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Former chief wants PTSD addressed in police force

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A former Chief of Police is calling for Guam Police Department to standardize training and responses for post-traumatic stress disorder. He shares his own story and says he "guarantees" cops on the force are suffering from PTSD.

After 30 years on the force, former Chief of Police James Marques says he's seen things he'll never forget.

"I recall the last case that involved a bunch of detectives and patrol officers where a mother and child were both shot in the forehead - still in their gowns," he said. "The 3-year-old was still in her pajamas and we broke the door in and found this. I still dream about this."

New research shows Post Traumatic Stress Disorder rates for police officers are as high as rates for combat veterans, sometimes higher.

"Marques every morning you wake up, you suit up, put on your gear and your firearm," he said. "I consider that going to war daily you don't know what to expect. But we tend to forget that these officers who are out there working today probably don't even know they are dealing with PTSD or stress so we need to take a look at the policies and the training available for officers if any and probably standardize it."

Marques tells his own story--he said late in his career he was hit hard.

"It seems like I was having a heart attack," he recalled. "At times, a lot of this is I start to isolate myself. I deal with emotions very differently. The doctors couldn't figure it out, but it ended up being a panic disorder, anxiety, PTSD symptoms and I'm currently being treated for it and I'm OK.

He said GPD used to have a department staff psychologist, but police spokesman Sgt. Paul Tapao tells KUAM News officers who need help inform their supervisor, the request is then sent from command to the Bureau Chief. Then its sent to the Chief, from there the Services Bureau works to budget money for clinical care.

Marques said because of a perceived mental health stigma officers may be hesitant to try and get the help they need.


"You can see it in an officer, there's a time when he/she is not the same," he said. "They don't handle himself the way they used to. He starts to have a lot of fear with his job, calls in sick a lot for the fact he doesn't want to admit because he/she doesn't want to be the bad guy that says I'm out of this group and that's the stigma we have."

Tapao could not confirm how much money GPD has budgeted for clinical care, and Marques confirms GPD doesn't have standardized PTSD responses and training. But he says that shouldn't stop cops from getting help.


"Don't be afraid to speak up," he said. "I know a lot of officers have a lot of pride. That badge only covers a portion of our heart."

Meanwhile, Marques says he's broke bread on this subject with Chief Steve Ignacio.

"It should be one of the chief's priorities," he said. "I did have a short visit with him and told him about my plan to do this interview, and he's in favor to work with the community to try and get some help immediately."

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