The recent string of officer-involved shootings has taken an emotional toll on the Austin Police Department. In times like these, the department’s Peer Support Team responds.
On the other side of a tribute wall to Austin police officers who lost their lives in the line of duty, sit two men who offer emotional support when critical incidents happen.
"We were both at the Wal-Mart when Jaime Padron was killed and anytime we hear anytime one of our guys have been shot, emotionally we go back to that day,” said APD Senior Chaplain Rick Randall.
Sgt. Tim Kresta and Senior Chaplain Rick Randall are members of APD's Peer Support Team. Lately, they have been lending their services like never before.
In the past three weeks a downtown patrol officer has been shot in the stomach, a SWAT officer has been shot in the leg and this past Friday, Chief Art Acevedo says a suicidal man armed with knives ran at an officer who in turn fatally shot the suspect.
"We've had so many, that I think department-wide you have a greater sense of vulnerability right now than maybe two or three months ago, certainly a year ago. People are looking and saying that could've been me. It's a time when people's feelings are very raw,” said Randall.
Both men say the climate of law enforcement has changed.
"It's is tough. It's a tough time,” said Kresta.
Officers find themselves under more pressure than years past.
"They're aware that an officer just standing at a gas pump gets ambushed and shot from back. You have people aware that it's not necessarily going to a hot call is going to put you in jeopardy, it's just wearing the uniform,” said Randall. "I don't think the average person has to live under or even know what it's like to live that way."
Since officers do understand the stress, the department has trained 58 to spot the signs of when a co-worker needs support and how to intervene.
"They're out there. They're on the shifts. They're in SWAT and investigations,” said Kresta.
The peer support members do what they can and when they can't do enough, Randall, victim services or the department psychologist will step in.
For those who have sworn to serve and protect, quitting is not an option.
"They are passionate about what they do. They want to make a difference. And this is part of the price of being a part of this profession,” said Randall. "These are the bravest and most honorable people in the world and that's why they keep doing what they do."