Police Psychology: How Officers Recover After Traumatic Event

Police officers often put their lives on the line, but how do they recover when faced with danger?

Dr. Scott Allen, Miami-Dade Police Psychologist, says a traumatic event is any event that is outside the typical scope of normal human actions.

And October 30th, 2013 was anything but normal for Officer Mario Gutierrez. While parked at a gas station on Le Jeune Road and NW 25th street he saw smoke and a man pulling the gas hose.

"I was afraid we were going to blow up," Gutierrez said. "But I knew that I had to deal with the problem."

Gutierrez says he fired his taser at Dominique Jean, but seconds later the man viciously attacked him.

"I remember getting up on my knees and he starts to stab me across my chest," he said. "And I got very scared, because I was like man I'm not going to see my family. And then I got pissed, I got so angry."

Gutierrez then remembers reaching for his gun— he shot and killed his attacker. Fellow officers then rushed Gutierrez from this gas station to the hospital.

"As soon as I was in that emergency room, the first thing I said was get me Dr. Allen," Guitierrez said.

Dr. Scott Allen has been a police psychologist with the Miami-Dade Police Department for more than 30 years. The department's psychological services team is on call 24/7 for officers.

"We respond to all the scenes of officer involved shootings, we respond to the hospital when there is a major traumatic event," Allen said.

Dr. Allen says he was hired in the 1980s to help lower the incidence of suicide in the department. According to the "Badge of Life" there were 108 police suicides in the United States in 2016— a number that has dropped since 2008.

"We average probably one police suicide every two years, so that is an incredibly low incidence," he said.

And after such a traumatic experience that almost took his life, Officer Gutierrez recognizes the importance of a healthy mind to continue doing the job he loves.

"You need it... how are you going to heal your mind, how are you going to heal your emotions if you don't talk. Where are you going to go... it's going to eat you alive," Gutierrez said.

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