NEW YORK — In front of a packed St. Patrick’s Cathedral and a sea of blue outside, the widow of fallen NYPD Detective Jason Rivera gave tearful insight into some of the daily stressors faced by law enforcement officers — and their families — at her husband’s funeral.
“We had an argument. You know, it’s hard being a cop’s wife sometimes,” Dominique Luzuriaga said in her eulogy on Jan. 28. “It’s hard being patient when plans were canceled, or we would go days without seeing each other.”
What You Need To Know
- According to John Petrullo, the director of POPPA — or Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance — job pressures for police officers have multiplied
- POPPA's staff of volunteers, all are current or retired NYPD officers, fields confidential calls for help from cops — calls Petrullo said have become more critical recently
- The group refers about 45% of its clients for mental health services, and at any given time, it is counseling around 35 officers undergoing treatment
- According to the NYPD, retirements have spiked. About 1,500 officers retired in 2019; in 2020, it jumped to 2,600. And last year, 1,657 officers retired
According to John Petrullo, the director of POPPA — or Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance — those job pressures have multiplied.
"Over the past two years, they've seen, between the pandemic and protests…. I do not recall a time where cops were put under this much pressure for this long of a period of time,” Petrullo said.
POPPA's staff of volunteers — all are current or retired NYPD officers — fields confidential calls for help from cops — calls Petrullo said have become more critical recently.
The group refers about 45% of its clients for mental health services, and at any given time, it is counseling around 35 officers undergoing treatment.
"For the last two years of being so stressful, some cops have finally decided they need to reach out, because it has gotten to a level where it's now uncomfortable and it's affecting them,” Petrullo said.
Heath Grant, an associate professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said burnout is common.
"It happens when an individual feels hopeless, that they can no longer impact things,” Grant said. “And we know that most police go into the profession out of a sense of duty, a desire to make a difference in the world.”
According to the NYPD, retirements have spiked. About 1,500 officers retired in 2019; in 2020, it jumped to 2,600. And last year, 1,657 officers retired.
Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch said morale is at an all-time low.
"They've never seen a time when they felt like they were so put upon that the violence they're facing, where every call they go on has the potential to turn into a fight, to be disrespected, and violence to face them,” Lynch said. “All of that for a paycheck that doesn't allow them to live in the city that they work.”
But Lynch said after the deaths of Detectives Rivera and Wilbert Mora, the city “took a deep breath and said, ‘Oh, my God, what's happening?’”
“And the attitude changed on the street,” he said. “We're hoping the attitude also changes in the City Council, and the State Assembly and Senate."
Lynch hopes something so awful triggers a sea change of support for a department trying to emerge from mourning.