Current and Future Trends in Officer Wellness
Public safety officers live in a highly taxing environment both emotionally and physically. Certainly there are stresses common to the profession, such as incident-based trauma, but imagine a highly charged and often aggressive antagonistic public at large, where the intentions and motives of officers are questioned, not necessarily based on action, but simply because they wear the uniform. That scenario has become a daily reality for many and frequently becomes the lead story in the local news across the country. This atmosphere takes a toll on the body, mind and spirit of an officer.
More and more, as designers of public safety facilities, agencies ask us to consider, recommend and incorporate ways to address and provide for officer wellness resources. We often assess how a police department can integrate resources and spaces to help deal with this trend toward a more holistic wellness program. So how are law enforcement and public safety facilities providing spaces for enhanced wellness that will elevate the human experience of our officers?
Just as building orientation is a no-cost common sense means of incorporating sustainable environmental goals, good tenets of design in public safety can assist in the battle for officer wellness. It begins with a dedicated staff entry that creates and represents a zone of safety and camaraderie where an officer knows the moment he or she crosses the threshold that this is a place designed with their needs in mind, secure from public or media intrusion. Access to natural light and good indoor air quality, including higher levels of oxygen can improve morale and absenteeism and drive optimism. New technology incorporated into offices can give real time measurement of relative humidity, indoor air quality, CO2, and volatile organic compounds. This technology provides peace of mind to occupants and potentially reinforces a sense of the police station as the officer’s place.
Beyond these passive and common sense approaches, dedicated spaces within public safety facilities are more frequently being developed as an approach to keeping officers healthy and minimizing down time due to physical or emotional fatigue. These may include quiet, low-light spaces for reflection that may serve double duty with sleep rooms for officers waiting for court times or following an incident-based trauma. Fitness rooms that combine physical fitness with access to daylight can greatly improve an officer’s outlook, along with improving physical fitness.
Strong wellness programs combined with well-designed facilities create safe and secure environments that address the health and wellness of our officers.