By Scott Kent, Alexandria police chief

Greetings from the Alexandria Police Department! Many great things are happening in our community, and it is always difficult to focus on a topic and choose the best one for this section. We have several new initiatives moving forward into 2022. Still, one very important and most critical initiative is “wellness” for our staff and supporting our team in ways that we haven’t before.

Our first responders in our community have a tremendous heart for helping, saving, and problem-solving. On the seemingly tough exterior are husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, etc. This community has lifted our first responders in amazing ways, but I desire to do more internally.

Inside the Alexandria Police Department, we have had a team of officers and supervisors collaborating with professionals from our community on putting together a strategic plan on setting up a long-range goal of support inside our agency. This will be a three-tiered plan that consists of a peer support team, crisis intervention debriefing, and access to a mental health professional serving as an agency coordinator and resource for self-care and collaboration on mental health crisis cases in the community.

At an upcoming city council meeting, I will be asking that we seek bids in an “RFP” (request for proposal) for the mental health professional to work directly with our staff on these three key initiatives. This will consist of specialized training, working with our team, and access to statewide professionals to provide an additional support system.

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There are more open positions for police officers across this country than current students enrolled in criminal justice or law enforcement programs. We cannot afford to lose the staff we currently have; as a matter of fact, we need to figure out a way to protect these valuable assets.

There has been a historical trend in law enforcement that law enforcement professionals don’t like to talk about, but the reality is scary. We lose more officers to suicide every year in this country than we do by officers being killed in the line of duty. Generally speaking, law enforcement personnel are much better at taking care of others than caring for themselves. However, we know through research that to continue providing a high level of service, the person providing that service must have the resources surrounding wellness for themselves.

We have been talking about this for over a year now and are moving forward with a plan to care for one another differently and address this openly. We want to embrace a culture of care and empathy at the Alexandria Police Department for our staff and the citizens we serve.

Lastly, I would like to share a quick update on our newest officers to the department. Officer Abigail Mumme (Oct. 1) and Logan Sanborn (Nov. 1) moved from the rigors of field training to being on their own and filling patrol shifts. In addition, officer Gavin Pexsa who started with us in October is on track in the field training process, and we are looking forward to him being on his own in 2022.

From all of us at the Alexandria Police Department, Happy Holidays to you and your families as we move into 2022.

Scott Kent is the Alexandria police chief. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.