDPD Sgt. Edwin Garrette said.
“In 2003, I responded to a 7-year-old girl who was run over by a pickup truck and I did CPR on her,” said SDPD Sgt. Carmelin Rivera. “And I can remember that vividly.”
“For myself, it's knowing I was the last person they talked to as they were taking their dying breath,” said former dispatcher Deanna Dotta.
According to a new study, nationally, 46 law enforcement officers died after being shot on the job in 2017. More than triple that - 140 officers - committed suicide.
The San Diego Police Department has one of the few programs of its kind in the country.
At the SDPD Wellness Unit, the issue of mental health gets center stage, located directly at headquarters.
Those working here say they like to call it the sanctuary. It’s a place where people feel safe to talk about issues held in confidence, and then directed to the right resources, free for themselves and their families.
“We don't have to suck it up anymore we can move on and address these and still be strong in fact stronger officers,” Dotta said.
“When you come to work you’ve got to be ready to work. That's our idea - to make sure people are healthy and well, mind, body, and soul when they come in,” said Garrette.
“It's always good for the community to see what' going on behind the body armor we wear that we are human beings that we bleed that we hurt that we cry,” Rivera said. “It's not the image we have wanted to put out there -- that's why. But the alternative is worse, not talking about it is worse.”
The study was released by the Ruderman Family Foundation, a philanthropic organization that deals with issues affecting first responders.