AUSTIN (KXAN) — After three deadly police shootings in just more than two weeks the officers who pulled the triggers now face a recovery process of their own.
“At first, it is the very last thing on your brain when you go to sleep at night and it’s the very first thing when you wake up. It’s just such a big deal,” said Austin Police Commander Stephen Deaton, who shot and killed a suspect in 1993. Deaton says the man was reaching for a gun in his waistband.
After the recent cases, five officers are on leave — a standard practice after police shootings. Officers involved in shootings can spend weeks to months at home during the leave process, according to president of the Austin Police Association Ken Casaday. Casaday says the department screens the officers for drugs and alcohol. The chief and department psychologist also have to clear the officers to come back.
Aside from that, the Austin Police Monitor gets involved in looking at the cases. APD’s internal affairs examines what happened. Eventually, a Travis County grand jury will decide if the officers were in the right.
Commander Deaton says APD has worked to offer more help to police officers after they shoot a suspect, including offering a peer support unit.
“It’s hard to relate or explain to someone how you’re feeling if they haven’t been through something similar,” said Cmdr. Deaton. “We have officers that have been involved in these incidents and they make themselves available.”
Cmdr. Deaton also says APD is focusing more on trying to help officers’ families. A staff psychologist is available for family and spouses are allowed to see officers sooner after a shooting.
“It’s also horrible for the officer who has to live with that for the rest of their life and it’s horrible for the family,” said Casaday. “I’ve known families where their children go to school and their dad or moms get called murderers because they’ve shot someone in the line of duty. It can be a very traumatic situation.”