PAJ Issue 3 NA


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A constable on patrol in the early hours of the morning pursues a getaway car with armed robbery suspects. The car crashes, and one of the suspects emerges and makes a motion that the constable fears signifies that he is reaching for a gun. The constable shoots, the suspect dies at the scene, and when the constable examines the dead body, there is no weapon to be found. An officer chases a man suspected of robbing a jewelry store, cornering him in a schoolyard. There is a classroom full of children behind the suspect. The officer doesn't know if the suspect is armed, but rather than shoot him, he talks him into surrendering. He is rewarded by his department, but fellow officers shun him, considering him of dubious reliability as a partner for dangerous situations. A transit officer, a woman new on the job, tries to coax a mentally ill man off the narrow pathway alongside a subway tunnel, so that the subway car can safely proceed. The man attacks her, leaving her with massive physical injuries. A young officer is nearly shot while pursuing thieves who have stolen goods worth less than $40. He survives, physically unharmed. A police staff-sergeant hears the anguished cries of a fellow officer, shot by two robbers and held hostage. At first the staff-sergeant holds back as commanded by his senior officer, but then, disobeying orders, he enters the scene – but not in time to save the life of his bleeding-to-death comrade. A police officer believes she knows the identity of a wanted serial killer, but is unable to prove the case and make an arrest until more women disappear, more are murdered. Six dramatic scenarios… but these are not script ideas for a TV cop show. None of the above are imagined situations, and none of the police officers described are fictional people. Each account is a brief encapsulation of a series of events that really happened, involving real police officers. (See sidebar for details.) Each situation is unlike the others: a fatal shooting and a decision not to shoot; severe physical injuries and no physical injury at all; the up-close dying of a colleague and friend, and the at-a-distance deaths of total strangers. Despite the difference in scenarios, however, all the officers involved shared one common outcome: all, afterwards, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. PTSD. A brief history of "soldier's heart" In 2014, "post-traumatic stress disorder" is well into its fourth decade as a recognized psychiatric diagnostic category, with the handy acronym "PTSD" part of our everyday speech. Yet outside the community of therapy professionals, most people still associate PTSD almost exclusively with veterans of large-scale armed conflicts. The condition was first identified in former battlefield soldiers, and veterans rights organizations are vocal and active in demanding awareness, treatment, and compensation. The acknowledgment of psychological trauma amongst war veterans did not come easily, however, and a brief review of that history is instructive as background to understanding the still-bumpy road to recognition of PTSD amongst police officers today. Perhaps for all recorded time there have been soldiers who suffered from what we now call PTSD, and long before the coining of the term, it was widely observed that soldiers suffered not only during war, but in its aftermath. In the seventeenth century, German doctors referred to the phenomenon as Heimweh, signifying homesickness, while the French similarly called it maladie du pays. In Spain, the condition was called estar roto, to be broken. 6 w w w . p o l i c e a d v o c a t e s j o u r n a l . c o m WOUNDED WARRIORS POLICE OFFICERS TACKLE POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER By MICHELLE GUBBAY The law enforcement community is finally acknowledging the effects of post-traumatic stress on the men and women who patrol our streets.

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