As Dallas Officers Return To Patrol Duties, Counselors and Police Psychologists Offer Support

It's been two weeks since the deadly ambush on Dallas police in downtown Dallas, and some officers directly impacted in the ambush still haven't returned to their patrol jobs.

They're the men and women who were wounded in the attack, the traumatized, the partners and the close friends of the fallen heroes.

Sources tell NBC 5 the command staff at Dallas Police Department Headquarters ordered them to take paid administrative time off until after the fifth and final funeral, which happened on Tuesday.

Now, with some of the officers hoping to return to work over the next few days, the focus now is on their long-term mental health.

"We have survivors. This whole station is suffering and grieving. We have laid our brothers to rest, and we continue to mourn and grieve for them," said Southwest Division Chief Albert Martinez.

With balloons, banners and brisket, Dallas businesses continue to show their support for police.

On Thursday afternoon, Manheim Dallas auto auctions gave the Southwest Division a check to help officers recover, through the department's Assist The Officer (ATO) Foundation.

Martinez says the money – and, more importantly, the community support – will go a long way.

"As you may know, we were really hard hit in the ambush. Three of our officers were killed, three others were wounded that night," Martinez told the group. "It's basically our team that was ambushed initially by the shooter."

All three officers from the Southwest Division who died belonged to the same patrol unit within the division, called the Foxtrot Unit.

City-wide, police sources say more than a dozen police officers are still on leave. About half of them are in the Southwest Division.

The division chief said he wants to make sure his officers get the emotional and psychological support they need.

"We need ourselves to get back to as normal as can be, including myself," he said, noting that he's still grief-stricken by the loss of his men.

"It's our duty and our obligation with these officers to focus on them long-term," Martinez added.

Dallas police have three licensed psychologists on staff, and the department helps run a popular peer-support program.

Dallas police groups and associations also help their officer members with counseling services.

The ATO Foundation helps link officers with licensed professional counselors, many of whom are retired Dallas polices officers.

After the ambush, the Houston Police Department sent up two psychologists to help officers cope with the aftermath.

Steve Bell was a Dallas Police officer for 34 years. Now he's a licensed counselor who works closely with Dallas police officers.

"They like the fact that I'm a retired police officer. They know that I know the landscape," he said.

Currently, Bell is treating three Dallas cops who survived the ambush, as well as family members of the victims.

He says many of his patients are working through what's called "survivor's guilt."

"It's the 'why me' question. 'Why was I spared? Why did I live?'" Bell said. "It's a common reaction in a battlefield situation, and this was most definitely a battlefield situation."

It's a process that can take months or even years to work through.

"'Why am I still here?' That's the question you continue to ask yourself that you'll never get an answer to. And people don't like to have questions linger that they can't get an answer to," Bell said.

He said it's a step-by-step process to help officers cope, and then heal.

He said he's asking his patients to stay off social media for now. Even though there are countless messages and comments of support and love, there are still some nasty and deeply hurtful remarks being made.

He's also telling them that the department has their back and there's no need to feel rushed or pressured into getting back on the streets.

"My role with them is to help them determine on their own if they think they're fit for duty," Bell said. "I need them to realize, number one, you didn't do anything wrong. And, number two, there's nothing you could have done to change the outcome."

Some officers who are currently taking time off are going to counseling, and speaking with peers.

Sr. Cpl. Ruben Lozano also serves on the prestigious Foxtrot team, and knew the fallen officers well.

"I can't help but have what they call survivor's guilt. I wasn't there by (Officer Michael) Krol's side," he said, talking about his close friend and colleague, who was shot and killed in the attack.

Lozano said he loves being a Dallas patrol cop and is anxious to get back on the streets to serve and protect. When it happens, he knows it'll be a different world, professionally and personally.

"I still haven't grasped the concept that three of my teammates – three of my brothers, three of my friends – are gone," Lozano said.

"Our department has done a great job with getting the resources for us so we can talk about everything that's going on," he added.

Northeast Division Patrol Officer JD Smith returned to patrol duty several days after the attack. He rushed downtown during the shooting and spent hours on the scene, protecting protesters and fearful residents.

He's back on the streets patrolling, but admits there's still a cloud hanging over his shifts

"You have little moments to grieve, and it'll take time to get through this," he noted in a recent interview. "We lost four officers and a DART officer. That's five men, murdered. It sucks. We miss them. There's just no other way of putting it."

As impacted officers get back on patrol, officers say they hope the community continues to support them – simple handshakes, hugs and thank-yous go a long way.

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