Police Officer Shares Own Story of Addiction Made Worse by the Job - NBC 6 South Florida
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Police Officer Shares Own Story of Addiction Made Worse by the Job

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Police Officers May Face With Alcoholism

    NBC 6's Willard Shepard reports on issues related to alcoholism and addiction that police officers face.

    (Published Thursday, May 10, 2018)

    Body camera video captured Miami Dade Police Sergeant Mehran Sawal stumbling and failing a sobriety test after crashing his squad car last May.

    It was his second arrest for drunk driving in three years.

    He quietly retired from the department and is fighting the DUI charges in court.

    He wouldn’t talk to NBC 6 about his arrest but one of his co-workers reached out to us after learning about Sawal’s arrest.

    He wanted to share his struggle with addiction.

    “I just found myself drinking more and more,” said the South Florida police officer who we are only identifying as Carlos.

    “As a police officer, we go to the worst scenes in the world and we handle them. There’s nothing you can throw my way that I can’t handle but I couldn’t stop from putting a bottle into my mouth.”

    Carlos says he is not alone.

    “I have talked to officers from the middle of the state down and it is out of control. Male and female from all different races - they all have an issue,” he said.

    According to a recent publication by Psychology Today, police officers are nearly three times as likely to suffer from addiction as others in the general public.

    For Carlos, the drinking got worse after he responded to a call of a teen who crashed her family car into a canal and died.

    “I was there when the divers came out. I was there when her body and her clothes were inventoried,” he said holding back tears. “She took her last breath with me.”

    The veteran officer says he was haunted with nightmares afterward and turned into alcohol to deal with the pain.

    “I drank until I blacked out every single day of my life for three years,” he says. “I just found myself in a deep hole and I had no idea how I had gotten there.”

    Dr. Scott Allen, a psychologist with the Miami Dade Police Department, has spent three decades researching PTSD among law enforcement officers.

    “The vast majority of the time police officers who respond to a traumatic incident with a child, those officers have some type of a trauma reaction,” he said.

    Therapy is not mandatory in the department but Dr. Allen says officers are feeling more and more comfortable with seeking help.

    Carlos urges officers to take action before they end up in a crash or taking a sobriety test.

    “It doesn’t make you less of a man. You can share your emotion. You can cry and you still serve the public,” he says.

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