Question: What was the need for inventing the WeNeverWalkAlone™ program? What problem does it address and solve?
Answer: Nearly 90% of police departments have fewer than 50 sworn officers. Generally, departments of that size have one to two trained peer supporters. Statistics suggest that in times of need, the first place officers will turn for help is to a fellow officer because they find a judgment-free zone, and cops know cops best. Those officers who do reach out to their peers almost always are glad they did because it is so effective!
However, officers do not always feel comfortable opening up to the few peer supporters within their own department. There is a stigma associated with displaying their vulnerability. The rumor-mill mentality is often present in the culture of the department; so the investment that the department makes in training peer supporters, though well-intentioned, does not always deliver the desired effect.
WeNeverWalkAlone™ solves this problem by connecting peer support officers across participating police departments. This way an officer that needs peer support can reach out to a trained peer supporter from another department without worrying about the rumor mill, anonymity, confidentiality, or other privacy issues. WeNeverWalkAlone™ puts the power of each individual officer in the palm of the hand (literally) by creating sign-in credentials to a secure, confidential web portal with the ability to search for and call a peer supporter from any of the participating departments.
Question: What are the benefits of joining WeNeverWalkAlone™?
Answer: Joining the WeNeverWalkAlone™ network is a force multiplier, in that the departments will now have access to an entire pool of peer supporters, not just their own. The network also offers a list of high-quality, vetted mental health professionals who are committed to working with law enforcement.
Badge of Life™, (the national leader in mental health and suicide prevention training for LEOs) and Ms. Vickie Poklop, MS, LPC, from Des Plaines PD, IL, vet the mental health professionals listed on the platform. WeNeverWalkAlone™ and Badge of Life™ adhere to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct in all our endeavors. Last, but not least, the network has compiled numerous resources that specifically deal with the holistic well-being of LEOs.
Question: How many departments are in the network today? Who are they?
Answer: We currently have 20 police departments across Adams, Cook, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties in the Metropolitan Chicago area: Des Plaines, Mount Prospect, Park Ridge, Rosemont, Round Lake Park, Lincolnwood, Barrington, South Barrington, Wheeling, Highland Park, Glen Ellyn, Prospect Heights, Niles, McHenry County Conservation District, Aurora, Broadview, Quincy, Elgin, Wilmette and Crystal Lake. A number of other departments are testing the system and/or are in the process of joining.
Question: Is the network secure, private, and confidential? Is there any tracking of an officer’s activity while using the platform?
Answer: We do not track any officer’s activity on the WeNeverWalkAlone™ network. We do not know who signs in, or when or how often an officer signs into the network. We do not track who the officer calls for assistance or what external resources the officer accesses. Nothing is recorded or monitored. In short, we do not track anything. All activities on the network are 100% private and confidential.
Unlike an EAP service, WeNeverWalkAlone™ has no obligation to report back to the officer’s employer, if asked, as to any usage data. In order to prevent the sharing of private data that might be subpoenaed by the court, sensitive data on the officers is never even recorded. Peer support confidentiality is strictly maintained and explicitly build into the WeNeverWalkAlone™ program.
Question: Can departments join the WeNeverWalkAlone™ network if they don’t have any trained peer supporters on their staff?
Answer: No. However, a new member department will have 6 months to get its share of peer supporters trained and active on the WeNeverWalkAlone™ list of peer supporters. Since WeNeverWalkAlone™ is a network, we need members to contribute 7-10% (typically) of the strength of their departments as trained peer supporters. So, a department of 50 sworn officers would need to have 4-5 officers trained to be part of the network’s pool of peer supporters. As the size of the department increases, the required percentage slides down proportionately. For example, Chicago PD, that has 13,000+ sworn officers, would only need to have 2-3% of its strength trained to contribute to the pool.
Question: Where do we get our officers trained to be effective peer supporters?
Answer: There are several firms that train officers to be peer supporters. Any program may be used as long as the program is consistent with the guidelines for peer support as proffered by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, reviews of other law enforcement programs, and peer support as a discipline. WeNeverWalkAlone™ endorses Crisis Associates, the leading and premier peer support training program in the country.
Question: How do we contact Crisis Associates? What is the cost of training an officer to become a peer supporter?
Answer: Contact William Hogewood, the owner and trainer at Crisis Associates, or Joe Panico, also a trainer at Crisis Associates, who is a retired 40-year veteran of the Chicago PD who started CPD’s peer support program. The 40-hour program details may be found at https://crisisassociates.org/ . Pricing and minimum class enrollment details can be discussed with Bill Hogewood at [email protected] or Joe Panico at [email protected] .
Question: What happens in Peer Support Training?
Answer: Peer support training is a 40 hour class which teaches police officers skills that they didn’t learn in the academy. Officers are taught to listen without fixing a problem, they are taught to slow things down and to allow for a conversation between 2 peers. They practice their skills under the tutelege of skilled peer support officers who have been active for many years.
In daily life as a police officer, the job is to respond to a call, fix the problem, and move on to the next call. In this training, officers learn to listen and respond without judgement or agenda. They are taught that time is relative and when speaking to an officer in need, there are no clocks. They build their skillsets and graduate the class having been through relevant, practical training that can be used in their everyday lives, both on the job and off.
Question: Do I have to attend all 5 days of peer support training or can I just come to some of the days?
Answer: You must attend all 5 days of class. Each day builds on the information learned on the previous day. And because class size is limited to 22 participants, officers develop relationships and bonds with their fellow peer support trainees.
This training will challenge you and by the end of the 5 days, you will feel well-prepared for what may come your way. In addition to that, becoming a peer support officer is a commitment that you make to yourself and your department. The 40 hours you spend in class will keep you engaged and learning.
Question: What are the criteria for mental health professionals to be listed on the WeNeverWalkAlone™ network? Who does the vetting and how?
Answer: We ask very specific questions and streamline the application process by asking the applicants to submit all of the required documents online at https://weneverwalkalone.org/mental-health-professional-sign-up . We specifically look for total commitment and prior experience treating LEOs. All of our mental health professionals will either pick up our officers’ calls at any given time of the day AND/OR guarantee to have the officer scheduled for a session within 24 hours of the officer reaching out to them.
Dr. Marla W. Friedman and Ms. Vickie Poklop visit the professional’s office, if it is located in Chicago Metro area, or do a video call if the professional is outside the state of Illinois, in order to assess the professional. After much deliberation and consensus amongst the vetters, the applicant is either added to the WeNeverWalkAlone™ list of professionals or is deferred for later consideration.
Question: Is the mental health professional network nationwide? Could officers seek help across state lines based on a need for a particular skill set that is unavailable in their state?
Answer: Yes. The mental health professionals are part of a nationwide network. We have vetted mental health professionals from coast to coast across the nation, though most of them are located in the Chicago Metro area. Our LEOs have access to the list of mental health professionals no matter where they are (on vacation, traveling for work, etc.).
Question: How do the mental health professionals get paid for their services?
Answer: The mental health professionals accept the insurance that the officers have. Details of the PPO/HMO and insurance carriers that they accept are available on the WeNeverWalkAlone™ website or may be obtained by calling the professional’s office.
Question: How does one become a member of the WeNeverWalkAlone™ network?
Answer: Any department interested in joining the network may contact [email protected] for details. Individual officers may not join the network on their own. Departments cannot enroll just a few of their sworn officers in the program. If a department wants to join WeNeverWalkAlone™, it has to add all of its sworn officers into the program. All officers in the subscribing department get their own individual sign-in credentials, which they can use to access the network resources. Non-sworn or civilian staff enrollment is optional, but all sworn officer inclusion is mandatory.
Question: Is there a fee to join the WeNeverWalkAlone™ network?
Answer: Yes. The annual subscription fee depends on the size of the department. Please contact [email protected] for pricing information.
Question: I am the Chief of the Department. How do I know if my officers are using the network resources or not? How do I determine the return on investment (ROI) of being a member of the network?
Answer: In order to maintain complete anonymity for the officers, we do not track the officers’ activities on the WeNeverWalkAlone™ network. We do not know who signs in, when they sign in, or how often they sign in to the network. We do not track or keep information on what professional help was sought or what resources were accessed. In short, we do not track anything. All activities on the network are 100% private and confidential. Nothing is recorded or monitored.
As a result, we do not know the usage details, nor can we compute the return on investment of becoming a member. If your department’s peer supporters receive calls from other departments’ officers seeking advice, then it is very likely that your department officers are doing the same. Reciprocity is the only indirect way to know the usage.
Question: Is there a minimum term commitment to join the program?
Answer: We expect new departments that join the network to provide a three year commitment, initially. After three years, the commitment is annual. The initial multi-year term commitment helps stabilize the network by reducing the churn, while defraying the cost of initial on-boarding. If your department cannot provide a three-year initial term commitment for any valid reason, then please contact [email protected] to explore other viable options that might work for your department.