SAPD chief highlights mental health resources for officers

SAN ANTONIO – In light of a recent uptick in violent crimes, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus is highlighting the mental health resources available for officers who need them.

Violent crimes are on the rise in the city of San Antonio. According to a public relations officer with the San Antonio Police Department, there have been five more murders in 2022 than this time last year.

Some of those murders happened in broad daylight, like at a bus stop downtown on Monday.

“You just got to protect yourself and just be safe out there. You don’t know what people are packing anymore,” said Michael Lucas, who works near the area where the shooting happened on St Mary’s Street.

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Nationally and in the Alamo City, cases of horrendous child abuse are up, too.

“This isn’t just abuse. This was straight-up murder,” said Carrie Wilcoxson, a child abuse prevention advocate.

It’s becoming all too familiar.

“That’s just a horrific thing that happens, and I don’t know that any of us ever get used to that,” McManus said.

He says it’s an ever-growing reality for officers in his department. In February alone, police made arrests in three cases of child abuse that ended in the deaths of Danilo Coles, Mercedes Losoya, and Benjamin Cervera.

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“I know officers who don’t want to go to those scenes, prefer not to go to those scenes,” McManus said.

Every officer is different in dealing with what they experience at work.

“Some officers, it visibly affects. Some officers, it doesn’t. And I think even the ones that are not apparently affected by it, there’s probably something going on there,”

The SAPD has a focus on resources to help those officers. At all times, three psychologists and a peer support team are on hand.

“That’s comprised of about 43 officers, and anyone in the department can speak to those folks at any time they want,” McManus said.

The chief takes pride in the officer wellness programs but is adding another element for his department — Vitanya.

“(Vitanya) measures your brain activity and actually gives you a report on the stresses that you’re suffering from,” McManus said.

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It then provides a personalized program overseen by a licensed psychologist.

Two Vitanyas are in the process of being installed with the hopes of adding a third.

“We can’t serve the public if we ourselves aren’t healthy,” McManus said. “If you’re not mentally well again, how can you serve anyone?”

Vitanya should be up and running for officers to use soon.

Supervisors on the force are also trained to keep an eye out. If they see someone struggling, they can have an officer complete a fitness for physical duty, which can be physical or psychological.

The chief is also particularly proud of their team of family assistance officers.

If an officer is seriously hurt or killed in the line of duty, one of the family assistance officers can help immediately following and long after.

“They take care of the family in every way that they possibly can, and they’re like, they’re like angels to the families who need the assistance and even to the officers themselves,” McManus explained.

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