Alarming information uncovered in an internal Vancouver Police union report has revealed that as many as one in three officers are dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while on the job.
A survey of more than 700 Vancouver officers shows nearly 32 per cent of officers fall in the range of diagnosable PTSD.
The results show a high number of officers are suffering from anxiety, depression, exhaustion and cynicism.
“They come from our members, and so we have to take those numbers very seriously,” Vancouver Police Deputy Chief Warren Lemcke said.
Psychologist Dr. Gregory Passey said PTSD can take a toll on officers.
“It can have a huge impact,” Passey said. “It disrupts their sleep, often have nightmares, difficulty concentrating, multitasking.”
He says officers may also act in a more aggressive manner.
“You can see an increased aggressive behaviour occurring, much quicker than one would expect with someone without PTSD,” Passey said.
But Lemcke says the department screens and monitors officers very carefully.
“We look at things like the amount of overtime someone works, the amount of sick time that person is taking, if they have been in multiple car accidents, do they have complaints against them that are being investigated by the professional standards section, and several other things.”
The toll of PTSD is often seen on first responders too.
“Last year we had 40 suicides of first responders in Canada. A third, about 13, were in British Columbia,” NDP MLA Vancouver-Hastings Shane Simpson said.
“Every day, they are going to situations that you and I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with.”
Lemcke said Vancouver police offers peer to peer counseling, psychologists, critical incident stress management, among other things, to help officers.
He said the VPD is doing well, but there’s always things that can be done.
“On a scale of one to 10, I would say it’s around an eight, and the reason I say eight is there is always room for improvement.”
-With files from John Daly