Police sergeant who says he got PTSD after shooting man speaks out

May 24, 2012|By Peter Hermann

Sgt. Richard Willard, who this week settled a lawsuit he filed against the city alleging he never got help after fatally shooting a man in 2005, sent me an email wanting to explain his situation further. I had talked to his attorney on Wednesday.

The sergeant, who agreed to drop his litigation in exchange for the city dropping its bid to fire him, will retire July 1, giving him 20 years on the job and enough time to collect his pension, about half his $73,000 salary.

His allegations raised questions about whether city officers who fire their guns suffer emotional distress and whether the department gives them enough help. City police say they send a Critical Incident Team to each police-involved shooting and don't allow officers back on duty until after being cleared by a counselor, and if necessary, a psychiatrist. The police union says the department does a good job in the immediate aftermath of a shooting, but fails long term.

The story of Willard's settlment can be read here.

Willard claims he was forced to take the deal and retire because the department was about to hold an administrative hearing and attempt to fire him -- he says for minor infractions that would not have resulted in termination for any other officer.

Here is some of what Willard had to say:

Basically I had a gun to my head that said... "Take the deal and loose $30,000 and drop the law suit or I will be fired within two weeks" this all coming from the guy I was suing. I have been told he had a bargaining position but it felt like I had no choice but to loose so much I worked for. We have a contract for a reason. I fall under the unlimited medical. They could have at any point given me a letter to retire medically but they would not give it to me.  Normally after someone is on medical for a year they give a letter.  The retirement board would not retire me without the letter. I would have taken the medical retirement last year but they refused without the letter from the city.

I just want to be done with this and I want the Department to take responsibility for not caring for officers. There was NO critical incident team that night. I know they go out on some but not all shootings.  Not one person involved in the shooting was sent to anyone. I was back to work the next day. A year later I was on the phone loosing my mind with Bealefeld my friend and Colonel.

I was sitting in a bathtub with a gun in my mouth. I was loosing everything and my judgment. I was a good cop... I was in the DEA task force for 6 years, Bealefeld put me in charge of the SD non fatal shooting squad. When he made commissioner he had me build the Gun Trace Task Force. I was in no ways lazy. I gave everything to the PD.

Even my mind. I'm so much better now and just want to go on with my life. What I want also is for them to do the right thing for officers. They lie about what they do. And now no one will talk because they sent out a clear message with Andy [police officer who was suspended after talking about nightmares after shooting two people]. Talk and you get suspended. I have talked to several that have been involved in shootings and I know of about 7 that have never been sent to anyone and are having troubles. I try to get them to go on their own. They need to but there is a mind set that if you are a cop and a man and you see a doctor you are weak. 

Sorry to rant... I just don't want any other officer to go through what I did. I'm done and there is nothing for me in the PD.  I am moving on with my life but I feel for my brothers and sisters that are left behind if they get in a shooting or a stressful situation. 

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