Brockport Students Produce Documentary Bringing to Light Police Trauma and Suicide
Three journalism students produced a documentary for class that reached far into the community.
Three students at SUNY Brockport produced a documentary that highlights a serious issue in the law enforcement community.
“10-33: When Officers Need Help” is a 12-minute film that illuminates police suicide rates and trauma related to the profession.
As part of a class assignment, journalism and broadcasting students Joshua Gillett, Kyle O’Gara, and Ricky Wolf wanted to make a local version of the famous TV show COPS — but local police departments wouldn’t agree to that. They then pitched the idea of digging into community policing and police perception. The project took another turn when officers in the Greece Police Department inspired them.
The students had a line of questions for the officers, including, ‘What’s a call you’ll never forget?’ After interviewing Greece Police Officer Eric Hughes, they found their main character. And during an interview with Greece Police Chief Patrick Phelan, they found their focus: the 10-33 call, when an officer is in extreme danger.
Phelan mentioned the alarming growth of police suicides rates. O’Gara turned to his group mates and said, ‘That’s an incredible story idea. We might have to do a 180.’
“It is an alarming situation that seems to be statistically growing in number,” said Sgt. Jared Rene, public information officer for Greece police.
“The story reveals subtle realities in law enforcement,” said Wolf. “They are people just like everyone they serve in the community. A uniform and a badge do not make it easier to walk away from tragedy.”
By the Numbers
- Blue H.E.L.P, a non-profit that works to reduce stigma of PTSD in law enforcement, reported 130 police suicides in 2019 to date.
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports police suicide rates are about 16 out of 100,000.
- Recently, the United States Government authorized $7.5 million for police suicide prevention efforts.
Rene explained that it’s not just one shooting or one incident that impacts an officer’s mental wellness. Young officers are encouraged to prepare for the job to be very difficult and to find ways to stay grounded. However, it’s important to have a support system and cope in a healthy manner, he said.
From start to finish, the film took about five months to produce and has been watched about 10,000 times.
“Everyone goes through hard times, but I could not imagine how I personally would be able to deal with anything that they do on a daily basis,” Gillett said. “After working on this project, I have a much better view on the police, and I can see that they are just people who truly want the best for their community.”
The Greece Police Department was blown away by the finished product. “I don’t think any of us really realized what the video was going to be,” Rene said, adding that the end result was “a win for everybody.”
Since the production was published, O’Gara said he has received multiple messages of support.
“That kind of solidified it for me. I want to keep making documentaries and find my next,” O’Gara said.
Although the group already received an A for their work, O’Gara is working to make the documentary even better. A longer version of “10-33: When Officers Need Help” will include voices from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office.
O'Gara plans to eventually submit the documentary to film festivals.