Protecting the Phoenix Police While They Protect Us

It is easy to see Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia has trouble with his eyesight.  The dark framed glasses line his face and aid his eyesight.

Glasses have not helped him see identify the mental health problems right in front of him during his tenure as Phoenix’s top cop.

Unlike other disabilities, mental health issues are invisible to the eye.  Anyone who looks at Chief Garcia can identify his eyesight disability because of his glasses.  Persons with mental health issues do not have that luxury.  When people look at them there is no distinguishing characteristic of their disability.  Instead people only see a seemingly normal individual.  And that normal individual may not be given any accommodations, as no one may be aware of the disability.

Only weeks ago, vocal calls in the community led to the Phoenix PD to announce the establishment of a new  mental health advisory board to help police with training methods when it comes to dealing individuals with mental health issues.  The action only came after high profile mental health calls had mixed and sometimes troubling results.  Perhaps the most troubling case was when the police on a mental health call, trying to get her to come in for treatment, killed the woman, whom they were there to help because she had a weapon and was making threats.

Now the calls are from within the Phoenix Police Department calling for Chief Garcia to resign for failing to recognize and support officers who have mental health issues.  Phoenix Police Officer Craig Tiger committed suicide recently after losing his job over a DUI arrest, reports Fox10Phoenix. Officer Tiger had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  He claimed an on-the-job shooting caused his PTSD, according to Fox10Phoenix.  News reports state Chief Garcia ended up firing Officer Tiger over the DUI.

Chief Garcia did not see the invisible wound his police officer had.

Others in the community just do not see it either.  The Arizona Republic’s Editorial Board argued the loss of Officer Tiger is incredibly sad, but it must not detract from the larger point that Chief Garcia is leading Phoenix PD towards integrity and respect from the community.

Perhaps, I must spell it out to the Arizona Republic’s Editorial Board. The issue is, how can we as a community expect the Phoenix Police to support persons with mental illness, if we do not support the police officers themselves who may be suffering from mental health problems.  The police have a very difficult job and encounter hazards that can take an emotional toll and in turn create mental health problems.

It is time we protect our officers, so they can protect us.

Chief Garcia is Out of Touch With Current Practices

While Chief Garcia is not looking at the root cause of his officer’s actions in order to determine whether to discipline them or not.  This is simply out of step with the current practices.

The United States Department of Defense announced in Sept. 2014, just two months before Officer Tiger’s firing, that it is willing to re-instate health benefits for Vietnam veterans who may have been discharged due to PTSD.  Only in 1980, well after the Vietnam war, was PTSD recognized as a valid medical diagnosis by the DSM III (Diagnostic and Statistics Manual for Mental Disorders).  By issuing a military wide guidance on the fact, the Department of Defense is indicating PTSD led to service members discharge and the unfair loss of health benefits.

It is a shame that Phoenix Police Chief Garcia is perpetuating out of date policies that even the military has abandoned.

Certainly, it is understandable for Chief Garcia to want to take hard stances against things like if his officers receive a DUI.  However, not recognizing a potential underlying cause or contributor to that behavior does not support his police officers in the very difficult jobs they have to do, and consequently does not support the community by giving police officers the tools they need to succeed.

PTSD Paradox

The Phoenix PTSD paradox is Chief Garcia said it is paramount to make serious changes to policy, training, teamwork and technology for the safety of residents and police officers during calls involving the mentally health issues, but when it comes to his own officers/employees mental health issues are taking a backseat and perhaps no seat to other issues.

I am not sure where the term PTSD Paradox originated, but here is a good definition of it.

The Police PTSD Paradox is created by… the fact that we all know that stress can disable or incapacitate us on the job but when that happens to one of our own we defy logic and begin to shun them.  Some agencies even do their best to throw those cops away because they feel like they are tainted or might create a liability.

PTSD Paradox, Copsalive.com

As an individual who as a career police officer served in many different positions ranging as a Detective of the Vice-Division, to the Assistant Police Chief of the Patrol Division, Chief Garcia has a myriad of experiences as a police officer.  As such it is likely he knows the immense stress police officers can be under, especially after tragic events like shootings.

It is time for the leaders of the Phoenix Police Department, whether it be Chief Garcia or someone else, to stop throwing away good cops because they are tainted or might create a liability because of a traumatic experience that happened while on the job.

It is time we as a community put on our glasses, acknowledge the severe stress officers endure on the job, and give good cops the tools and resources they need to handle the stress from the job.

Daniel Garcia’s Resume When Applying For Phoenix Police Chief:

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