"There are still days where a camera flashes, it reminds me of the gunshot in my face, It sends me right back to that day." Being a deputy, it's a job to some, a calling for others.
"Always wanting to be there, in a sense the cliche of being a hero as a kid. But now it's more of a ministry in a sense that you get to help a lot of people."
Most officers do not know what the day will bring when they walk into work. It's the reason some love the job, but because of that, there is an added responsibility.
"There's no way to prepare for it, when we sign up for this job we understand that a critical incident is very imminent, that it can happen to anyone at any point in time," Sgt. Ryan Flood said.
Greenville County Sheriff's Office explains there is no way to prepare for the job, no matter how much training a deputy sees. Many have seen, or will see, a critical incident during their time on the force. A critical incident can be anything from an officer involved shooting, a fatal car accident, a mass shooting, the list goes on. All of these events can have a lasting impact on these deputies.
"Other people might have regret, they might be self conscious about their reactions in the future, some people might be okay with it, but all of these reactions are normal and that's what it's important for these officers to understand and realize is that not everybody is going to have the same reaction to a critical incident, that's where we come in," Sgt. Flood said.
Now a program called SCLEAP, South Carolina Law Enforcement Assistance Program is there for all Upstate officers should a critical incident occur. Deputies said the program is about three days and covers a lot of ground. Mostly, it is officers listening and being there for other officers. Sgt. Ryan Flood with the Greenville County Sheriff's Office is one of about 400 peer leaders for the program. He understands what the officers are facing, because he's been in a critical incident before.
"Officers a lot of the time are more willing to open up to other officers. Because they feel they can share the same testimony. We've been through those same experience," Flood said.
During the session, deputies and officers will go through PCIS, post critical incident seminar, a time where they talk about an incident they will never forget.
"The first day everyone tells their story, what brought them there. By the end of the first day, those officers are now sitting around after hearing 30 to 40 other stories thinking although mine was bad, it probably wasn't that bad compared to what I heard over the other side of the table," Andy Grueler said.
Andy Grueler is a mental health professional with SCLEAP. "When I started in law-enforcement about 30 years ago, this wasn't it was not heard of It was the old 'suck it up if you can't take it you got a leave.' Well they found with that attitude, they were losing people."
After serving in the secret service and a life long career in law enforcement, he's been in these officers' shoes, but didn't have benefits of this program during his career. "There was nobody there to tell me that my reactions were normal. And I thought there was something wrong with me because I was having these reactions," Grueler said.
One Greenville County deputy, whose identity we've hidden, agreed to talk to Fox Carolina about his day on the job, the day of his critical incident.
"It was due to my partner getting wounded while an officer involved shooting. That I had to return fire at the person who fired at us," the deputy said.
He's gone through SCLEAP's PCIS program and said he's better on the job and outside of work because of it. "I was nervous to go at first, but once I saw all these people, be there and share their hearts."
SCLEAP provides common ground,anything from small group work to medical help from doctors. Families of these officers are also welcome to learn more about what their loved ones are facing. "They weren't there to rag on you, whether someone could've done something better or not, they were just there to support you," the deputy said.
The seminar itself only lasts three days. Greenville County deputies said South Carolina has created the pilot program for SCLEAP and these seminars are only in about six states so far. Confidentiality is important to these officers and this program will provide help even after the three days of this seminar are over.
"When you go through critical incidents, it's going to change you, but it's how are you react to that critical incidents that's going to make you a better or worse person. It's kind of like a wound, if you let it fester it's going to get worse, if you try and heal it, you're going to get stronger from it, that's what PCIS has done for me."
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