The Missoula County Sheriff's Office is instituting the "Blue Courage' program, to help officers to 'flourish in all aspects of life, to act with practical wisdom, to exude vitality, and to hearten human connections'.

Undersheriff Jason Johnson said he and another sheriff's office leader attended a training program recently to learn about Blue Courage.

"Captain Conway and I went to Arizona recently to attend an instructor course," Johnson said. "It's a very powerful program that we're bringing to the sheriff's office. I'll say real quick that I'm very excited that Blue Courage also has a module for corrections officers coming out in the next few months that will then be provided to our employees at the detention center."

Johnson attempted to describe the training an philosophy behind Blue Courage.

"It's a two day training program," he began, "but in essence it's all about having a very healthy life in a law enforcement career.We dive into post traumatic stress that officers deal with and that it could be triggered by more than just one event, but by a series of events that can build up. We talk about resiliency on the job that is required for those who work in the darkest corners of our society every day."

Johnson said Blue Courage helps officers develop a balanced life, so that the everyday stress they face on the job is more manageable.

"Most cops are focused on high performance in very stressful situations, and what Blue Courage does is help officers become very healthy, so that when they are faced with a stressful situation, they're making decisions from a much healthier platform," Johnson said. "The other thing it deals with is police culture. One of the negative aspects of police culture is the development of cynicism, and one of the parts of the training is that cynicism is the new corruption in law enforcement. What we try to do in Blue Courage is to replace that cynicism by looking at the people we work with and situations that we deal with in a much more healthy way."

Johnson said the Blue Courage program helps to sharpen the definition of the words 'bravery' and 'courage'.

"We talk about courage and bravery," Johnson continued. "It takes bravery to go into an unknown situation and apprehend a drug dealer or whatever the situation might be, but it takes courage to identify when a coworker is struggling and to step into that situation and offer help, and to allow themselves to be vulnerable."

Johnson also drew a distinction between the turmoil that exists in many parts of the country between law enforcement and the community and the relationship here in Missoula.

"When people ask me about the 'state of the nation' in law enforcement, I like to point out that we are very fortunate to be in law enforcement in the community we serve, because it's just so different from, say, Chicago. We're very fortunate to work in a community that by and large supports us in what we do."