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Police look for trauma support after Boston bombing

Boston Police Department officials said they are worried about long-term psychological effects of the Marathon bombings on their officers and are searching for ways to pay for more mental health specialists.

“We have an entire department that was impacted by the Marathon and many, many officers who saw things they should never have seen and endured things they should never have endured,” said Superintendent-in-Chief Daniel Linskey. “We’re going to have make sure they’re getting services not just for the first 12 to 24 hours [after the bombing], but the first week, the first month, the first year, and next five years down the road.”

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In the days following the bombings, 600 officers were ordered to attend sessions called debriefings, in which they broke off in smaller groups to talk about the horror of that day. New York City police sent 18 retired and active officers trained in counseling to help Boston’s Critical Incident Management Team, which is composed of 45 officers trained in peer counseling.

The Boston Police department also contracts with three clinicians, but in the long run, the department will need even more help to respond to any psychological effects on officers in the weeks, months, and even years to come, Linskey said.

“Officers [generally] see horrific scenes and violent scenes that can have a cumulative effect on people over the years,” he said. “We’re going to have to invest additional resources.”

Recently, two officers approached Kenneth R. Feinberg, the administrator of the One Fund Boston, which is seeking to distribute donated money to victims of the April 15 Marathon bombings and their families.

The officers, one of them a union leader, attended a Town Hall meeting about the fund at the Boston Public Library, where they asked Feinberg if officers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder would qualify for help.

“I told them no, that I did not believe there would be sufficient funds in One Fund Boston to compensate PTSD unless it was accompanied by a physical injury,” he said.

The fund, which has amassed $37.7 million in donations, will compensate victims with physical injuries or those who lost a loved one. Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured during the attacks.

Linskey, who later heard about the request, said he understood the officers’s motivation.

“They rightfully recognized the need to get additional resources to support our officers in the long haul,” he said.

Linskey said the department does not have a cost estimate for the additional help or have officials figured out where they will get the money.

He said he has asked the management stress team to come up with a plan to outline what officials might need for the next three to five years to help officers experiencing trauma.

People who need help may not just be those officers who were at the finish line when the bombs went off or those who were involved in the manhunt for the bombing suspects, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

Those who watched on television as their spouses responded to the scene could need help dealing with the terror they felt, Linskey said, and officers who had to stay behind and staff a station desk while their brethren were chasing down the Tsarnaev brothers could have residual feelings of frustration or guilt.

“There are cops who wanted to abandon their position and join their brothers and sisters in gun battle but they couldn’t,” Linskey said. “There is stress involved with that.”

Maria Cramer can be reached at mcramer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeMCramer.
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