Officer's shooting taking toll on local police force – Altoona Mirror


Nov 20, 2021
Local law enforcement officials said they are still absorbing the shock of Wednesday’s fatal shooting at the Blair County Central Court building, during which inmate Christopher Aikens, 54, overpowered corrections officer Rhonda Jean Russell and held her hostage in an attempt to escape.
Russell, 47, was killed in the ensuing altercation as an Altoona police officer fired one round at Aikens, who shoved Russell into the line of fire.
The situation has taken a toll on all involved, local police leaders said, and they are working to provide their officers with the tools necessary to cope with the trauma.
“We do have resources within our department and through our department that are available to officers in situations like these,” said Sgt. Matt Plummer of the Altoona Police Department.
Due to the ongoing investigation, Plummer declined to talk specifics about the incident or the officer involved.
In general, Plummer said that when it comes to mental health and therapeutic services, the APD relies on its “helping hand” through the state police.
Trooper Christopher Fox said the state police offers a membership assistance program that works directly with police departments and its officers.
According to the state police, the membership assistance program provides confidential assistance to law enforcement officers, members and civilian employees and their immediate families who are facing personal, emotional, psychological or related mental health problems.
The program facilitates critical incident stress management to departments through tragic situations, and personnel are also referred to professional or community resources, when applicable, state police stated.
Plummer said that although 24/7 programs like these are often relied upon during tragic situations, members and their family can call upon the resource for any struggles they may have, work or non-work related.
“It doesn’t just have to be for an officer-involved shooting or a tragic incident,” Plummer said. “This program is even available for officers who are having problems at home or are struggling away from work, too.”
Mirror Staff Writer Calem Illig is at 814-946-7535.
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