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Traumatized Newtown Cops Unable to Work & at Risk of Losing Paychecks

by Jenny Erikson on December 27, 2012 at 7:06 PM

In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, a few Newton cops are suffering from severe emotional distress and are unable to return to work. About 15 police officers have been “critically affected” by the horror they witnessed as first responders, and a handful of them have been taking sick leave to try to recover from the trauma.

That sick leave is about to run out though, and the officers will be left without a paycheck. The union, Council 15 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, is advocating for lawmakers for expanded workers’ compensation benefits for witnesses of horrific crime scenes. Currently, employees are only covered for mental impairment “as the result of using or being subjected to deadly force -- but not for those who witness crime scenes with mass casualties.”

On December 14, Adam Lanza walked into two first grade classrooms and repeatedly shot and killed 20 children and six adults, before turning the gun on himself. The children were shot between two and eleven times each, and most died on scene. There is no known motivation for shooting.

This is probably the worst crime scene that a cop will ever walk into. By the time the first responders got there, it was over. There was no adrenaline of walking into a live gunfight to distract from the dead children and the terrified faces of the survivors. There’s no sense, no reason, and nothing to be done but sweep the area and notify families. 20 families that each have to be told that their precious child has been murdered by a mad man.

I don’t blame the cops for not wanting to jump back into work after witnessing that kind of slaughter. When the names and ages of the victims were released, I felt sick to my stomach just seeing the letters and numbers in print -- I can’t imagine what those officers felt when they walked into Sandy Hook and saw what they saw.

Eric Brown, an attorney for the union, says that outside agencies have been providing counseling services, but officers taking time off to recover could use up their sick leave by early January. Providing an emotional trauma benefit provision for the cops would allow them to take more time to recover.

The issue will probably be debated and discussed in the next legislative session, when lawmakers will weigh the cost and potential for abuse against the need for such a measure in extreme cases. State Rep. Stephen Dargan, Democrat and co-chairman of the legislature’s public safety committee says, “We don’t want it to be used in an abusive way, but the circumstances are so horrific in Newtown. We need to protect those first-responders and give them all the help we can give them.”

Do you think the first-responder officers should be given time off for emotional trauma?


Photo via bill85704/Flickr

Filed Under: crime, guns, human rights, in the news, death

Comments

23
  • bills...
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    billsfan1104

    December 27, 2012 at 7:57 PM
    Absolutely they should. But during that time, they need to also get help. I just know if I could ever go back to work after this
  • keriley1
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    keriley1

    December 27, 2012 at 8:33 PM

    I don't know if I could sleep, eat, move, or do ANYTHING much less go back to work after I walked into that. With all the fundraisers for the families of the children are there any for the first responders?


  • Pinkmani
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    Pinkmani

    December 27, 2012 at 8:45 PM

    They need more than just time off, they need professional help. They oughta treat it now, before PTSD devlops - because that ain't no joke!


  • Venae
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    Venae

    December 27, 2012 at 8:51 PM

    This is a very wealthy community, so the families are able to pay for funerals, etc.  Some of the money sent to the town should definitely go to the first responders while they take time off work and get counseling; that being said, they can't live the rest of their lives on disability.

    Our military men and women are exposed to atrocities all the time - no one ever sends them donations to help them get back on their feet while they get counseling.

     


  • joann...
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    joannabill

    December 27, 2012 at 9:04 PM
    This is something that needs to be done. This town is rich enough and should be able to help its own out
  • lasombrs
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    lasombrs

    December 27, 2012 at 9:45 PM

    Certainly. if not some of the donations should go to them


  • MokaM...
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    MokaMommy

    December 27, 2012 at 10:26 PM

    I can't imagine the horror the first responders witnessed. I agree with Venae, it's a hazard of the job. Our military, firefighters and police officers see things that will give them nightmares for years to come.

     


  • tuffy...
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    tuffymama

    December 27, 2012 at 10:49 PM
    Get therapy and go on with life. How many of our spouses have seen worse or even had to inflict worse in war, and sack up the next morning to do it all again? As a Clinton-era Marine, my DH stacked little bodies like cordwood in Africa, and witnessed atrocities in Bosnia that STILL can strike him mute. It was duty. He signed up for it, just as these cops did. They need to get help and go on, or get help and move on. It's evidently part of the job. Sad but true.
  • FFWifeL
    -- Nonmember comment from

    FFWifeL

    December 28, 2012 at 12:07 AM
    I agree with tuffymom. Such a horrible tragity and so many effected. But they signed up for this line of duty that doesn't come easy. And what about all the firefighters and EMS crews that had to directly touch these children? THEY are very forgotten... Want to talk about PTSD...
    My husband is a firefigther/paramedic and no one ever thinks about how they feel during those horrific ordeals.
  • Mom2f...
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    Mom2fourlove

    December 28, 2012 at 9:29 AM
    7 adults!!!! 20 children and 7 adults!!
1-10 of 23 comments

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