The stresses of working as law enforcement

By Leah Alsept


Findlay native Dr. Stephen Tate gives a presentation to Oilers on mental health and wellness and LE officers

It’s been years since Dr. Stephen Tate stepped foot in his native Findlay, Ohio. In the years he’s been gone, he’s received his Master’s in Divinity, a doctorate in Clinical Psychology, and is the director of Psychological Services for the Houston Police Department (HPD).

Tate came back to Findlay to speak at an event at the University of Findlay’s Ritz Auditorium on Nov. 3 called “The Real Criminal Justice”. He says has dealt with extreme situations alongside police officers since he’s been a staff psychologist at the HPD beginning in 2005. He deals with officers struggling with internal and external forces in their life and career.

“I believe that real evil exists in the world today. Some see it and experience it more often than others do. For example, first responders, police, firefighters, and paramedics see this in a way that other people don’t see it,” Tate said during the presentation.

Tate has been at several crime scenes where victims have died gruesomely.

“They’ve checked inside the house to make sure that everything’s okay. And what did they find? Oh, it wasn’t just a house that was burning. There are four dead bodies in the home,” he said, recounting the discovery of the Escaño family, parents and two children, found shot dead in their home during a house fire. The incident, which took place in September this year, was found to be perpetrated by the stepson who shot himself when authorities found him.

Staff psychologists at the HPD make sure those officers are feeling mentally well after the occurrence of the “critical incident,” like after responding to a violent death or witnessing the death of a fellow police officer.

“We have seven that are staff psychologists and we have a postdoc intern. Some of the responsibilities are doing traditional psychotherapy. It’s a 24/7

Dr. Stephen Tate during the presentation.

crisis intervention,” said Tate. “Unlimited sessions [are] not just during the time that they’re working at HPD, but even after they retire, they are able to receive our services free of charge.”

The Psychological Department of the HPD offers administrative consultation, counseling, psychological evaluations, and mandatory and elective psychological training, according to its website. The department serves more than 6,500 officers in Houston, and schedules around 250-300 counseling sessions with officers per month, says Tate.

Tate says the HPD doesn’t have an exact percentage of who attends therapy sessions because of the stigma against going to or admitting to receiving mental health counseling.

Death, crime scenes, and ethical challenges are all things police deal with as a result of their job and can lead to “compassion fatigue,” which is the “cost of caring experienced by frontline professionals in their work with victims of crimes, accidents, natural disasters, and other traumatic phenomena,” according to  researchers Konstantinos Papazoglou, Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services – Justice Section, Brampton, ON, Canada and Brooke McQuerrey Tuttle, Oklahoma State University, Center for Family Resilience, Tulsa, OK. Ride-alongs are encouraged for clinicians to participate in to learn more about the hazards and stresses of the work.

Blue H.E.L.P. gives resources out to struggling law enforcement and their families. (Courtesy: Blue H.E.L.P. Twitter: @BlueHelpLE).

Suicide rates for female protective services workers (includes first-responders and police officers) are significantly higher than other occupational groups, says the CDC. Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit organization that documents the deaths of officers by suicide, has documented 120 suicides by officers in 38 states. In Ohio, there has been seven reported suicides in 2020 and nine reported in 2021 according to

Students at UF struggling with mental health issues or just need someone to talk to, reach out to the University of Findlay Counseling Services online or in person.

Featured image includes Dr. Stephan Tate (middle) and student officers of the Forensic Science/Criminal Justice club (left and right).

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