The Washington Post
Some Backup for Police
Their office is in a townhouse on Capitol Hill, about a mile from D.C. police headquarters. The conversations that happen there would never go down in a police station — officers talk of sadness, they vent about stress and sometimes they reveal fear.
The program offers an alternative to the “Dirty Harry”-type tough-cop culture, in which officers are supposed to shake off trauma in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee. At her office, they are able to talk with someone who understands what they do.
“When you experience so many catastrophes, you can only suck it up and move on for so long,” Anderson said. “It will come back, and it will do it like a stopped-up sewer.”
When officers come to her in distress, she sometimes has to explain to them that what they see on the streets “can be so intense that it overwhelms their normal coping mechanisms,” Anderson said.
Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said Anderson has a strong presence throughout the department.
“She’s involved in everything the police department does,” Lanier said. “She supports us when everything is going well, so when things are in crisis, we know she’s a friend.”
Anderson and her staff members offer police officers and their family confidentiality in all cases except child abuse, if they are a danger to themselves or someone else, or if they are involved with illegal drugs.
Anderson — who has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and education, a master’s degree in counseling psychology and clinical psychology and a doctorate in counseling psychology — started volunteering her services to D.C. police in 1982.
She was married to a retired FBI agent and had a history of trauma herself that drew her to the counseling field.
Raised in a Massachusetts orphanage with her three brothers and sister, Anderson said her past helps her relate to the hardships of the officers.
Anderson is still married to the FBI agent, and has four children and three grandchildren.
After volunteering for about six years with the D.C. police, the city formalized her position and started paying her. Now, her office has an an- nual budget of about $450,000.
Anderson says she loves her work, and added that she feels like she and her staff are not only helping officers, but contributing to a greater good.
“If you take care of the officers, the officers will take care of the citizens,” she said.