Nevada Senator Introduces Legislation to Prevent Cop Suicides


Paul Nelson


Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto hopes her bill will get officers the help needed for mental health issues.

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nevada is teaming up with Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa to prevent suicides among law enforcement officers. They introduced the Confidentiality Opportunities for Peer Support (COPS) Counseling Act on the senate floor, Wednesday morning.

“It mandates that any law enforcement agency at the federal level, who participates in one of these peer support counseling programs, that that information remains anonymous,” Cortez Masto said.

Nevada already has a similar law in place. Cortez Masto’s goal is to make the same policy available to federal law enforcement officers.

“Many individuals within our law enforcement agencies benefit from peer support,” Cortez Masto said. “We have them in Nevada and I’ve seen a benefit and I’ve heard a benefit from our law enforcement officers.”

The senator has held roundtable discussions with sheriffs and chiefs in Nevada. She says they have offered a valuable insight to what officers go through.

“What I was hearing is that we are seeing a higher rate of suicide and attempted suicide,” Cortez Masto said. “There is a mental health issue and a mental wellness issue that we need to be addressing for our law enforcement in the country.”
Reno Police Department’s (RPD) Chief Jason Soto was part of those discussions. He says RPD’s program is showing positive results. It has a full-time embedded resource officer for officers to get counseling.
“That’s a professional that understands and recognizes what this looks like and what resources that we can provide to our personnel, and it’s been a fantastic success,” Soto said.

Soto says having that resource officer is valuable because officers are more comfortable coming forward with mental health issues.

“The neat thing about the embedded resource officer is that it’s one of their peers,” Soto said. “It’s a lot easier to talk to a peer than it is to a stranger or certainly their boss.”

Soto says mental wellness was largely ignored for a lot of years, but that it has been a major focus during his time as chief. The nature of the job can create mental health issues like post traumatic stress and depression.

“It’s one of those careers where you’re exposed to a lot of different things and you’re exposed to a lot of heavy material,” Soto said. “I think in the last several years, we’ve really started to take a closer look and make sure that we have resources available to the men and women who wear this uniform.”

The COPS Counseling is a continuation of one of Cortez Masto’s previous bills. The Law Enforcement Suicide Data collection Act requires the FBI to collect voluntary, anonymous data on police suicides and attempted suicides.

“As we identify the scope of that data, and we start identifying programs to help with the mental wellness, then we want to make sure that anyone who participates, that their information remains confidential,” Cortez Masto said.

A recent survey of law enforcement officers shows that 73 percent of respondents say peer counseling is the most helpful mental health resource. It also showed that confidentiality concerns prevented many of them from seeking those resources.

The COPS Counseling Act also encourages first responder agencies to adopt peer counseling programs. It would require the Department of Justice to make its best practices available to the public on its website.

This article was originally published here:

About Paul Nelson

Paul Nelson graduated from the University of Nevada, in 2001, in Journalism. He interned in the sports department of KTVN during his final semester of college, and was hired as a News Photographer in August of that summer.

Upon graduation, he joined the sports staff as a fill-in anchor and reporter, as well as co-hosting “Inside the 2” and “2 the Hoop.” He also hosted “Turning 2,” a weekly high school baseball segment. In 2011, Paul became a news reporter, although you can still find him covering local games and filling in on the anchor desk. His favorite part of the job is traveling, and he loves the experiences and meeting a variety of people on a day-to-day basis.

Paul is one of six children. He lived in North Dakota until he was 12, when his family relocated to Nevada. He graduated from Pershing County High School, in Lovelock, in 1996, attended Western Montana College for one year, before transferring to the University of Nevada.