By now you have heard that we lost one of our own to suicide just a few weeks ago. I knew Tommy Phillips; he was a great man and he always greeted you with a smile on his face. His contributions to the department were numerous. Whether it was truly connecting with the community he served or helping young fresh rookies develop into amazing police officers, he represented the best of us. His presence around the Houston Police Department will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him.
There have been 180 law enforcement suicides nationwide this year. For the entirety of 2016 there were only 143. It is very likely that we will have more than 200 law enforcement suicides this year and almost certainly this number will outpace line of duty deaths for the fourth year in a row. Although I have written about this topic previously, I found it extremely important to once again address the silent killer known as law enforcement: suicide.
For those that are reading this article and going through a rough time, please know that there is help available. We have our own standalone non-profit, the Houston Officers Peer Assistance (HOPA), which provides 24/7, confidential, peer support. The number is 832-200-3499 and upon calling you will be connected to a highly trained HPD retiree who can assist you.
If you don’t feel comfortable calling a local number you can contact the national peer support hotline, COPLINE. COPLINE is also 24/7, confidential, with highly trained retired police officers serving as counselors. That number is 1-800-COPLINE (1-800-267-5463).
You can also visit a mental health professional of your choosing, the Department’s Psychological Services (832-394-1440) or the newly formed HPD peer support assistance unit.
I can speak for the entire HPOU board when I say you can call anyone of us as well if you need to talk. There is no shortage of resources available to assist you, so please reach out if you need help.
But it’s not just enough to have resources available. We must work to ensure that officers feel comfortable coming forward without having the fear of losing the career for which they worked so hard.
We are currently in discussions with the Department to change how we handle officers who wish to self-report mental health issues. We are confident that a new program will be rolled out shortly that will foster an environment of seeking treatment and getting back to full strength as opposed to worrying about any liability the Department may have.
As a Department and a Union, we all have a moral obligation to help our officers and assist them in getting back to work and in a healthy state of mind. Working together with the Department, we can create this environment in hopes that no one is fearful to come forward when going through a crisis. We are all in this together, let’s be our brother and sister’s keeper and look out for one another.
Congratulations New and Returning Board Members
The HPOU elections and runoffs have been completed. Thank you to everyone that voted in the election and engaged in this important process. I would like to congratulate all the returning board members on their re-election. I would also like to welcome our new board members Art Mejia, Tuan Le, Fred Rodriguez, Robert Medel Jr, and Jason Alderete. All of these gentlemen will be fantastic additions to the team we have in place and will continue to provide amazing service and representation for our 5,300 members. The future is bright!
As always, be safe out there and if you need anything I am only a phone call, text away, or you can also reach me at the following: email (email@example.com), messenger on Facebook, DM on twitter (@JoeGamaldi).