Information uncovered in an internal Vancouver Police union report, obtained by John Daly of Global BC, has revealed that levels of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among police officers are as high as one in three.
Over 700 Vancouver officers were surveyed and nearly 32 per cent fell within the range of diagnosable PTSD.
The report shows especially high numbers of officers showing signs of anxiety, depression, exhaustion and cynicism.
PTSD can take a major toll on minds and bodies of officers
Vancouver Police Deputy Chief Warren Lemcke says he is taking these numbers “very seriously.”
Psychologist Dr. Gregory Passey said PTSD can take a significant toll on officers in the long term.
“It can have a huge impact. It disrupts their sleep, often have nightmares, difficulty concentrating, multitasking.”
He says PTSD may result in officers acting more aggressively, both on the job and off.
“You can see an increased aggressive behaviour occurring, much quicker than one would expect with someone without PTSD.”
Existing measures in place to treat stressed workers
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.”
But police officers aren’t the only ones experiencing high levels of PTSD, first responders are often in the same category, according to NDP MLA Vancouver-Hastings Shane Simpson.
“Last year we had 40 suicides of first responders in Canada. A third, about 13, were in British Columbia… 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 says he would give their current system of handling stress levels in officers an eight out of 10.