I know without doubt in my mind that a single incident can trigger vicious PTSD for a cop because I’ve heard it many times in their voices and seen it in their faces. Sergeant Mark De Bona talks about a baby dying in his arms after marks feverish efforts to revive him. I hear it in Mark’s voice to this day. Years later, he used to wake up in a cold, harrowing sweat after nightmares that he was going out to his mailbox and seeing the lifeless baby in it. I know Mark has dealt with so much as do most veteran coppers who’ve worked the mean streets for many years. When I interviewed the troopers who had responded to the murder of trooper Mark coats many years ago. It was exactly one year to the day of the horror and 12 months later I saw the anguish in their faces and heard it in their voices.
One veteran trooper, his jaws started quivering and he almost lost it. Talking about that upcoming weekend when he and Mark were going to be off for a couple of days. Instead, he had ended up driving the fallen trooper’s car home. It only dawned on me much later, my God, a year after the slang of trooper coats from what I saw, every single trooper on scene that night was suffering from terrible PTSD issues and it didn’t appear to me. In retrospect, they’d gotten much, if any counseling or guidance to see them through the tragedy. When I appeared with a great cop, retired Lieutenant Randy Sutton on a reason radio broadcast, I could hear it in his voice. The pain Randy still had from a suicide by cop incident when he’d been forced to take a life years earlier when I interviewed retired deputy Don Medicam of the Lawrence County, Georgia Sheriff’s office. It was just screaming at you.
The PTSD he had been grappling with in the years since he’d been the first arriving officer at the scene of the Kyle den. Keller murder here was done, who had left law enforcement not long afterwards working as an airplane mechanic and still beating himself up because he felt he should have been there sooner for Kyle even though then deputy Madigan was literally across the County when Kyle’s first radio transmissions for help came through. I wish I’d asked him then. Don, have you been getting any help, any counseling? Did the Sol have any sort of peer to peer help for you so you could vent and release at least some of the anguish and pain you were feeling, but I didn’t. The list goes on. Believe me. The first arriving salt Lake city officer at the trolley square massacre told me his very first thought upon entering the mall and hearing the rapid automatic gunfire was, am I ever going to see my wife, my kids again as he too fought with every ounce of his being?
The staunch back, the tears very clear to me that in the overwhelming number of officer interviews I have done over these years, when a cop starts talking about a massively traumatic incident, most and I mean the huge majority in my humble opinion are still suffering from PTSD to one degree or another and likely never got any help in the aftermath, in the form of counseling or peer to peer support. Basically just left to twist in the wind. Does any Academy teach recruits that it is okay to hurt? It is okay not to be okay the first time he or she sees a child beaten to death first experiences the stench of a week old corpse or an eviscerated cat or dog, a headless teenage girl so drunk. She never knew what hit her when her BMW merged with the old Oak tree. Does any Academy instructor ever go there?
Replete with pictures, video PowerPoints to perhaps get a compass read from the very get go on which newly minted officers may be hurting before they ever start the job. You know, you as an instructor or trainer know by now how much a subject facial expressions can tell you. So many, many things. Well, it doesn’t have to be the face of a subject you’ve stopped for speeding. It can be the face of the students in your classroom. It could be you. There is not a damn thing wrong with hurting and it’s time law enforcement finally got it. Even one horrific incident can lead to post traumatic stress.
If your law enforcement agency doesn’t have the stones to deal with it personally, I’d fire them and find one that does. As Sergeant De Bona says, if a cop breaks his leg, everybody’s gonna sign his or her cast and say, I wish you good luck. Nobody’s going to sign your forehead. When you say, I’m struggling, that’s gotta change.
I urge you to consider two programs from line of duty, suicide prevention, the amazing journey of Sergeant Mark De Bona parts one and two available right now by going to the store @ Lineofduty.com/Shop/
No officer who is mentally hurting, should ever be left to twist in the wind by an uncaring, com-passionless, oblivious administration, none. And that stuff you never ever learned at the Academy.
I’m Ron barber — Leave a comment at the bottom!