Thoughts on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from a former 17-year police detective in Portland.
(PORTLAND, Ore.) - This article was originally published in 2005 in Don Dupay's Portland, Oregon blog: A View From The Street. MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR YOUNG READERS, OR THE FAINT OF HEART.
If you tell someone you have PTSD, folks, the usual reaction is "What the hell is that?" Or "I thought only women had that monthly problem." Combat veterans know what Post Traumatic Stress Disorder feels like, as well as victims of violent crimes, particularly rape victims and sexually abused children...and COPS!
Sure there's a medical definition for PTSD. but this is my definition: PTSD, a lot of crap consisting of bloody horrors, sounds, sights and smells you never wanted to see in the first place and now you can't forget. Let me share with you some horrors I'm stuck with...
I want to forget the murdered naked dead body of the female store clerk at the 7-11 store at 60'th and East Burnside. Her throat was cut and she was raped. I found her face up, bloody, open eyes staring at the ceiling.
I want to forget the sight of Zebedee Manning, murder victim, being gutted on the autopsy table with a linoleum knife and the top of his skull being cut off in search of the bullet still in his brain.
I want to forget the sight and smell of a murdered man found in a house in Sellwood, found after a week of 80 plus degree weather. His flesh had putrefied and turned green. It took a half hour to clear the air in the house before we could go in.
I want to forget the sight of a piece of raw hamburger trying to talk to me, the only thing left of the mans face a after taking a shotgun blast in the face. He didn't live!
I want to forget the sight of a man sitting in a chair in his front room, dead from the shotgun blast that blew his brains all over the ceiling.
I want to forget the sight of a dead man that committed suicide by locking himself in the garage and running a hose from the exhaust pipe into the front seat. The smell of exhaust lingers in my nose...
I want to forget the naked woman, blown all over the bathroom by her boyfriend with a .30.30 rifle. I still see her brains and blood oozing down the bathroom tile attached to bone skull bone splinters.
I want to forget the three dead bodies, literally blown apart by a violent high-speed car crash. Blood dripping down on me from brains splattered high on a power pole still freaks me out!
I want to forget three more dead bodies, two of which were cut in half in the front seat of a car in another violent car crash. Do you have any idea folks how much blood is contained in two cut-in-half bodies splattered all over the front seat?
I want to forget the dead man, shot to death at close range in his kitchen, an argument over a $5 dollar debt. A look of surprise frozen on his face, eyes staring at something he could no longer see.
I want to forget the homeless man who died on the street, vomiting up his life's blood on the sidewalk. I still see his hat fallen from his head floating away in the blood as it ran down the gutter mixing with the hard Portland rain.
I want to forget the old woman that died sitting on the toilet at home. I see her slumped forward, her panties down around her knees. I was embarrassed!
I want to forget the skeletal remains of Bessie Staley, left to die and rot in her bedroom. Her dead body hidden for four years by a crazy man that lived with her.
I want to forget the sight of a dead kid that rode his motorcycle into a power pole in St Johns at 80 mph. A cracked helmet held the bloody remains of his head, nothing but crushed pulp.
I want to forget the sight of a murder victim Donald Holbert, laying on the autopsy table, cut open, revealing that his heart had been blown away by a .357 magnum, victim of a jealous girlfriend.
I want to forget the sight of a murdered man, stabbed to death and dragged down the sharp rocks to the Willamette River's edge and left for the fish to eat.
I want to forget the agony of the old woman that awakened next to her dead husband, and realized she had been sleeping with a corpse all night.
I want to forget the sight of a teenager that hung himself in the closet of his apartment during some strange sex ritual gone wrong. I found him with a pop bottle sticking from his rectum. His father didn't understand. Neither did I.
And how does a cop deal with these bloody memories after getting off shift? I could never just forget about it and go to bed. I dealt with it with alcohol and later on pills too. Drinking enough to pass out was often the only way to forget and get some sleep. But passing out is not the same as sleeping and escaping with alcohol caused its own problems.
To any cop or loved one of a cop reading this now, my advice is to quit the force immediately. Step back. Get out of the line of fire...because twenty years from now it will still be haunting you!!
And for you combat veterans stuck with your memories too, perhaps war does have a purpose. Perhaps it is to teach us NOT TO DO IT AGAIN!
Hey folks, the next time they have a war.....DON'T GO!!
Donald Lee Dupay was a police officer for the Portland, Oregon police bureau, from 1961 to 1978. After five years service as a patrol officer Don was promoted to detective where he worked all the specialty units, morals, auto theft, checks, safe, burglary, special missions, and homicide. He was also an officer coach, instructing others on how to be productive detectives and teaching criminal investigation subjects at the police academy. Don witnessed the unintended consequences of the war on drugs that caused some of the officers in his department to become corrupt. Frustrated by that corruption he quit his job as a homicide detective and became the director of security at a major Portland hotel for several years.
Don has long thought we should legalize the so-called "consensual crimes" of drug distribution and use so we can stop killing each other over our failed drug policies. In his presentations Don offers an interesting perspective on additional unintended consequences - "collateral damage" - the countless innocent lives destroyed by drug prohibition.