Police open up on Peace Day
When they’re not working, they are known simply as Charles and Stephanie to family and friends.
And while they are Chief Charles Husted and Lt. Stephanie Foley are known at work for the Sedona Police Department, they want people to know that they, too, are human, make mistakes, and have emotions.
But they also understand that there is often tension these days between the public and law enforcement agencies – an “us versus them” mentality – when it doesn’t have to be.
The two were guest speakers during International Day of Peace on Monday, September 21, at the Mary D. Fisher Theater. Foley was there in person while Husted appeared on Zoom when he was in California. The topic was how to close the gap between law enforcement and community. In a similar lecture, Jeff Newnum, the captain of the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, was held responsible by the Detention Services Department for detaining inmates and providing services related to their health, welfare and safety.
The day was hosted by the Sedona International Film Festival, the Sedona International City of Peace, the Verde Valley Mental Health Coalition, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The collaboration was made possible by a donation from an anonymous Sedona resident.
Foley, who has been with the department for 15 years, grew up in Connecticut and later attended Northern Arizona University college, where she studied psychology to counsel families. In her early twenties she realized that it could be difficult to advise people on topics that she had not yet experienced. She then thought about becoming a judge or a police officer.
“I did a couple of ridesharing and I knew right away that I should,” she said.
Foley, who found that only 10% to 13% of law enforcement officers are women, said being a civil servant can be challenging and an internal struggle early in her career helped.
“This is something I put on to myself,” she said. “I didn’t share much about who I was when I started the job and hid it. I married my wife six years ago. I had to learn that early because I thought it was to myself and allowed others to hurt me because I wasn’t feeling well.
“When I decided I didn’t care what other people thought, and when they had a problem with homosexuality, it was very liberating for me. We all have a story. “
Husted came to Sedona a year and a half ago after spending 30 years in the Sacramento Police Department. Early in his career, he was chosen by his then boss to be part of a community police program that was something new to the region.
“I’ve worked in partnership with community members and I have to say this was by far the best thing that could ever have happened to me,” he said. “I had an innate heart for people, but to understand that we are really together and that the police cannot solve all the problems in the community, it really has to be authentic cooperation.”
During the event, both officers were asked how the department deals with the mental and emotional well-being of employees. While they may not deal with big city issues these days, feelings toward officials at the national level – both good and bad – are felt locally.
“Law enforcement is inherently a difficult task, but it’s gotten much, much tougher,” Husted said. “Our officials have a heart to help and serve others, but to be cursed – not necessarily locally, but nationally – and infused with that negative perspective is very difficult.”
He said the SPD has partnered with Spectrum Health to provide opportunities for employees and families to speak to mental health professionals.
“But unfortunately, in law enforcement, it’s that culture – that’s gotten better – but when I started, most officers didn’t see a psychiatrist,” Husted said. “There was this machismo, a tough attitude. And that stigma has changed over the years, but it remains. “
The other component within the SPD is to treat employees like family members and to consult their colleagues. Husted said it was still a work in progress because some would be uncomfortable opening their guard and dropping it. The fact is that regulators will soon be making sure that their officials are paying attention to signs of stress or other emotions that are outside of normal post-traumatic stress disorder.
The community can help too.
“When you see an officer, just wave at him,” Husted said. “Come here and thank them for their service or write a card. It is such things that reassure our officers. “
A member of the audience said that in his late teens he came into conflict with the law that sent him to jail. He said he was guilty of some charges but innocent of others. Now, years later, he said he had not overcome that experience and wondered how the public and law enforcement agencies can bridge that void in order to build better trust among one another.
“We need more community engagement,” said Foley. “Start with our own community so it isn’t so overwhelming. With these healing talks we can make a difference. We will all make mistakes. I made mistakes. From the very beginning of my career, if I had called about DUI or domestic violence, I would tell people, “I don’t think you are like that. I think it was a moment that I was an eyewitness. Because I saw you this way yesterday, it doesn’t mean you will be like this tomorrow. ‘“