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Police chief Hamilton's 'dry your eyes' Tweets: Third generation police officer 'broken' by service in the PSNI

I miss my mind the most: Officer copes with life on the front line by sitting in caves 'to get away from people'

Published 22/08/2016

Chief Constable George Hamilton later apologised on Twitter and the internal PSNI intranet for his ‘frank conversation’ on the social media site
Chief Constable George Hamilton later apologised on Twitter and the internal PSNI intranet for his ‘frank conversation’ on the social media site
Chief Constable George Hamilton later apologised on Twitter and the internal PSNI intranet for his ‘frank conversation’ on the social media site
Chief Constable George Hamilton later apologised on Twitter and the internal PSNI intranet for his ‘frank conversation’ on the social media site

A third generation police officer has spoken of how he has been left "broken" by serving in the PSNI and how he sits in caves "to be away from people".

Over the weekend Chief Constable George Hamilton apologised after he told one of his officers to "dry your eyes" during a public, late night spat on Twitter.

The row erupted in the early hours of Sunday morning when an officer tweeted concern about the increasing pressures of the job.

Mr Hamilton also told the cop to stop "wallowing in self pity" or "seek another job".

More: PSNI chief under fire 'get another job' tweet

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland - the body that represents rank-and-file officers - described Mr Hamilton's outburst as "offensive" and a "great insult".

On Monday morning a police officer - described as having served for decades - outlined how he had been left broken by his time in the PSNI.

 

Speaking on the BBC's Stephen Noland radio show, he said he was in his final month of service with the force as he was unable to work after having suffered what he described as a serious central nervous system injury while trying to help a colleague who "was getting a bad kicking".

"To be a police officer is a very honourable job," he said, "it's a job that you find great satisfaction and incredible results.

"To engage with people to be there to help to keep them safe and to be able to assure them that they are getting a service, that is deserving."

The man said his father and his grandfather had both served with the police.

Caves

He continued: "To be a police officer you don't get paid for what you should do - this must be understood -  you get paid for what's expected, to do as I do.

"You are expected to see things unannounced, invasive, distracting, disturbing, destroying, images, smells, tastes, sounds. Children crying.

"I go and I sit in caves to be away from people. I can't walk at the moment as I am too injured, but I have to be away from people. Because I did what was expected from me.

"I'm decorated for valiantry. I'm a third generation police officer and now because I got injured I'm told I have to leave.

"I can accept and this is something you must do, I can accept that the job that I did and valued so dearly to me has put me in a position where I no longer can do it.

"PTSD is a catchall phrase. It doesn't mention anxiety, depression, it doesn't mention disruption of family, alcoholism, recovery. It doesn't mention pressure you carry from work into the home.

"You don't go home and hang your hat on the back of the door and not see what you've dealt with.

"Policing is a difficult job it's not something you go into lightly. I knew what I was going into."

Flashbacks

The police officer spoke of how sights, sounds, smells or even the weather gave him flashbacks to what he had experienced on the beat in Northern Ireland.

"It could be anybody walking down the street," he went on, "but because I am a police officer it calls upon me, to do, to act, to serve to respond - to do what's expected.

"An elderly gentleman collapsed in front of me. First aid, first response you go into automatic mode. He was sick into my mouth, he'd had chicken soup. I can't eat chicken soup I can't eat chicken.

"If I smell chicken, it takes me back."

The officer talked about how he would recall a fellow officer - "a mate" lying dead "his blood oozing from his body" or a child dying, "or someone taking their last breath in your arms".

"This is what's expected of a police officer," he said.

"To deal with every fundamental policing is like every service for the public. It has to have management. It's difficult to manage police, because it's an evolving creature. Society dictates what we do and therefore management responds.

"My colleagues work very hard, their duty is never ending because today will go into tomorrow and into next week."

Family

The police officer spoke of how his work had taken its toll on his family and home life

He said: "My family and I live in a void of emotional darkness darkness because of what I see and what I hear what I think.

"My wife and children say I am a cardboard cut out - I go into zones of distance.

"But am I sadden by it? No because I did what I had to do."

Support

The police officer said he had eight session of therapy through the police and his doctor had prescribed further treatment. He had also paid for private consultations "to find out what was wrong with me".

He told Stephen Nolan: "I need to be fixed. Of all the things I lost, I miss my mind the most. I don't have the clarity of thoughts, the ability to function. Am I a danger? No.

"I have an ability to do my job - you go to work you put on a different hat, you take on a different facade.

"I had therapy. You go into a room with someone half your age about and incident that happened three, five, 10, 15, 30 years ago. And that doesn't fix it.

"I was told by a professional I had made sufficient recovery and if I practice what I was taught, things would recover in time.

"I had a temporary fix for five months.

"You don't fix mental injury - it's not a sticking plaster.

"I have many injuries - 38 to 39 injuries on my record. If I fall and break my ankle I get it fixed, if I get my toe stubbed I laugh. I can't take my brain out of my head and put delete in for what I carry."

Resignation

The officer said, because of his injury, he was unable to do his job and was forced to resign.

He continued: "Because of my service, because of my injury I am not sustainable in my job.

"I'm a realist. I can't expect a colleague to look after me.

"But I do not get immediately an injured in duty pension and I have to resign.

"Because I was injured for what is my life - which is as a police officer serving.

"I am not sustainable in my job I've no option.

"I did what all those front line - front line officers do on a daily basis.

"They did what's expected, they served with honour and distinction."

The officer added: "My father did 38 years, his father did 36 and I wanted to beat the pair of them. I had no intention of leaving.

"It is easy to say you get institutionalised in such a great organisation as the police. You meet people who you question why you joined - but you get that everywhere.

"But my answer is that I did this because I wanted to help, I wanted to keep people safe, I wanted to make the difference.

"I want my children not to have what I had as a culture growing up.

"We have a brilliant police service - it is under pressure. The people at the coalface are under pressure.

"I am broken because of what I had to do but it's a brilliant job - policing is an education in life."

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