FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) – It’s estimated 30% of first responders develop some kind of behavioral health condition such as depression, PTSD, or suicidal thoughts throughout their career.

Within the Fargo Police Department (FPD), there are several important roles of those who lay their lives on the front lines to keep our community safe, and the department is now doing everything they can to make sure their employees stray away from that statistic.

“In law enforcement, we’re supposed to be the tough guys and girls. Nothing is supposed to bother us, but that’s not the reality of it,” said former Law Enforcement Officer, Scott College.

The reality is, these are dangerous professions that can create serious trauma, even for the behind the scene workers, such as 911 dispatchers or those in the records department.

Scott explained, “It’s a secondary trauma. They’re actually reading the reports, they’re seeing the things that happen, and they can visualize how it happened. No, they might not be there during the situation, but they are still involved in reading it.”

College is now the Chief Operations Officer for the F5 Project, and has committed his life to behavioral health and offering support services to the community, including the Fargo Police Department.

One thing all of these roles at the FPD have in common is the deep, dark, and heavy content they deal with on a day-to-day basis.

The July 14th shooting that killed Officer Jake Wallin and wounded three others was the first spark to a long journey ahead to mental health care.

Now, the department holds regular debriefing sessions for everyone in each position.

Sergeant Shawn Gamradt of the FPD said, “We implement check-ins now. We break people down into smaller groups of their peers they work with, creating that safe space, and ask questions.”

This is something to help in their professional lives, but also their lives outside of work.

Both Gamradt and College admitted while working in law enforcement, it was common they brought negative attitudes and short-tempers back to their homes.

“Since doing these programs, I’ve been made aware of things I didn’t even know I was dealing with. I dare to say, I talked to my wife, and said, ‘Hey… it appears I have this issue’ and she was like, ‘Yeah, I already know!” Garmradt confessed.

The Fargo Police Department is now making a commitment to ensure the safety of not only all of their staff, but they’re also looking to extend a similar service for spouses and other family members of the FPD in the future.

“I can see us extending careers. I see us saving marriages and relationships. If we get their mental health done, we can start doing the physical stuff too,” said Gamradt.

With programs like this still in the exploratory phase, they are both hopeful programs like this will become a new “norm” not just or the FPD, but through departments throughout North Dakota and Minnesota.

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