INDIANAPOLIS — In 2001, Jerry Baker’s son Jason Baker, a Marion County Sheriff's Deputy, was shot and killed in the line of duty.
“At the time I was about a 30+ year police veteran, thought I had seen everything and knew everything and could handle everything, but I didn’t know what I didn’t know,” said Baker.
Following his son’s death, Baker, who was also a police officer at the time, was struggling. IMPD’s POST team, which stands for police officer support team, helped him tremendously.
“They helped me through the most difficult time in my life,” Baker said. “They taught me some things about dealing with the stress and something that’s so close to home.”
Baker says he felt comfortable saying whatever was on his mind, so he didn’t bottle it up and bring it on the job.
“The team came in, they provided that comfort zone and allowed me to talk about the things that were really really stressful,” he said.
Now, he travels the country, training police departments in officer wellness and peer support.
“I decided that I needed to give back in some way, shape or form for what they did for me and what they did for my family during the worst time in our life,” Baker said.
He says officers are often taught to cover up their emotions, keep things inside, and that won’t last for long. People need to talk about what’s affecting them.
“Absolutely you’ll see less complaints against officers, you’ll see the environment among the officers be a lot better,” said Baker. “But again, you’ve got to remember they go in, they show up at these scenes and they are horrific scenes and that doesn’t go away.”
According to the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police, an officer dies in the line of duty on average every 52 hours in the United States, but 2-3 times as many die as a result of their own hand. Baker is hopeful that in the future, we’ll be more comfortable talking about mental health and we’ll see less deaths.
“We are trying to get away from the mentality of in the old days, it used to be get up, shut up and get back to work. And that doesn’t work. That’s why you have officers that have high divorce rates, that’s why you have officers with alcoholism, substance abuse issues. But we’re changing the culture and making the environment better for our officers and get the support that they need and won’t be afraid to say, hey I need a little help.”