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Department of Justice Announces Initiative to Advance 21st Century Policing

Star For Immediate Release
May 25, 2016

CONTACT: Mary Brandenberger
(202) 514-5328

Department of Justice Releases Report to Assist Law Enforcement Officers after Responding to Mass Casualty Events

WASHINGTON, D.C.  - The Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) today announced the release of a new publication to assist law enforcement officers who may experience mental health issues after responding to mass casualty events. The goal of the report, Preparing for the Unimaginable, is to provide law enforcement executives with the knowledge and resources to assist their agencies in coping with the impact of mass casualty incidents on officer mental health.

In response to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, the COPS Office, in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and the Newtown Police Department, developed the guidebook to assist officers who may have to respond to traumatic events.

The report provides police chiefs with the vital information needed to support officer mental health before, during and after a mass casualty event.

"A mass casualty event could happen anywhere, anytime.” said COPS Office Director Ronald Davis. “We must prepare our officers to not only respond to these tragedies; we must also provide them the tools to deal with the aftermath. Thanks to the leadership of police chiefs who have selflessly shared their experiences and lessons learned from living through such tragedies, this report provides guidance on what do before a tragedy occurs, how to prepare for the unthinkable, and what to expect after a mass casualty incident occurs.”

The guidebook includes expert advice and practical tips for helping officers heal emotionally, communicating with the public, working with the media and building relationships with other first responder agencies. Personal contributions of four police chiefs and numerous officers who have lived through incidents such as these and shared their experiences are featured.

The report, Preparing for the Unimaginable, can be found online here:

In 2013, the COPS Office awarded NAMI a grant to assist the Newtown Police Department in efforts to support officer mental health in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. To gather lessons learned, NAMI hosted an expert advisory group meeting in February 2015, bringing together police chiefs who had managed mass casualty events, and mental health professionals who worked with them. NAMI consulted with numerous law enforcement leaders and officers, mental health clinicians, trauma experts and media experts.

The COPS Office is the federal component of the Department of Justice responsible for advancing community policing nationwide.  Since 1995, the COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of more than 127,000 officers and provide a variety of knowledge resource products including publications, training and technical assistance. For additional information about the COPS Office, please visit