St. Louis Police Sgt. Joann Glover Straughter has made it her mission to minister to officers with mental health concerns. The conversations intensified after the Ferguson police killing of Michael Brown, says the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Cops endured verbal and physical attacks while facing off with angry protesters. Their role as hero-protector was under challenge in social media. Police conduct became a headline topic in stories that equated some cops to race-driven murderers. “People think we are gun-happy and we want to shoot and kill, but that's not the case,” she said. “Because of my faith, the Word tells me as a police officer, I'm a minister of God. And Scripture tells us we have to defend by self-defense.”
Straughter hopes the Ferguson shooting can be the catalyst for publicly addressing not only police behavior but the mental challenges that can shape it — the very core of her hushed conversations among concerned cops. Increasingly, it looks like she may get her wish. Recommendations that departments formally address the mental health of officers are part of both President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing and the Ferguson Commission’s reports. The St. Louis Police Wives Association has been raising money to provide mental health care as needed by local officers and their families. Researchers at the University of Missouri-St. Louis are studying the effects of the Ferguson experience on cops.