PINOLE (KRON) — Nationwide, more than 100 police officers committed suicide this year and studies show more officers die by taking their own lives than all other on duty deaths combined.
The Pinole police chief is calling the problem an epidemic and he shares with KRON4’s Philippe Djegal his new approach to keeping officers healthy and, more importantly, alive.
“These are humans behind the badge, they’re not robots, you know, they have real emotions. They have, you know, real challenges just like everybody else,” Chief Neil Gang said.
More than 25 years ago when he was an officer with another department, Gang learned in the worst way, that the combination of the job and the issues police have to deal with when not in uniform can became too much to bare for officers.
As was the case for his friend and fellow officer Asher Rosinsky, who took his own life in his patrol car with a single gunshot wound to his chest.
“That’s something that we need to change. We can’t let this job continue to kill the good people and the men and women in this profession,” he said.
Since taking over as chief five years ago, Gang has brainstormed ways to not only honor Asher, but also keep his officers healthy physically and mentally.
This year, he says 106 officers have committed suicide across the nation and that studies show one officer takes their own life every 44 hours.
Gang says incidents like one in New York, where officers were assaulted, weigh heavily on law enforcers.
“You can’t unsee things and you can’t unhear things,” the chief said.
A few months ago gang developed the Asher Mode, a seven-point approach to a culture of wellness.
Fliers are posted all over the police department, promoting awareness, peer support, healthy habits and spirituality among other things.
He’s upgraded the station gym, encouraging staff to keep fit.
“We exchanged things in our vending machines. We took out some of the non-healthy items. And, I get it, these aren’t extremely healthy items, but they’re better choices,” the chief said.
Books are available for all station staff to check-out, focusing on emotional and physical wellness.
He’s also teamed up with Cordico, a company that provides psychological training programs for public safety personnel, to develop a wellness app he rolled out a month ago.
Sergeant William Palmini was the first to use it.
“You never know what’s going to be the call that affects you,” Palmini said.
For Palmini, it was the recent cancer diagnoses in his mother that made him realize he needs help.
That’s where the app comes in.
“When you find out something about your mom, but yet you still have to be out on the street, you know it makes it tough — when you have to go make those decisions,” he said.
The app gives him and all staff, access to resources to fight addiction depression and also the ability to reach out to therapists and a peer support network all day and every day.
“It’s OK to not be OK. Creating an environment where we’re taking those once prohibited conversations, if you will, out of the shadows and into the open,” Gang said.
With the ultimate goal of saving lives.