AUSTIN, Texas - Retired officers in Austin are learning to answer a hotline specifically for law enforcement officers and their families.
CopLine is a toll-free, national hotline for officers who find themselves in a crisis and don't know where to turn for help.
“We don't have the answers, but we've got ears,” said CopLine President and Founder Stephanie Samuels.
Samuels spent several years working with police officers as a clinical social worker. She realized early on in her career that police officers often deal with post-traumatic stress in silence.
“The public doesn't understand these uniforms don't shield them from the emotional carnage that they face,” Samuels said.
“Since we expect our first responders to have to deal with things that human beings shouldn't have to deal with, that human beings just shouldn't have to see, they then need some help in processing, in coping, in dealing with some of those situations,” said Kevin Lawrence, executive director of Texas Municipal Police Association.
Samuels wanted to do more to help first responders so she started a national hotline for cops who need to talk through a crisis.
“Unfortunately, very often first responders are very resistant to reaching out and admitting that they need help because they're worried their careers may be on the line,” said Samuels.
To make reaching out less intimidating, calls to CopLine are answered by retired officers and callers can remain completely anonymous as they talk through their troubles on an unrecorded, secure line.
“Unless you've been in those shoes, it's hard to understand exactly what people involved in that are feeling and what difficulties they might have with dealing with the incident,” said Andy Anderson, a retired Austin police officer currently training as a CopLine volunteer.
Although the hotline was created to help active duty officers, retired cops that go through the 40-hour training find it is often just as helpful for them.
“They lose that closeness with their department and they don't have anybody to go to,” Anderson said.
“They miss being able to help their fellow brother, sister or what-have-you,” said Samuels.
CopLine gets more calls from law enforcement officers in Texas than any other state. Samuels hopes by increasing the number of call takers there, she can help more officers find the help they need.
“What happens when PTSD is ignored and not diagnosed? Depression and, ultimately, suicide, which is unfortunate. We believe that as many officers die by their own hands each year as die in the line of duty,” Samuels said.
Honorably retired officers who want to volunteer can contact CopLine on the website.
The hotline is available at all hours of the day every day of the week by calling 1-800-COP-LINE.