Remember the guy in your department who drank too
much? Or the one who picked fights with his wife and flirted with
other women? And how ‘bout the guy that intentionally left his vest
behind every time he answered a “hot” call?
When you were on the job,
you knew the signs of a stressed-out cop and you still know them
today, years after retiring. Well now those insights and your
on-the-job experience could make you the perfect
active listener volunteer for
stressed-out active cops.
“Copline,” the first
toll-free national hotline exclusively for law enforcement officers
and their families is being developed as a confidential way for
officers to talk about on and off
the job-related stress, alcohol abuse, relationship issues,
depression, and even thoughts of suicide.
Seven days a week and 24
hours a day, active officers will be able to call Copline and talk
with retired officers from their own state, people who understand
the job, know the local politics, and have experienced the trauma.
Stephanie Samuels, a New
Jersey-based psychotherapist with a practice devoted exclusively to
law enforcement, is the primary force behind Copline.
“Officers in this country
continue to choose to talk only to other officers,” when it comes
to almost all issues, she says. For
many, the impediment to better mental health is fear of being
de-gunned or labeled crazy once the
department finds out there’s a problem.
In New Jersey, Samuels
initiated legislation and found start-up funding for a statewide
hotline. The Statewide helpline continues to operate, but Samuels
stepped back to devote more time to her own practice. Now she’s
committed to creating a national hotline and the key to its success
will be tapping the resource of retired officers.
“There’s a wealth of
knowledge that a retired officer has that is lost when
he or she leaves the department,”
said Samuels. “Many of them miss the job they loved and gave so much
to, and some are forced out early because of disability or other
circumstances. This is giving back to a career that is part of their
lives long after they separate from it.”
Here’s how the hotline
Callers will be routed
to the nearest retired officer from the state they are calling
Copline will be strictly
confidential and nonprofit. Callers can trust that their
agencies will not be informed.
All volunteers will fill
out an in-depth questionnaire and will be thoroughly trained by
who specialize in law enforcement.
Free training will be
provided in each state.
At all times,
licensed clinicians will be on call to assist the volunteer when
a call goes beyond his training.
A network of
medical and psychological
referral resources will be established in each state so that
volunteers can be a conduit to further help.
Lines will be connected
to the retiree’s location, either at home or in a central
locale. Even if you’ve retired out-of-state, lines can be
connected to you at your new
home state and you’ll still
talk to officers back home.
Cops’ spouses and kids
also are expected to use the hotline. “If somebody wants to speak to
a spouse, we will have spouses trained to take the calls,” said
Samuels. Eventually she wants to identify and train interested teens
who can answer lines for other law enforcement children because,
“Police officers’ kids go through different stress than kids in the
While Copline is in its
development stages, said Samuels, “We welcome input from any active
or retired officer in the country who’s interested in talking to
If you’d like to become a
Copline volunteer, call (800) 267-5463, x8, or send e-mail to
Be sure to name the city,
state and department you retired from, the number of years you were
on the job and an address and phone number where you can be reached.