LPD takes part in UGA study

Published 9:13 pm Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The LaGrange Police Department took part in a study on trauma completed by researchers from the University of Georgia and California State University-San Bernardino on August 3.

University of Georgia research doctor Brian Williams said they are researching how sworn and civilian law enforcement employees deal with work related trauma.

“Trauma has a contagion type of effect where those who are initially traumatized can impact others when they share their experiences with them, hence secondary trauma,” Williams said. “There have been some studies on secondary trauma, but what hasn’t been studied is how to manage it.  What we hope to understand and to share with police departments is how best to support these employees who experience trauma — both at the primary and secondary levels.”

Williams said part of the reason he chose to study LaGrange, along with the departments in Savannah-Chatham and Athens-Clark was because he had followed Chief Lou Dekmar’s career throughout the years.

“I have come to appreciate that police departments exist at three points in time at the same time. They can never disregard their past because their past can impact their present, and they must always plan for their future,” he said. “Chief Dekmar, from my perspective, appreciates that his department operates in this unique space. He leads and manages in such a way where he won’t allow the distant past, which he had no control of, to impact the present operation and performance of his department, and he plans for the future.”

Williams and his fellow researchers interviewed 19 officers from the department and eight community residents. Williams said he plans on coming back to LaGrange later to follow up with participants.

“I hope to come back to LaGrange to speak with others who assist first responders as well as additional community members,” he said. “Appreciating the trauma that residents experience is important because that allows for more of a panoramic perspective to come into view.”

Sgt. Robert Kirby, who is coordinating the project, said that trauma in their workforce is a common experience.

“From experience, people don’t call us when something good is happening, they want to share and celebrate with us, they’re probably at the worst times of their lives usually, and they have some type of emergency or something bad has happened usually,” Kirby said. “Even though we are not the main player in the trauma, we still experience some trauma from the things that we see and the things that we hear and the experience that we have.”

The research project will continue at police departments in California, Texas and Kansas according to a press release.

Williams said he personally has ties to the city of LaGrange.

“It is also a pleasure to conduct this project in LaGrange. LaGrange is the hometown of my wife, Carla Green Williams,” he said. “That city is a very special place for my family and I — a place where my wife and I were married back in 1992 and a place where we continue to visit family and friends.”