6 years after deadly ambush, Dallas police will address officers’ mental health

The program was launched to address what officers experienced in the shootings’ aftermath and every day

By Anne Berleant 

DALLAS — Sergeant Oscar Figuera still remembers what happened six years ago – nearly to the day – when a gunman ambushed and killed five fellow officers and a transit officer on July 7, 2016. A patrol officer at the time, Figuera told Dallas News that he re-lives that trauma on every anniversary of the deadly event. 

To help improve officers’ mental health, a new Dallas police program called the “officer wellness initiative” will help. The program was launched, in part, to address the trauma officers experienced in the shootings’ aftermath but also to assist officers with the trauma they see or experience every day. 

“You show me a happy cop, and I’ll show you a happy community member,” Chief Eddie García told Dallas News. “It’ll definitely correlate to the level of service as this program begins to grow.” 

The initiative features five elements: a phone check-in after a serious incident, a monthly newsletter of resources, surveys, training, and a full-time, five-officer wellness unit.  

The program includes elements modeled off similar police programs, including the San Diego Police Department, while other elements are unique to Dallas, because of what officers experienced during and after the 2016 ambush, Assistant Chief Reuben Ramirez said. 

Figueroa is now sergeant over the new unit. “We’ll get a reaction from the officers, like, the department’s really doing this? They’re reaching out to us? You know, we needed this for a while,’” he told Dallas News. 

The ultimate goal, Figueroa said, is to give officers wellness tools and support before they turn to self-destructive outlets over trauma and mental health issues. 

The Assist the Officer Foundation has reported a 300% increase in officers seeking confidential counseling since the 2016 ambush, not including officers who used other resources. 

NEXT: The benefits officer wellness programs offer to agencies

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