The shooting deaths of 20 children and six adults in Newtown have forced law enforcement officials in Connecticut to come up with new procedures to help police. The measures could change the way law enforcement responds to life-changing trauma.
It's arguably impossible to have lived through the events of Dec. 14 and not be affected. Trauma comes from the unexpected. And when it comes to children, Psychologist Robin Grant-Hall says the brain switches into bonding and protection mode. She says this makes the Sandy Hook shootings even more profound for the men and women who rushed to the call.
“At first they did their job, which is scanning and safety issues, but when their eyes dropped and they saw what they saw, their brains automatically shifted," she said.
Grant-Hall is an expert in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She's working with state police Sgt. Troy Anderson of the Connecticut Alliance to Benefit Law Enforcement. Both spoke on WNPR’s Where We Live.
Anderson says state police have had a stress management plan in place since the Oklahoma City Bombing of 1995. But the school shooting has posed new challenges.
"Some people who were exposed were so injured that we need to go bed those initial layers and look beyond. And really, when we looked around the world, we saw that there really was no script for that either," Anderson said.
"Forget the disorder part. The disorder is really for psychiatric treatment and diagnosis. It's post traumatic stress," Grant-Hall said.
Grant-Hall and Anderson decided to provide a combination of therapies for various levels of trauma over long period of time.
Again, psychologist Grant-Hall: “Connecticut is going to be on the cutting edge because of Newtown, of how to take care of police after a trauma incident.”
Recently, police held a workshop on resilience and plan to hold a follow-up seminar that will also include domestic partners of emergency responders.