tv America Tonight Al Jazeera January 25, 2016 9:30pm-10:01pm EST
[ ♪ ] you want to talk about what you have, homicide. dad. >> plane crashes. one-year-old. disorder. >> what is the number one cause of death for police officers in the country? >> suicide. >> it's policy with most departments workers comp to deny any kind of a stress claim. >> post-traumatic stress disorder drove me to become a mental case. >> what is the reluctance to rtionz this. >> -- recognise this? >> money. >> this is the vest that i wore through most of my career. >> reporter: this man spent a dozen years working as a police
officer in arizona. until post-traumatic stress disorder forced him into an early retirement. >> my first year there was an officer-involved shooting involving a pursuit of someone who was suicidal. he ended up driving up officers, and 14 were shot, and killed a guy trying to run. that was the first eye opening event. it was witnessing the loss of human life. you, yourself were in reel human danger. what was it? >> it was more realising that, you know, that could happen to me easily, a lot. my life could be in danger. there were many things like mum's boyfriend abusing,
doing c.p.r. ..doing c.p.r. on a little one-year-old that mum's boyfriend beat to death. and doing c.p.r. so well, that the fire department leaves you doing c.p.r. and i probably did c.p.r. for 10 minutes on a kid that we knew there was no chance, and going to the hospital, staying with his body for the remainder of the investigation. >> reporter: he wrote about his post-traumatic stress disorder for american police speak describes the drama as a bucket of incidents, like the abused child kept filling it up until the mental capacity to hold it together overflowed. >> tell me about the incident that changed your career
together. may 28th, 2009, i was a gang detective. we happened to be close to a fight, a black mustang fled. we went after them. whoever was driving tried to run my partner over. i wasn't going to let him get run over. i made the decision to shoot. i believe i shot six times, hit the driver, and he stopped his actions. what no one knew is that his 15-year-old girlfriend was in the back seat of the car, and just the angle we were at, one of my rounds, unfortunately hit her and killed her instantly. i could see someone lumped over in the back seat of the car and it hit me that i killed that person, and the person in the back seat hadn't been doing anything to me. once the scene was secure, i turned and walked into the desert.
>> what went through your mind? >> just the anxiety through the roof. started sweating. >> when were you dying most with p.t.s.d. >> i was diagnosed with the post-traumatic stress disorder, i was given the option to go to a residential treatment programme. >> did it help? >> yes, it saved my life. >> it's a powerful statement. for many dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, there's suffering. according to a 20 and study, examining the mental health of active duty american police officers, between 15 and 18% suffer symptoms. post-traumatic stress disorder, and most don't get the help they need. >> it's a national scandal for law enforcement.
>> this is a connecticut troop. with the badge of life studying outcomes. >> what is the number one cause of death for police officers in this country? >> suicide. >> but that is the tip of the iceberg. undernea underneath the iceberg is depression, anxiety, p.t.s.d. outline those things. >> these are fores on schedule. >> we call it the wounded. >> he was soon back in uniform. a few months later he was on the scene of another shooting.
the symptoms of p.t.s.d. came roaring back and his job performance took a hit. >> my anger when through the roof. and it's not a good thing. i realized the anger was so bad it could lead to use of force. that's a reason i had to leave law enforcement. i didn't want to end up in prison with some i put there. >> like many. he committed a claim for workers compensation. his employer, the city, denied it initially. >> it's policy with most department workers comps to deny a stress blame. they don't believe it. thinking the employee is trying
to pull one over, or trying to misuse the system. this year, after several suicides in arizona, state lawmakers debated a bill that would have added p.t.s.d. to the list of injuries coveredly this legislation. similar efforts failed it states that have seen horrible mass shootings, like connecticut and colorado after the move jip theatre massacre. >> "america tonight" rode along with police, where a routine night could be filled with anything but routine. >> you're going to kill me. you. >> how many police departments disability? >> it's only five states recognising it for workers comp.
>> what is the reluctance to recognise this. >> they'll go bankrupt. they'll drain the town, the system. money. ron clarke says there's 100,000 active police in the west with p.t.s.d. >> your organization recommends check ups for police officers. >> absolutely. >> how many are doing this? >> not many. >> why not. >> when we put that concept. we were heretics. you do conferences and they look at you. now they are looking. makes sense. you do a check in. >> what is at stake. it can only help the public happier healthier police mean
this former new york state trooper retired in florida almost 15 years ago. seeking relaxation. instead, he is haunted with a severe case of post-traumatic stress disorder. the result of responding to countless tragedies playing out in his mind over and over again. >> you call the flashbacks like a slide show. >> yes, my slide projector as i call it. post-traumatic stress disorder. the accumulative of fatal actions i handled, suicide, homicide, plane crashes, et cetera. when i was doing them, we use to slam them, back them. it's not the right thing. they were human being, that's
the way we were trained. do your job. >> mike asked for safety we use his first name. second-guessing his actions caused internal torture. the ones that hits the tacker in the hearts is the ones you feel responsible for killing. okay. it was i-95. and back then truck tyres, they'd put them underneath and chain them down. >> the spare tire. the truck tire came out. there was a daughter and a mother in the car. and it came right through. i was there within 30 seconds. and you could see the woman drive was pregnant, clear as a bell. nine months pregnant. i carry a pocket knife. i took is out in the car. they were dead.
like a deer i sliced and pulled the deer out. to this day i live with if i had done that, would that kid have lived. or died. anyway, would it die, it was a triple fatal. that's just one. >> reporter: mike's trauma dating back to his 22.5 year career, when it controls vast stretches of highways in the kat skill mountains. one of my first calls, a 90-year-old man. once a day he left the porch to check it. once a day i was working the day the drunk driver ploughed into him and killed him. that's 35 years later. i tell you, i'm driving down a back road. if i see someone, guess what i think about.
i think of that guy. i get that flash back. this is from the drug force appreciation police officer of the year. >> reporter: for the most part p.t.s.d. didn't seem to affect his career. he rose through the ranks to become an investigator. after the retirement in 2001, p.t.s.d. took over. his life turn. >> i started going through alcohol, and it led to drugs, which can you believe that. half my life i'm chasing drugs. i called it the devil's spur, everything else. wait a minute. >> you spent years of your feet. >> putting my life in jeopardy, to clear the streets of it.
to get the people's kids that use it. >> drugs and alcohol abuse took a toll on mike's family. in the middle of the night he would disappear on his wife and children. he said he'd get in the car and just drive, for hours. eventually he found himself on the other side of the law. he was arrested, accused of impersonating a police officer, after putting on an old drug enforce. jacket and parking in front of someone's house like he was doing a statement. >> i was mentally unstable. >> it was a nightmare. sorry. so see him standing there in hand cuffs. >> despite the shock, debbie
ortize said the arrest turned out to be a life-saving glesing in disguise. >> they took me to the judge's chambers, literally, she said honey, i think he has p.t.s.d. and we need to help him. at that point, for lack of a better explanation ... >> reporter: it made sense. >> it made sense. >> so as he's starting that journey, what journey did you take. we were in the process of a divorce proceeding. we were barely on speaking terms. this man is in trouble, and i can't walk away from him. >> reporter: debbie, a
professional writer had him searching online for information, p f.s.d. she was shocked to find few few resources. >> how does it happen. how does someone dedicate their life to dedicating others, forcing the laws. ending up in a position like this. no one is talking about it. i went to the producing partner. we had a small production company. i said i think i know what we'll be doing. >> she said what's that? >> she said documentary. >> when i grow up i want to be a police officer. >> i want to be a police officer to keep people safe. officer. >> you can't toss me aside. >> disassociated. >> suicide.
>> help me. >> reporter: after five years interviewing police officers across the country debbie's documentary, code 9, officer needs assistance shows the tragic story of how post-traumatic stress disorder effects police officers, how scuffed could be a way out. yourself. >> to be honest back then, yes. now, the question would be did i do reckless behaviour thinking i could commit suicide. i go to areas, bad people, lots of guns, what am i doing there, you know. i'm retired, i should be sitting in a share collecting
check. >> reporter: i think he wishes he was dead. if something happens, he'd have been killed. michael was trying to figure out a way on how to end it all. mann, fair. >> reporter: who let him down? >> you know, the department. the department let him down. had they offered him the proper training, he'd never be in a position he is in today. his department let him down. >> next, how one police officer is leading the way and changing the culture. >> i hope that wellness piece is part of the culture and routine.
realisation if i kept on the path i was going, i would lose the family. i didn't want to do that. i didn't want to be known as a mental case. p drove me to become a mental case. >> on the upside of the country, retired plaintiff diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder leads a p.t.s.d. peer support group for other officers. do you think the symptoms have been improving. >> i was not able to do simple tasks. i felt like i was going crazy. i don't feel that way any more. >> what do you tell them. >> the big thing is telling them they are not alone. even though everyone as go through a different incident. usually the simply tomatoes are the same.
>> 100,000 active duty officers suffered symptoms, and still on the job. >> there's a risk to society. the police officers are highly stressed out. anxiety off the chark. flashbacks coming. they'll be a risk to society, absolutely. when i see something on tv about a police officer, let it be overactive. i would like to know what happened to that guy earlier in the shift for the past week. >> there's potential for stress injuries to lead to more aggressive before, which is another reason to get it the treated sooner. >> reporter: the risk to public
safety for those that share an oath. it's a reason to fight for change, inside the former department. the new chief at the police department is getting the message. he's taking bold steps. almost unheard of in law enforcement. and putting p f.s.d. on the forefront of his apartments's agenda. what changes have you made in regards to helping officers deal with these incidents since you became chief? >> we added an officer to peer support. to get more of an outreach to the officer. >> every time there was a shooting or a bad accident. we'll call peer support out. the police department has increased the need for enters involved in traumatic incidents and
curriculum. >> i was going to not let... >> reporter: a documentary on p.t.s.d., featuring the story, has been shown to officers. >> courageous. while i watch the film, and i see him. i'm almost at tears to see what my guys, my friend went through. >> are you seeing a cultural shift within the department. >> i think in the last six months. >> five years from now, i come back and check on the police department. this. >> hopefully we have less p.t.s.d. retirements, because we are helping officers a long way. not waiting for them to have the critical issue. i hope it is part of the culture and part of the routine.
>> but it faces challenges. budget cuts, not enough funding for councillors, and concern for retirees, who did not get treatment or acknowledgements of p.t.s.d. >> no department or united states recognised that an officer died of p.t.s.d. not one department. it's inconceivable. you take our figures, you've lost about 12, 1400 officers for suicide. >> reporter: ron clark, with badge of life says the figures don't take into account retired police. it's likely higher. there's cops out there that wake up in the nightmares. we could fill a stadium with officers that are probably retired. >> reporter: former officers
like mike, who struggles to stop the post traumatic mine. >> reporter: how do you get through every day. >> you got to go one day at a time. like after the interview i'll get in the car and get a coffee. trigger. >> reporter: they are all over. >> all over, because it's impossible to take that magic head. >> reporter: seeking peace, admitting some days are hard, but determined to be a survivor, unlike too many of his brother and sisters in blue.
>> we tend to band together, so we have a voice. >> we're just surviving. it's really hard. o >> zika threat. >> the explosive threat of zika virus to new geographical areas with little population immunity is another cause for concern. >> health officials say the mosquito-borne virus linked to birth defects will spread across the americas. gaining ground. the syrian government recovers a key town from opposition