Officers Learn to Cope Before It's Too Late

When you think of post traumatic stress disorder, there’s a good chance war veterans are the first thing that come to mind. Experts say law enforcement officers are traumatized all the time, and often don't get the help they need. Bill Stamps has more.

Last month a Houston police officer was executed by a man after a simple traffic stop.

Last week a Houston teen was shot on his front yard by an officer who thought the young man had stolen a car. Whether they’re doing the shooting, being shot at or maybe pulling a dying baby from car wreck. Officers deal with death all the time. But really dealing with it often isn’t easy.

“How can you live with that day in and day out? But they do. And then they have to cope with that in some way form or fashion.”

It’s been 8 years since Jean Hill got the call she says changed her life forever. Her son Barry was a Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy and like the recent case, he too was chasing someone by foot.

“Foot chase ensued. Barry caught his guy. And in the course of handcuffing the guy pulled a gun out of his own pocket and shot Barry seven times. The fifth bullet was the fatal one.”

Jean now works for C.O.P.S which stands for Concerns Of Police Survivors. They’re putting on a three day training session in Houston to help officers deal with the stress that comes from seeing things human beings shouldn’t have to see.

Lee Card is a Harris County Sheriff Deputy attending the training.

“You know we’re normal just like everyone else. And so when you see that child and then you have a child you know that effects us.”

Experts say the job stress can fester deep inside like cancer…and if its not treated it can lead to things like alcohol or prescription drug abuse. Or even suicide.

“You know, hey, we don’t talk about that in the law profession. But suicide, because it happens in this profession.”

So the next time you hear about an officer involved shooting….you may not know it, but without help…it could literally be driving that person crazy.

Bill Stamps, KUHF Houston Public Radio News.

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