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Friday, December 20, 2013

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Police

It takes a certain type of person who can go to the scene of an accident, see the mangled bodies of dead children, mutilated murder victims, suicides and other horrors day after day, and not be affected. Common sense tells us that the mind, just like the body, can only take so much.

Peter Klein was once a happy cop doing a valued job that he loved and now he's being hunted like a criminal.  He's lost his job, his career and his marriage and his only crime was doing his job. 

Having to bear witness to a constant barrage of tragic events eventually took its toll and his brain rebelled and shut down. He's got what hundreds of returned soldiers from Afghanistan have - it's called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and it's real.

For 18 months, the police insurance company MetLife has paid him $400 a week and they are following him and taping his every move, hoping he will do something that will justify letting them off the hook. Family and friends are helping him out financially which only compounds his illness by hurting his pride.

The constant surveillance makes him feel guilty, as though he's done something wrong, and he hasn't.  His career started in Tasmania in 1994 and transferred to NSW in 1998.  His favourite job was working in the Police Air Wing division, where he rescued people hanging from a winch.

Now he rarely leaves the house and survives on a daily cocktail of psychotic drugs.  He's taped up the windows with foil and blankets to keep prying eyes out but their constant presence isn't helping his recovery.

But it was picking up body parts of suicide victims off the rocks at The Gap that finally sent him over the edge.  Once he had to chase crows who took off with part of a skull and an ear because it was his job to get them for the Coroner.  His psychiatrist suggested he return to The Gap as part of his recovery, but it didn't work and he couldn't stay long.

"Forty-one years of age, having your friends and family pay for simple things like food after you've worked two or three jobs, never taken a day off that you didn't need - why am I still being watched? Why is this still going on?  Because to me, surveillance means you're up to no good" he said.

Andy Peverill

Former senior constable Andy Peverill is going through the same thing. Every time he leaves his property with his wife, someone from MetLife is waiting at the gate with a video camera.  "He has to come with me, he can't be left on his own" his wife said.  "The last time I left him on his own he cut half of his hair off because he got extremely anxious, and then another time, he started a grassfire without supervision."

"I never signed up to get PTSD" Mr Peverill said "I signed up to make a difference, to do a good job."  But part of his job description included counting limbs after car accidents, trying but failing to save teenagers from a burning car, and giving CPR to a friend's brother who hanged himself and died in his arms.

One day he just couldn't go to work anymore. Not long after his wife came home to find him in the shed. He was thinking whether or not to hang himself or connect a hose pipe up to the car.

MetLife lost the contract for NSW Police death and disability insurance last year.  Police believe the reason claims are being dragged out is because MetLife still carry the obligation to pay injured police.

Peter Klein and Andy Peverill are not alone, they are part of what they call The Forgotten 300.  So how many other police are out there right now, on the edge, ready to fall over?