A Chattanooga police manual says that after a cop kills a civilian, the department should take great care to spare the officer post-traumatic stress disorder and to insulate him from the public and the press.
A three-page policy signed April 2015 by Chief Fred Fletcher says that PTSD reduction is a vital duty for the agency serving the city’s executive branch — that of the mayor.
By David Tulis / Noogaradio 1240 AM 101.1 FM
That office is held today by Andy Berke. His department’s euphemism for killing a civilian is “incident.”
When city employees shot down Javario Eagle at a Emma Wheeler Homes in December 2015, five officers went through a protocol focusing on their mental health. None were criminally charged. The care for Mr. Eagle’s daughter and widow was left to others.
The document is part of a trove of materials received under an open records request.
Outside the scope of the directive is whether the killing was justified as an act of self-defense.
‘Emotional problems’ for shooter
“Unless adequately treated, these situations can cause disabling emotional and physical problems,” the directive says. “It has been found that officer-involved shootings resulting in death or bodily injury to a citizen or a fellow officer may precipitate such stress disorders. It is the responsibility of this law enforcement agency to provide personnel with information on stress disorders and to guide and assist in their deterrence.”
The department acts quickly “to safeguard the continued good mental health of all involved personnel.”
When a policeman kills a citizen, a supervisor is dispatched to the scene while the department calls the city attorney’s office and the agency’s critical incident stress debriefing team.
The city employee in his blue uniform is taken to a quiet area away from the corpse. “A peer counselor or other supportive friend or officer should remain with the officer but should be advised not to discuss the details of the incident.”
It is important to get the officer away from the scene as soon as possible, the directive says. He is taken to the police service center on Amnicola Highway.
Officials get a preliminary review of his side of the story. Meanwhile, a supervisor advises the cop to seek legal counsel. Officers “shall be advised not to discuss the incident with anyone except a personal or agency attorney, employee organization representative [union], or departmental investigator” until the end of the preliminary probe, the policy says.
What about the officer’s instrument of lethal force? The rules require that his handgun be taken into custody “in a discreet manner.” The officers taking the firearm may replace it with another one, “or advise the officer that it will be returned or replaced at a later time if it would not pose a threat to the officer.”
When a cop kills a citizen, the officer’s family is notified “about the incident” as soon as possible. Everyone is ordered to deal with the officer “in a manner that acknowledges the stress caused by the incident.”
The usage cop comes from “citizens on patrol,” from the days before professional law enforcement.
Paid ‘administrative leave’
It is routine in the police department for the shooting officer to get seven days “paid administrative leave” though the shooter is available for questioning. Meanwhile the officer attends a “confidential defusing and debriefing set up by the peer support coordinator.” This interview is in a “neutral site” with the CISD team, peer support and a licensed mental health professional.
The officer is to be kept out of sight of media and a person friendly to him should answer his phone for several days after his name has been released to the media.
After police gun down Javario Eagle in a massive show of force in December 2015, officers go through a protocol that seeks to reduce mental health damage that sometimes occurs after the taking of a human life. (5 minutes)