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KCPD discusses mental health support for members after officer dies of suicide

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Posted at 6:50 PM, Mar 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 20:09:59-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department is mourning the loss of one of its own.

An officer died by suicide while off-duty earlier this week. The department said he has been an officer for more than 10 years and worked for the patrol bureau.

During the difficult time, KCPD is encouraging officers to utilize the department's various mental health resources.

Robert Blehm, wellness coordinator for the agency, said any time an officer dies by suicide, it affects every single person in the department.

"It breaks my heart, it really does, I hate to see anybody get hurt or anybody experience things like this," Blehm said.

Blehm said KCPD wants officers and those training to become officers to know they are never alone and there is help out there. Since 2015, the department has put a major emphasis on mental health training and education for officers, which starts right when they get into the academy.

"We try to tell officers that getting mental health assistance and getting the help they need and taking care of themselves is no different then going to the range and practicing firearms training or going to the defensive tactics room and practicing defensive tactics," Blehm said.

Whether officers are utilizing their private insurance, going to the employee wellness section or using peer support, the department works to get them pointed in the right direction.

Entrant officer and Kansas City native Hassan Matrane has three weeks left in the academy until he graduates. He said he had just been talking with some of his peers about mental health and the importance of being there for one another when he learned about the officer who died by suicide.

"Especially when it's one of your own and it's your department, it's closer and it feels a lot more real so a lot of us, me included, we were really heartbroken," Matrane said.

He said he's thankful for the training he has received so far in the academy.

"I feel like if I do run into issues in the future I will have the help and support from my peers to deal with situations," Matrane said.

Blehm said there's been an increase in the amount of officers utilizing the department's mental health resources over the last few years. He wants the public to remember it's a difficult job physically, mentally and emotionally, and officers are people too.

"When something like this happens it affects us all, and it's very, very difficult, but we will make sure that we have the things in place and we will keep doing the job that we are trusted to do," Blehm said.

KSHB 41 News is taking a close look at the experiences of the 174th entrant officer class at the Kansas City Regional Police Academy over the next six months, ranging from the perspectives of those in the class, to the training they undergo.