MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Since becoming chief of police in Minneapolis, Medaria Arradondo has focused on the invisible injuries officers suffer on the job.

He’s making officer wellness a priority. It starts by changing the culture and opening the conversation.

Police officers are often on the scene of violent crimes where they come across images that can be hard to erase from their thoughts.

“We have not done a good job first of naming it and secondly, the response typically from being in this profession when officers are struggling is suck it up,” said Chief Medaria Arradondo.

Chief Arradondo says officer wellness is a priority. He is determined to break the culture of officers quietly suffering from repeat exposure to the kinds of trauma that puts them at risk for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“Often times when someone is struggling they, out of fear of admitting that they need help or out of fear of asking for services, they feel that they will be judged and we become comfortable with being silent,” Arradondo said.

The Minneapolis Police Department now has a robust peer support team to make sure officers are not dealing with trauma alone.

And for the first time in the department’s history, Chief Arradondo has asked for money from the Mayor Jacob Frey’s office to help with officer wellness.

“We’ve lost too many good men and women in this profession,” said Arradondo.

No one wants to see a repeat of Officer Duy Ngo, who killed himself in 2010, after suffering trauma from being shot by another officer during an undercover operation.

Arrandondo says awareness and openly talking about this issue will go a long way.

“There is research that shows if employees are feeling well, healthy, they are coming to the job happy to do their work, they’re having better interactions with their co-workers, better engagement with the community they serve and it’s a win. Win for everybody,” Arradondo said.

The Minneapolis Police Department is also sending members of its training team to other cities to learn more about officer wellness. The Minnesota Legislature is helping too.

They passed a first responder bill that requires insurance companies to cover mental health treatment for all active first responders.

Reg Chapman