Bringing Awareness to Public Safety

The Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs have identified the number one issue from the "Global War on Terror" is Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury.  These invisible wounds have been around since the creation of war.  In World War I, it was called "shell shock", as time has passed and more wars have continued we now have clinical names for them or initials, PTS and TBI.  The signature wounds of our day.

After Vietnam and even during the first half of the current wars the wounds were misdiagnosed and even ignored.  Between 2002 and 2005 thousands of soldiers were discharged from the Army with "personality disorders".  Some may have been, but we are learning many more were suffering from these treatable wounds PTS/TBI.  Many of us know what PTS is, but what about TBI or traumatic brain injury.  In it's simplest form it is a concussion, in most cases a severe concussion.  Unlike a Sunday football quarterback, when a Marine or Soldier is in the blast and shock wave of a IED they do not have the luxury of a time out on the sidelines.  They are blown over and if capable of getting up do so immediately and adrenaline, training and the will to live takes over.  They go on auto pilot ignoring any injury they sustained.  Sometimes the injury is known immediately upon returning to base, other times it can take days weeks, months and even years before symptoms arise.

They return home, back to their communities, off to college with the GI bill benefits.  Some  have difficulty trying to adjust back to life at home they struggle.  They do not seek help for fear of the stigma that could be brought upon them.  They drink too much, drive too fast, stay out of crowds, and a number of other behaviors associated with PTS and TBI. They may end up being confronted by a police officer.

For the past 2 and half years Legionnaire Doug Williams and Mark Sutton have been presenting in front of law enforcement agencies and college public safety departments around the state.  Doug was seeing more and more stories of veterans and police encounters ending badly.  It came to a head in 2009 in Livingston County when an Army veteran of 20 years died from "suicide by cop".   Doug and Mark discussed what could be done.  Doug enlisted the help of others and found some were trying to bring awareness to other groups.  Doug with his 25 years in law enforcement wanted to focus in on that community. 

Doug and Mark travel to law enforcement agencies and colleges around the state focusing on 3 areas.  1. What is PTS and TBI?  And how does it affect the person?
2. What are other communities doing and what are veteran courts?
3. We discuss the things law enforcement  can do, like create procedures to handle situations that may involve a veteran who they come in contact with.  We ask they put in their reports, just that they are veteran, possible war experience if they can obtain the answer.  Write it down. Then if the area has a veteran’s court, maybe the court will use that to send the veteran through treatment.

On May 26th, 2011 Doug and Mark were in Marquette, Michigan talking to a group from the Michigan Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.  In attendance were 22 different college campus public safety administrators.  Doug and Mark will continue their crusade as long as groups are willing to listen.

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