My law enforcement Career
By Jason Cousins
Please do not read this if you are from the reserve. As the some of the descriptions are graphic and not meant to hurt or anger anyone!!
I got a job policing Blood Resevre around 1997. I had been going through process with a number of departments in the Vancouver area but Blood Tribe, Alberta was the first offer. I wasn’t sure whether to accept as I knew that was where I was from (having never been there and being adopted at the age of 3 months) and I would be taking my wife Lori a whole Province from her family. So I let a lot of the decision up to her as processes with other departments were still on going. Lori to her courage felt it would be a good experience for me to learn about my culture. The plan was to stay there 2-3 years then transfer to municipal force.
After graduating from the Alberta Solicitor General Staff College – Police Officer Recruit Training, I started my career (this was the one year Depot was closed). Immediately on my first shift I knew this was a place like I had never seen. I wanted to help “my people” and felt I could make the changes to do it.
Soon the realization of being on a force severely understaffed, dealing with a criminal case load per officer consistently in the top three as the busiest in Canada (as per stats Canada). It was a tiresome job that on a daily basis showed you a people forgotten and the socio economic issues that come with that. Despite my inability to have the “deep” impact I had hoped when starting the job. I prided myself in being an Officer who would take the time to talk, get out of my unit to shoot a quick game of 21 at the high school and when I lost doing 21 push-ups in uniform to show I was a man of my word. Then the realities of the job hit!!
Some of my nightmares/flashbacks!
-cutting down suicide victim(s) saved one.
-assisting another agency with next of Kin notice-had to tell policing partner who was my best friend, his niece had just hung herself and committed suicide. Only time I remember crying while on duty. I did get a 10-04 (letter of commendation for this) for doing this. I have the copy to this day. As with four more 10-04’s for going “above and beyond the line of duty.”
-doing sooo many sexual assault investigations that we no longer had room in the “fridge” at work to put any more in. I ended up having to take 4-5 of my kits home and keep them in my personal freezer for continuity purposes.
– my first dead body was a man who had been found after approx 4-5 days in hot 30+ degree weather. Being a rookie and having not been to a dead body before I showed up eating a bagel:) my breakfast. Needless to say when
I got to the back room the sight and smells! I had to run out spewed out my bagel and was laughed at by senior officers who handed me a bottle of Vicks vapor rub for my nose. “A good thing to keep in your duty bag” the gentleman was past rig and now decomposing. Bloatation everywhere, seepage, blisters full of body decomposition skin that just slid off when assisting to put him in a body bag.
-Another day I was lone responder to an older teenager intox and had just jumped out the picture window of his house. When I arrived on scene his father was trying to hold him on their front lawn. I interceded and while doing so the son, bleeding from various parts of his body including his mouth, bit me just above my Kevlar glove on the meat of my thumb area. He broke the skin and as I drove to the station he kept spitting on the “silent partner” (the glass separating the front from the back), blood landing everywhere, saying he had aids. Long story short I was put on AZT (aides meds) awaiting my blood test results. I remember trying to work and having my partner pull over to the side of the highway so I could vomit. I was told to stay home where the cramps where so horrendous and the affects, I remember saying to my wife I’d hate to be battling aides and dealing with the effects of these meds also.
-Too many motor vehicle accidents deaths, crosses on the side of the road reminding you of the event. My first mva (motor vehicle accident) fatality I was told by the Sgt to crawl in an overturned vehicle as we were first on scene, and confirm death. The vehicle was upside down. I remember crawling
in. It was earily silent except for the radio playing. The body lay there out face down. His arms were twisted and contorted, obviously busted. I remember taking his corroded pulse … nothing … I knew he was dead anyway. But I remember taking it a few times and talking to him trying to will him to come to life.
-I respond one day to pick up a young man in his twenties on numerous warrants with a summer practicum student. After a long time getting him to come out of the house, he appears with a large butcher knife. Each time I try and approach him he slices his arm. I advise the student to go to the unit and get on the radio for assistance (blood reserve so large and understaffed at that time could be 15-30mins) each time I approach he slices again. I used pepper spray…nothing but another slice…I finally get out my asp baton and rush him knocking the knife from his hand.
-I am asked to respond to the trailer courts where the husband and wife are known police haters but there are sounds of kids screaming inside (infants) as I arrive with the ambulance behind me the man is hanging out his window saying Cst Cousins get the……outta here! I hear the female inside yelling the same as the infants sound in distress. I approach the house seeing there is no doorknob on the door. I tell the medics to stay where they are as I approach the stairs to the door. After repeated requests to open the door, there is no compliance. I bend down to look through the door handle hole as I wanted to make sure the kids were not behind it. I had decided to kick the door in. As I did this, a butcher knife comes flying through the hole stopping literally two inches from my eye. I draw my gun and kick in the door sending the wife onto her back. I kick the knife away from her grasp and contain the scene for the medics to attend to the children.
-During the gang intel. We respond one night to shots fired. I remember only two units being able to respond, mine being one of them. As we approach the location I advise to go dark, no lights or sirens. Otherwise they would have seen us mile away coming down the highway. As we approach the long driveway we park off hwy 505 and observe and establish a game plan. We see several individuals with firearms and just as they see us not knowing we are police. (We’re still “dark”) I advise to activate our lights so we are mistaken for enemy gang bangers. I swear to this day I heard a shot sweesh by me. They get in their vehicle. Chase is on. Long story short call for assistance from surrounding detachments. As primary my partner and I see a gun thrown out the window northbound hwy2. Then a secondary gun also as we sped through one of the local communities. Obviously we got them. A search later by myself and another officer was able to locate the two firearms tossed out. A sawed off shot gun and a fully functioning AK-47.
-Last gun complaint of many. Just off shift at 0230. Dispatch radios back of shots fired in community south on hwy2. The boys say don’t worry go home (this was the norm for any type of complaint and man power-2 officers) I did as any officer would do, put my gear back on to assist my brothers. We head southbound on hwy2. There were patches of black ice but visibility was clear. The vehicle in front had a rookie and the senior officer. I was by myself. I noticed we were doing 160 km thought that was a bit fast even though there was no traffic on the road. But the primary vehicle has the senior officer and I thought he would tell rook to slow down if he wanted. I follow and see them all of a sudden swerve left into the northbound lane, the whole chassy moving at a 45′ angle! I was worried for them as I watched. Then I immediately turned my attention to my lane. There was a dead horse lying straight across the lane. I had no time to react. I remember thinking “oh no, this is gonna hurt” I hit the horse going 150km the air bag goes off knocking my head into the silent partner that separates the front from the back. I’m knocked unconscious. The vehicle inverts in the air and lands upside down. I slide upside down for 100 m. I come too lying on the roof of my unit (wasn’t wearing my seat belt:( ) I remember thinking how thin the roof is and soon I’m gonna be getting some serious road rash. Didn’t happen thank goodness. Rookie got me out as he also had EMT training. Ambulance arrives. I’m asked if Lori should be called. “I’m alive aren’t I … there’s no need to wake her up.” After release from hospital I’m taken home where Lori hears the guys bringing me in. She rushes out and hears what happened. The Wife of a cop.
-There were soooo many high risk warrant executions involving many units that as we would be driving in single file to our destination. I would always call Lori and quickly say “we have a high risk…can you pray for me and the guys.” The Wife of a cop.
-Lori remembers me coming home at night with our infant children in their beds. She’d roll on the bed and see me holding my girls tears running down my cheeks. She would later tell me she did not know what to say about the stuff I saw daily. She would roll back over and pretend to sleep. The Wife of a cop.
-She’s seen me on aid’s meds. After I’ve been sucker punched in the head while getting out my unit then my thighs kicked to hell. We go on holidays days later my thighs are black and Blue. The Wife of a cop.
-She’s watched me carry the weight of the world of what I saw everyday on my shoulders. Locating a missing gang banger, killed, his genitalia cut off and sticks shoved up his nose into his brain. Then having to go to the autopsy. The Wife of a cop.
Now the reason I write is this. I have Complex PTSD. It has changed me from the person I was to a shallow existence. It has taken a toll on my family that I am no longer with them. I have “put word out for a gun and one slug” in the past. You feel no one understands you, you become reclusive, sad, depressed, angry, lonely, scared, and full of no hope. Not even your closest friends or families can relate or understand despite their efforts. I feel I have turned the corner in terms of looking for that “one slug.” But now the fight of my life is ahead of me.
I have flashbacks at night that would wake my children in the basement, causing them to come to my room and rub my back as I tried to regain control of my physical reactions. Visual triggers throughout the day that bring more flashbacks and the same physical feelings of your being in that moment. Crying asking your family why you’re so messed up. Not to mention the behavioural changes that affect all you love.
These short stories, just a few of much more, pale in comparison to the battle that rages within my being. This is not an illness we ask for. It is not an illness we expected. It is not an illness that is fair to us or our families. It is not an illness which is being taken seriously or in which help is being provided at a sufficient level. But it is an illness nonetheless! And as I have done before in these true stories I have shared…I will fight…I will come out alive…I will work with what has been given to me!!!! I am a Cousins/Heavyrunner and I’m a survivor…we NEVER give up!! I apologize if my stories may have offended some.
To those police/military who have lost the will to fight and have gone on…I understand and may your memories never be forgotten.
@ Families of the RCMP for PTSD Awareness.