California Peace Officers’ Association: LEADS PTSI & Resiliency
SGT Michael Sugrue (Retired) share his personal story in dealing with PTSI in this webinar with CPOA. As a new police sergeant, Michael Sugrue encountered a situation that was not only tragic and surreal, but it was a call for duty that changed his life forever. He found himself in reckless abandon and on the verge of self-destruction until he mustered the courage to ask for help. This is a story on issues that prevent law enforcement professionals from seeking mental health services. Let’s change this conversation. Mental health should be available to all. The transcript of his presentation is below.
Give you a little bit of info about me. I’m currently a retired Sergeant from Walnut Creek Police Department. I retired back in July 2018 and I medically retired for PTSD. Prior to my career at Walnut Creek. I was in the Air Force. I was actually a captain and security forces and I dealt with anti-terrorism, force protection, law enforcement. I spent time in Europe, the Middle East and in South America. I began my career with Walnut Creek in 2004 and a bunch of different assignments. I was an FTO in house detective. Was also undercover on a state drug task force. Was eventually promoted and was also a public information officer. And now what I currently do is I do a lot of podcast interviews. I also do public speaking at various police departments across the nation. I’m also for the VA and speaking later this year at the CPOA advanced conference in San Diego.
And the whole purpose of today is I kind of want to talk about PTSI. A lot of people know it as PTSD. I prefer to call it PTSI because I believe it’s truly an injury as opposed to a disorder. And I believe that it’s an injury based on exposure to trauma. In our case as first responders, it’s usually a repeated trauma over numerous years, and there’s also usually a combination of really big incidents, traumatic incidents. And for most of us, it’s a combination of the communicative stress and then a really big incidents. And so I’m here to talk about my personal experience with that. My recovery, and how to move forward from there. So let me go all the way back to December 2012, I was a brand new Sergeant with the Walnut Creek Police Department. Literally it was two weeks off the training program as a Sergeant. It was my second solo shift, started the night after Christmas. And that night I was actually involved in a fatal shooting.
Basically it was a female, she had called 911. She was inside a condo apartment, and there was a subject with a knife. As we got closer to the call, turns out that there was actually a boyfriend and female barricaded inside a bedroom and a third party with a knife. Another officer. And I arrived on scene matter of a couple minutes. As soon as we got there, we could hear blood curling screams. At the same time, the dispatcher was yelling that there was a commotion and a struggle. And then the line went dead. So my partner and I, we knew that units were coming, but we had to run to this unit as quick as possible. And so we just started running towards the sounds of the screams. We got there, and early enough, it went dead silent. As we got in front of this condo, it was a two story condo with units on both sides.
And we eventually made our way through a broken window. There was a huge window, the size of a door that had been broken inside the condominium. But we went in through the downstairs to the kitchen. It was no signs of a struggle. It was quiet, it was dark and nothing obvious going on other than the broken and window. Cleared the downstairs, we then get to the bottom of the stairs. And all we know at this point is that we have a couple who called in saying there was a subject with a knife. We heard the screams. We don’t know if they’re dead, if they’re dying, if they’re bleeding out, but we know we got to get to them. So we’re at the bottom of the stairs. Just challenging. We don’t see anything. Moments later, a subject comes out, eyes are just wide open, sweating, profusely, just a glaze look staring straight through us.
We’ve got our handguns out. We’re giving repeated commands to show us his hands. And there is absolutely no visible reaction whatsoever. It’s as if we’re not there. And there’s no facial expressions, no body language, nothing, no reaction. Eventually two more officers make their way inside the unit, stowed human commands. And this seems like a long time, but we’re talking a matter of seconds. Suddenly the male subject takes the butcher knife in a stabbing motion over his head and starts coming down the stairs towards us. We immediately discharge our firearms. Three out of the four. We used our firearms. One tried to tase and missed. The subject, came down the stairs. Two of the officers retreated into a nearby room. And the other subject that tried to tase the suspect, stepped back. We’re literally now just less than a few feet away from the subject of the bottom of the stairs.
We can’t see any visible injuries. We don’t know if we hit him. We don’t know what’s going on, but we know that he still has the knife. He’s got the knife clenched in his right hand and we’re telling him to drop the knife, drop the knife. And he started, he starts coming back up at us with this knife. We immediately discharge our firearms again, killing him instantly. There’s there’s no nice way to say it. I can’t sugar coat it. He was killed instantly. The fast forward we were able to get two officers upstairs to the bedroom. And it turns out that this couple had been physically barricading themselves against the bedroom door. And he was literally stabbing through this bedroom door and the door was coming off the hinges. I have no doubt that had we not gotten there when we did that, these people would have been killed. No doubt whatsoever. Thank God they were not physically harmed. I can’t speak to their emotional state. Our officers were not harmed physically.
But that was the incident. And this incident was just absolutely critical for me. And I had been involved in a lot of small incidents, nothing to this level, never been involved in any kind of shooting or any kind of fatal incident for that matter. As soon as this happened, my whole world just instantly changed. And it almost just seemed like a bad dream. I could go into the whole process of what happened with the interviews and the investigations and whatnot, but to cut that part short, we were up double hours. We got interviewed by the DA’s office, our internal investigators. We were cleared a short time later, the shooting was cleaned. There’s absolutely no issues. And fast forward to about five months after that in our County, we have what’s called a coroner’s inquest. And that occurs for any time there’s any kind of fatal incident involving law enforcement. So that could be a correctional setting where somebody dies in the jail. It could be a vehicle pursuit where somebody crashes into a citizen, they die, or in this case, a fatal shooting.
The key thing about this is that a lawsuit had already been filed. The family of the suspect immediately filed the lawsuit. They filed it within a week, and this is now happening five months later. It’s the first legal or civil proceeding that we had. It was fully open to the public. There was a full jury there, a commissioner, judge, several people from my agency reporters were there. My wife at the time, and several family members of the suspect that we killed. I just remember this distinctly because it was the first time I heard the dispatch tapes replayed of this incident. And it just instantly brought me right back into that moment. I got tunnel vision. I started sweating. Literally my heart started racing and I couldn’t believe it. It was just like I was right back there. I ended up getting on the stand. I testified, feet away from this jury. And I ended up just breaking down. I mean, bawling like a baby.
And when I say that I’d never cried like that in front of people, in front of any kind of group. Whether it was in the military, law enforcement and I was ashamed. I was embarrassed. The judge eventually, excused me, I got my stuff together, came back to the courtroom. We finished the proceedings. About a week or two later, we got the finding that we wanted, which was good news. So again we’ve been cleared on the shooting. We got defining and the coroner’s inquest, the lawsuit is still going on. And for me, I have to tell you this part of my story, because it’s absolutely pivotal for my experience. But after that finding of the coroner’s inquest, I had got called into an office and there was discussion. And I literally thought I was going to get kudos for being called a hero, saving lives, doing this great job. In the coroner’s inquest, my officer is doing a phenomenal job. None of them were injured or hurt.
And the exact opposite of that happened. And what happened was that the entirety of my emotions got put into question. And when I say that, I mean they were either literally or in a kind of roundabout, the way inferred that I was acting or putting on a show for this jury. And you have to understand that for me, that was the first time I’d ever even gotten emotional like that. And now here I am being questioned on the genuineness of my emotion. And so what that did for me was I made a conscious decision at that moment that I was never going to show emotion again. I was going to suck it up. I was going to pretend like everything’s fine. I was never going to show weakness like I thought I had. And I was just going to press on with my life and just move forward with my career.
Sounds great. But in reality, it wasn’t. And my life just started taking a downward spiral, and my marriage started falling apart. I started putting my officer safety aside at work, having constant nightmares. I was isolating. I was drinking way too much alcohol. I did not want to be in social settings whatsoever. I wanted to avoid friends, family, coworkers. When I was at work, I was operational and it was like I was able to put that aside. But when I got home and I was on my own time, that’s when I just had time to just think and think about all this stuff that I went through that was going on. And that’s when I really realized how bad it was getting. Now to fast forward. And I mentioned the lawsuit and this drug on for four years. So four years of depositions, the father of the suspect that we killed was that each and every single one, they went on all day. And so basically we had to relive this, the shooting where we almost died for four years.
And eventually our case actually did go to federal court. It went September 2016, it was a federal civil trial. And what made this really bad also was that there was four of us involved in this shooting in this incident. And we got qualified immunity on the first volley of shots. And so what the federal judge did was actually split us up. And two of us became defendants and two became witnesses. And so here we are in federal court on trial. And I can’t even explain what that feels like to a police officer, but I absolutely felt like a criminal. I had this jury just staring at me. I had these crazy expert witnesses that were coming in. Some of which called us cold blooded murderers. Oh, what I forgot to mention was the suspect that we killed had an identical twin brother. And he was also at this trial. And so you can imagine after having years of nightmares and seeing the same face in my nightmares with this knife coming at me, and now I have the identical person behind me in this federal courtroom.
The trial, it went a full two weeks and we prevailed. I don’t say there’s winners because there’s no winners in this incident. We prevailed. I thought for sure that when this trial was over, I thought my life was going to go back to normal. I thought everything was going to go away. I thought I could forget about this shooting. Like for some reason I formed this belief that all these issues I was having was based on the fact that this trial was still looming over me. And I figured once it was done, once we won, it would just all magically go away. It absolutely didn’t. It actually made my life much worse. I started second guessing myself. I started questioning my actions, wondering what could I have done different? I went from thinking what I did was so right and so correct to just starting to doubt myself, when I had no reason to. But it was after hearing two weeks of testimony of just these outlandish crazy theories. I started drinking more, started isolating.
I specifically remember going into situations at work, completely putting my officer safety aside. One was a incident, four-15 in progress or a domestic violence incident. I didn’t wait for cover. I just went right past him. I went into the house, stupidest thing I’ve ever done. Just completely put my officer safety aside. I got to the point where I didn’t care if I lived or died. I just didn’t care. I thought about suicide. I didn’t think about actively killing myself, but I thought about if I die on duty, at least I go out a hero. I’m going to be remembered. There’s going to be statues up. There’s going to be some plaque somewhere. My daughter’s going to be taken care of. And unfortunately in our culture, you die on duty. You’re a hero. If you kill yourself, you’re a coward. But I completely put my officer safety aside.
I did not care. I didn’t want to be here anymore. I was tired of the suffering. I was tired of the depression. I was tired of the nightmares and I was too scared to ask for help. I was ashamed. I was embarrassed. I didn’t have anybody. I could talk to. Nobody I could go to. To fast forward a short time after that, we’re now talking November 2016. So my trial ended September 2016. Now a week after Thanksgiving, 2016, I’m on duty. I’m the day shift patrol Sergeant. Call comes out of a suicide. Turns out it’s my best friend. He lives in the city. And by the time I put together whose house it was and what was going on, I had just gone to John Muir, ER, as they’re bringing my friend in on a gurney. And it turns out that he had slit both wrists, stabbed himself in the torso multiple times. OD ed on numerous prescription pills.
I thought he was going to die. I literally had like 10 seconds to talk to him before they rushed him off into emergency surgery. Now this man he’s my best friend. He was a reserve officer with our department for 35 years. He was my partner. We rode together for at least 12 years. He was a Vietnam vet. Military police turns out he was in a Vietnam prison, a deadly prison riot. People were getting killed, left and right in front of him, he had PTSI. I didn’t know it. He never talked about it. I had no idea. And I had known this gentleman for 12 years at that point when this happened. I had no idea. Thank God he’s alive today. I actually still see him every week for lunch. And I tell him to this day he saved my life. He is the reason why I finally decided to ask for help. About a month after that happened, thinking about it and just wearing on me and thinking of what is going to happen with my daughter. And how is she going to feel, how is she going to go through this?
I remember I went to the gym. I was actually off on vacation. It was the day anniversary of my shooting. And I just broke down in a parking lot for two hours. And finally I got the courage and the strength. And I call it courage and strength because I know that now. I was so ashamed, so embarrassed for so long and I asked for help. Best thing I’ve ever done my entire life. I called the watch commander. He immediately took care of me, made the notifications. And from that point on is when I started my recovery and got me to where I am today. So what I want to talk about real briefly is just the recovery and what works.
But first, what I want to acknowledge is that I waited far too long to ask for help. I waited four years to ask for help. And that’s simply because I was ashamed and I was embarrassed and I didn’t have anybody. I felt comfortable talking to. I made those mistakes and I’m telling my story so that if there’s people out there suffering and I know there’s a lot of people out there suffering, I have no doubt. I’m not special. My experience isn’t special. There are thousands of first responders, police officers that are out there suffering. They’ve been through numerous traumatic incidents. They’ve been involved in just horrible things. That’s our profession. That’s what we do. We see these traumatic things day in and day out and they take a toll. They take an absolute toll.
I know that our profession, we have to put up this front like we’re superman, superwoman, we’re invincible. And part of that is true. We have to have that mentality when we go into these dangerous situations … we go into these calls. Whether it be some huge [inaudible 00:17:49], an active shooter situation, domestic violence. Just call after call. We have to go in there. We can’t show weakness. We have to take charge. We have to gain control and that’s true, but once that’s done and once things are controlled and resolved and we have time to decompress, that’s when we need to address, what’s going through our head. We need to talk about how we’re feeling. And we need to talk about how these things affected us. And I’m not saying that we need to do this after every single call, but there are certain calls where … and the big ones are obvious. But the fact is that different things affect different people in different ways. And that’s just based on our own lives, our own personal experience. That’s what determines the effect that it’s going to have on us.
So I immediately, we had a contracted therapist with our department. She’s absolutely amazing. And eventually she got me hooked up with another therapist who’s tied into the West Coast Post trauma Retreat and I’m currently a volunteer there. And I’ll talk about that a little bit more. I started seeing her immediately, every single week. I actually still see her to this day. Not as much. She told me about something. I had no idea about they’re called first responder support group meetings and they have them all over. The ones that just come to the top of my head right now. They’re in Sacramento, Napa, Concord, Fairfield, San Francisco. They’re literally all over California and they’re all over the U.S. What they are is, they’re usually held once a week. They’re about an hour long, and it’s a discussion meeting. That’s all it is. It’s a hundred percent anonymous. It’s open to any first responders. So police officers, dispatchers, paramedics, firefighters, you’re all welcome.
Only first names are used. Agencies aren’t discussed, it’s a discussion meeting. This is where I truly learned that I was not alone. I met fellow first responders that I personally witnessed opening up in a room full of people and just sharing the deepest emotions and stories. And that gave me strength to go on with my journey and do what I needed to do, and to let me know most importantly, that I wasn’t alone. And so I stressed to you. If you’re out there suffering, these meetings are available. Oftentimes the peer support people in your agencies are aware of this. If not, there’s the First Responder Support Network. You just Google it.
That’s what the West coast post-trauma retreat falls under, and they have links on their website and they’ve got links for these first responders support me. So I highly encourage you if you’re suffering, if you’re having issues, whether it’s addiction, whether it’s gambling, alcohol, stress, whatever the case may be. You just need to talk to somebody you need to realize you’re not alone. So please, please look into these meetings. They’re absolutely lifesaving. After that, I actually went through the West Coast Post trauma Retreat in May 2017 as a client. It saved my life. That’s the bottom line. I’m just going to say a frankly. Absolutely amazing lifesaving program for those that don’t know what it is, I’ll briefly discuss it. It’s a week long residential retreat for first responders only. They have them all over the U.S. now. California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, all over.
The structure of it is there’s usually six clients. It’s a mixture of law enforcement, paramedics, firefighters, and dispatchers, and all the people that are running this are volunteers. So there’s clinicians, chaplains therapists, and most importantly, there’s peers. One good thing about this program is if you’re in peer support, they actually do host certified advanced peer support training. You can get your certificate so you can go through actually for training and not as a client. But what we’ve found is that most people that go through for training, they end up coming back through as a client. And another side note about this program is you have the SOS program it’s for spouses and significant others, same structure. It’s ran the same way, a little bit different format. And it’s for exactly what it says. For our spouses and our partners, amazing programs.
So now what I do, is I go back usually several times a year, a week at a time, and I give back to this program. But please check it out, research it if you’re not aware of it, it’s an absolutely amazing program. The reality of this whole thing is that as law enforcement and any first responder, for that matter, we’re much more likely to die by our own hands than in line of duty. That is a fact. And I’ll say it again. We are much more likely to die by our own hands in the line of duty. And that’s exactly why I’m here talking about this today. What I’d like to do is just open it up for some questions if there’s questions out there.
I do see that somebody posted something here saying, “Hesitancy and fear of how the PD administration and the city village government and Work Comp respond. Many also fear seeking help, but then being found unfit for duty by their PD, and then terminated if they do not resign. And uncertain aftermaths with that, depending on their state’s legislation, which may or may not address some things.”
Well, let me tell you that administrative betrayal and that’s the term for it plays a huge, huge role in this whole thing. And I found that with my own experience, but more importantly, I found it with all the people that I’ve volunteered with and I’ve seen come through as clients. And the fact is that every industry is different and it really comes down to the culture. And that’s what I’m talking about, the stigma and the culture. If you’re an agency where the culture is it’s acceptable, and you can talk about these things, then you’re much more likely to be supported through this entire process. Saying you have PTSD or being diagnosed with that is not a career-ender by any means. It’s not. And I firmly believe that if you go get help sooner than later, that you can absolutely save your career. More importantly, you’re going to save your life, but you can absolutely save your career. I think if I would have asked for help sooner, I think I’d still be working today.
I put that on me. That’s all on me. I should’ve asked for help. I didn’t, I was ashamed and I was scared. I do have to tell you that when I finally did ask for help, my department was very supportive. My therapist, very culturally competent. She talked to my administration, they immediately talked to the city side and they immediately got me off work and started giving me the resources that I needed. So I give them kudos for that. When I finally got the courage to ask for help, they absolutely bent over backwards to get me the help that I needed. And the whole key here is that you have to ask for help. So often we just ignore the signs. We ignore the warning signs. We see people, we just brush it off like, “Oh, they’re just having a bad day.”
A lot of times I use an example when I talk about, as a Sergeant, if I had somebody that was repeatedly late to line up. Back then I would automatically want to go in my head to why are they late? Like, are they just lazy? They can’t get to work on time and do I need to write them up? Do I need to counsel them? No, what I need to do is I need to have a discussion with them, a heart to heart, a genuine discussion to find out, “Hey, is` there some stuff going on maybe I don’t know about? Are there issues at home?” Because we often do have issues at home. Is there something we can do to help support you? But again, that’s the culture. That’s the stigma. And if you don’t have that culture and stigma, if you pull them aside, they’re not going to talk about it. They’re not going to open up. And that’s why you have to change the culture. And it starts from the top down.
I recently spoke at an agency here in Northern California. I am not associated with them. I didn’t work with them. I met with the chief prior to speaking and he told me the story. And I later ended up meeting this Lieutenant, but they had a department wide training for peer support. And this Lieutenant, it wasn’t planned. He just decided in the middle of this training, he was going to share his very real personal experience and struggles. And he did it in front of everybody in the entire department. And things like that, that’s how you change the culture and you actually lead by example. You put it out there, you make it okay to talk about. Now, I’m not going to just paint. This picture is it’s all positive and it’s all easy. It’s not easy. It’s a lot of work. And there’s a lot of pitfalls. The work comp system is absolutely horrible and there’s endless hurdles. You have to jump through. It takes forever.
My original plan was I wanted to go back to work. That was my plan. That was my focus. And I worked at it and worked at it. Until about eight months into my treatment of my recovery, I just realized I couldn’t do anymore. I simply couldn’t do the job anymore. It had taken such a toll on me. I could no longer function as a police officer. I just couldn’t. And that was very hard for me to accept. This is my identity. I didn’t mention it, but I was a police volunteer at eight years old and I was a police explorer. My whole life and career has been law enforcement. I could never imagine doing anything else, but I have to tell you now coming out the other side. It took time. It took work. I’m still working at it. It took about two years till I could even get to the point where I could openly discuss and share with people that I had. PTSI why I was off. Why I eventually retired.
I hate it. I cut all ties with people at the agency. They didn’t, I did. I was so ashamed and embarrassed. I cut ties with them. They asked me why I was off. And I was dealing with a bunch of skin cancer. That’s what I told him. I said, “Oh, I’ve got more skin cancer.” That was true. But that was only being off work like a week here, a week there, not months. But I was too ashamed to tell anybody, I just couldn’t do it. And I’m here to tell you that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It takes absolute strength and courage ask for help. And I’m also here to tell you that my life is so much better now. I have a nine year old daughter. I’m a full time father to her when I have her. And that’s what I focus on. My identity is not a police officer. It’s a father.
But again, I waited too long. That’s why I’m here. Don’t wait too long. Get help now get help early. And you’re going to last through your career. You’re going to work 30 plus years because it’s absolutely possible. Another misconception out there is that PTSD or PTSI is not treatable. And that you can’t recover from that. That’s not true. You absolutely can. What I will tell you is that you will never be the same person that you were before PTSD or PTSI you just simply won’t. And I can take that a step further and say, you probably won’t be the same person you were before you started your career as a first responder or law enforcement.
This job takes a toll. It doesn’t matter what city you work in. We’re all exposed to just bad car accident, suicides, child deaths, domestic violence, just so much negativity. It takes a toll. So just talk about it. There’s endless resources out there. Tons of hotlines you can call 24/7. Obviously peer support, EAP, chaplains, just endless resources. These first responder support meetings I told you about, but know that the Work Comp process, it sucks. There’s no other way to say it. And I waited months and months to get an attorney, wrong decision on my part. I’m not saying to get attorney right away, but if you’re as messed up as I am and you waited too long, you may want to think of about getting a work [inaudible 00:30:10].
So Michael, let me pop in here. There is a lot of more comments about an overarching issue about support and stigma of this. But one of the other comments that I found when we were trying to put these sessions together was especially now in light of the national issue with COVID is the shortage of qualified therapists. Whether it’s with regards to an OIS or the stresses related to what’s going on with officers and COVID. So do you have any insight about …. You’re saying there’s a ton of options, but there is a comment saying that there’s a lack of qualified therapists. Or perhaps resources. So how would you address that?
Well, that’s a great question. There are actually, and they have to be culturally competent. And the first responders support network, they have had a lot of therapists and they are a resource to contact through their website and they have usually listings or they will get you a list of therapists in your area. There’s other programs out there too, the Cordico Wellness App, which people may have heard of. And those are custom tailored to each agency. And a lot of agencies are starting to go with that now, but they actually do the same thing. And they vet these therapists who are culturally competent. Because you have to have a culturally competent therapist. You have to. It’s absolutely paramount and critical. I can’t speak to every single area in the United States. Obviously I’m more familiar with here in Northern California, but I do know, like I said, the First Responder Support Network and they’re part of the West Coast Post trauma Retreat.
You can just Google that and they are a great source to find out culturally competent therapists in your area. For me personally, too, a lot of times, if we’re not at the Work Comp level and we’re just need some help. You have your EAP program, but you also, a lot of times departments have contracted therapists and they may also know, and probably usually do know therapists who specialize with first responders. I’ve heard so many horror stories of first responders just going to a random therapist they found out of the phone book, and they have no knowledge or any of what it means to be a first responder. And it actually made them worse and set them back. They went one time and never saw them again. So I can’t reinforce that enough, but again, First Responder Support Network, just Google it.
They’ve got email on there, phone number, a great resource. Another thing, like I said, these first responders support meetings. That’s a much better resource. These are in your area. There’s people at these meetings, all first responders, many go to therapists. So they personally know their therapist. And if their therapist is full, guess what their therapist knows culturally competent therapists. So it’s like one of those things that once you get in and you find people that are going through this, reach out to them and find out who do they see? How do they find their therapist? But again, these first responders support group meetings are a phenomenal resource. I can’t give an exact percentage, but I would tell you at least half the people there are seeing therapists. Does that answer the question?
Well, we’re getting about that time. So let me, let me ask out there. Is there anybody who I’ve … Again, I’m seeing a lot of comments about concern about the stigma and agency and the culture that you’ve already addressed. So I’m sure that there’s difficulty around moving that ball. But is there anybody else on the call who wants to unmute and ask a question?
Yeah. I’d like to ask a question. Hello Michael, this is Roger.
How are you doing Rodger?
No, I’m good, man. I wanted to make sure that the people listening had your insights regarding getting ahead of the curve. So you and I both had the experience of waiting too long and Badger life brought up the idea of mental health checkups. Could you give us some insight into that? Because that’s pretty low hanging fruit that gets us ahead of the curve.
Well, like you said, we waited too long. That’s the bottom line. And I think that if we do these regular mental health checkups, like you’re talking about, and that could be with peers at our department. It could be with chaplains. It could be with the department therapist. It could even be with just peers. Like I talked about having debriefs on … not just the big, huge incidents, but let’s just say the medium incidents or let’s just say there’s an incident that bothers one person in particular. But having that culture where you can have these small debriefs and small discussions, because I think if you’re addressing this as it’s going along and as you’re going through your career, you’re not going to get to the point to where I got to or where you got to. And like we acquainted to, it’s like a jar when you started this job, it’s like an empty jar. There’s a few things in there from your childhood and growing up and past experience. But as you’re going through this job, this jar just keeps filling up and filling up to the point where it just starts overflowing.
And that point it’s too late. That point it’s too late, you’ve waited far too long. And so the key is to help yourself out, do regular checkups and address these things as you’re going along. And with that being said, I think you can last an entire 30 year career and get through it because you’re working on it as it’s going. But again, that stigma, that culture, I was ashamed. I was embarrassed. That’s why I waited too long. And that’s why I do this because you’re not alone. There’s so many people out there in the same boat. And the key to changing the stigma is realizing that you’re not alone and to openly talk about this.
Anyone else? All right, well with that, Michael, I really wanted … Was somebody trying to pop in? Okay, with that then, I’m going to say, thank you to Michael. Really appreciate. This is a very important issue. And so really appreciate your willingness to talk about your struggles and what you learned and providing that as information to those who may come after you. So that was very helpful. And thank you to everybody who called in and look forward to our next calls and hope we’ll see you on those as well.
Thank you. Bye-bye.
About SGT Michael Sugrue (Retired)
Michael Sugrue began his law enforcement career in the United States Air Force as a Security Forces Officer in 1998. As a Security Forces Officer, Michael specialized in Law Enforcement, Global Force Protection, Anti-Terrorism, Nuclear Security, Foreign Air Field Assessments and Air Base Ground Defense.
Michael served in a variety of assignments including: Flight Leader, Flight Commander, Senior Watch Officer, Chief of Command Post and Chief of Security Forces.
Michael served all over the United States, Europe, the Middle East and South America. He was also a Security Forces Phoenix Raven with the unique identifier of #1173. Michael honorably separated from the Air Force as a Captain in 2004.
Immediately after the Air Force, Michael was hired by the Walnut Creek Police Department where he served in a variety of assignments including: Patrol Officer, Driver Training Instructor, FieldTraining Officer, SIU Detective, Undercover CA DOJ Narcotic Task Force Agent (Contra Costa County), Public Information Officer and Patrol Sergeant.
Michael was awarded the Walnut Creek PD Distinguished Service Medal in 2014 for his heroic and life saving actions during a Fatal Officer Involved Shooting in 2012.
Michael ultimately medically retired in 2018. He is now a Peer Volunteer at the West Coast Post Trauma Retreat (WCPR) and an Ambassador for Save A Warrior (SAW).
Michael is a dedicated advocate for awareness, prevention, education, training on Post Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI) and First Responder Suicide Prevention. Michael continues to speak at law enforcement agencies all over the United States.
About the California Peace Officers’ Association (CPOA)
The California Peace Officers’ Association was established in 1921 and is committed to developing progressive leadership for the California law enforcement community through organizational networking, professional development, technology advancement and public policy advocacy. CPOA has over 16,000 members of all ranks from municipal, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies from throughout the state of California.