Perspective From the Land Down Under
I am a retired Australian police officer. I retired 16 years ago suffering PTSD, severe depression and battling suicide. Since retirement, I have spent time educating myself on all things mental health, human behavior and personal development to get out of the darkness. I now help other people deal with the tough times in their own lives with a particular focus on police officers and their families.
Ambassador for Australia
I have recently been honored by Law Enforcement Today to be invited to be their ambassador for Australia. I will be writing articles and providing stories from Australian Police highlighting the similarities and differences between Australia and the U.S.
I wanted to share a little of my story, so you understand who I am and what I will be doing here at LET.
Perspective From Queensland Police Force
I joined the Queensland Police Force in 1989 at the ripe old age of 19 years. My father was a police officer for 42 years as was my uncle. The job ran in my family. I wanted to be a cop from my earliest memory because of the amazing work they did and the respect that they held in the community.
In 1992 I joined the Dog Squad (K9 Unit). This had been my dream since I was six years old when I had seen a police K9 display at our Police Academy when my dad took me to an open day there. He was a 100 miles an hour Police Officer and was very well respected in our department of approximately 6000 officers when I joined.
I LOVED being a cop and especially a K9 officer. Nothing made me happier than driving Code 2 (our lights and sirens, your Code 3) to an armed offender, pursuit or violent domestic job. It was my whole life and my whole identity. This was to be my downfall in years to come. I would seek out the most dangerous and violent jobs because that was what I loved to be able to help with.
Help Make a Difference … Sound Familiar?
I joined the job to help people and make a difference by standing between the scum of society and the decent humans, and it was the most fun I could ever imagine. Despite the fear from the violent and dangerous situations, I could not get enough of it.
I was involved in many dangerous and violent jobs, from a vehicle pursuit where two offenders fired multiple rounds at us pursuing them until they ultimately suicided right in front of me, to capturing a dangerous wanted armed robber who, as I was dragging him out of his vehicle after another pursuit, was reaching for a full automatic SKS rifle with 30 rounds in the clip.
I have taken guns off many offenders and been threatened with knives on multiple occasions and involved in more violence then I can remember, and LOVED it more than anything. It was my purpose.
Afraid to Ask for Help
Towards the latter part of the 1990’s I knew that I was beginning to struggle with what I had seen and experienced, but was too scared to ask for help. I had seven years of assault complaints from offenders during this time as I was catching a lot of criminals.
Moreover, during this stretch in our department, the standard Modus Operandi was for defense lawyers to tell subjects to make excessive force complaints.
Stress Took Its Toll
The stress from constant scrutiny took its toll. Yet I was unwilling to stop locking up criminals. As a result, this wasn’t going to change in a hurry.
I went to the Covert and Surveillance Unit for a short time in 1998 because of the stress caused by the complaints. As a result, I was becoming more angry and violent. During this time, I was drinking excessively and had conflict in most relationships in my life. I loved the work in this unit, but found the pace too slow. After one and a half years I went back to the K9 unit in a very violent part of the city I lived in, Brisbane.
After a few months back in the violence and stress I hit rock bottom. I didn’t want to put my uniform on and go to work; I didn’t respond to jobs unless I was tasked, I didn’t hang around other cops at work, I really isolated myself because I knew I wasn’t coping and the shame was overwhelming. I was so scared of losing my career and my identity. Consequently, suicidal thoughts were really strong at this point. I was in a really bad way.
In 2001 I attended an incident where an Outlaw Motorcycle Gang member had stabbed another OMG member 14 times and fled into the darkness on a semi-rural property. I tracked him with my police dog and we located him in a mobile home on the property.
There were a number of other police with me, but I was standing in the open with no vest and no cover really not caring if I was shot and killed.
I called him to the door and he came out covered in blood carrying a carving knife and a machete. He eventually surrendered, and we took him into custody. He was placed in the back of a patrol car. As I was getting in my car about to leave, he started kicking out the windows on the rear of the vehicle.
The other police had gone a distance away to begin their investigation; I went to him opened the door and he started spitting blood at me and kicking and punching at me with his cuffs that he had in front of him by now. I dragged him from the vehicle and a violent struggle ensued ending with him unconscious from a rear naked chokehold.
We restrained and hogtied him. I took a young policewoman with me to get another vehicle. During the drive, I realized she was more scared of me than the offender and wouldn’t engage in any conversation.
I went home that night and fell asleep, simply to awake a few hours later crying, shaking and having what I now know was a mental breakdown. I never went back to work.
Shame and Guilt
I resigned from the job nine months later after battling suicide thoughts, including lying three nights in a row with a Glock at my head preparing kill myself. Fortunately, I didn’t, and I am so glad that is the case.
I left the police with such shame and guilt for being weak, I disengaged from most police I knew and became quite isolated and battled depression, PTSD and suicide for many years.
Daughters Saved My Life
My daughter was born in February 2005 and her sister in 2008. My beautiful girls saved my life. Up until the birth of my first daughter I battled suicide on an almost daily basis because I had lost my identity, my purpose and my reason to live—being a police officer. Now my girls gave me a reason to live to be the best dad I could be.
I have spent the past 16 years doing every “happy clapper,” alternate, weirdo personal development and spiritual course I could find, worked with heaps of professionals and read so many books to get back to a place where I now live a really happy and amazing life.
I knew if I didn’t do these things that nothing would change, yet I still hated just about every step of the journey.
Now, I have dedicated my life to using this knowledge to help other people, with a particular focus on police and military, to deal with what they experience in their lives.
Critical Stress Training
Recently, I have completed over 40 – 2-hour workshops on Critical Stress Training for police with my old department. The course helps cops deal with the job and the impact on them and their families. My mission to help people in a different way has now replaced my police purpose and I feel very blessed.
Now you know some of my story and the reason I am here at LET to deliver what I can to help you guys live great lives as police officers, family members and general members of society. I feel this is my way of giving back to the job that gave me so much.
The Strong Life Project
You can find me at www.thestronglifeproject.com. I have written a book “My Dark Companion.” It is my story showing others how to avoid the same pitfalls.
Finally, I completed over 700 daily podcasts on The Strong Life Project Podcast sharing my experiences.
I look forward to contributing to the amazing community that is Law Enforcement Today.
Shaun O’Gorman is a critical stress consultant, keynote speaker, author, and podcaster. After joining the Queensland Police Service in 1989, Shaun worked in the Police Dog Squad for many years as well as the Covert Surveillance unit. While in the K9 unit Shaun was involved in repetitive high-risk critical incidents ranging from violent street brawls, high-speed pursuits, barricaded suspects and shooting incidents. The majority of these placed him at risk of physical and mental harm. He also performed duties with the Special Emergency Response Team (SWAT) as a tactical dog handler.
In 2002 Shaun left the QPS and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The years of exposure to violence and tragedy resulted in clinical depression and a battle with suicide. To overcome his mental health injuries, Shaun spent the next 15 years immersed in the study of stress management, personal development and human behavior with a goal of healing himself. He now devotes his life to helping others using the knowledge and education that helped him help himself.
While forging a successful corporate executive career since leaving the Police, Shaun developed and now continues to follow his passion for helping other people. He has established “The Strong Life Project” which includes mentoring, workshops, keynote speeches, daily podcasts, and blogs focused on providing tools and strategies to empower people to overcome difficulties, conquer challenges, manage stress and live happy and enjoyable lives. Shaun now works as a critical stress consultant to Police officers & departments, military personnel, first responders, corporate executives, legal professionals and business owners, helping them develop behaviors and strategies to manage stress and pressure in their workplaces.
As an accomplished author, Shaun’s most recent book “My Dark Companion” (available on Amazon) chronicles his own highly personal fight with depression and PTSD and how he has come out the other side as a role model for people of all walks of life.
Shaun’s Keynote Speeches, Operational Stress Management, and Critical Stress Training workshops are second to none. He uniquely combines academic and theoretical content with incredible personal experiences that have a profound effect on those who attend. Shaun’s desire to help others has led to the improvement of countless lives.