CopShock: Second Edition
Surviving Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

by Allen R. Kates, MFAW, BCECR

 Post-Shooting Trauma (PST)

After a shooting, many officers show symptoms of PST that may include increased alcohol use, nightmares about malfunctioning guns, physical illness, inability to sleep or hold down food, and periods of self-doubt, depression, anger and guilt. A common symptom is rumination or brooding about the shooting. Even if officers do not draw or fire their guns during a frightening confrontation, they may experience symptoms of post-shooting trauma. Untreated, post-shooting trauma could eventually develop into PTSD.

Police administrators may wish to consult Developing A Law Enforcement Stress Program for Officers and Their Families (page 131) by Peter Finn and Julie Esselman Tomz, 1997, for help in  learning  how to respond appropriately to officers with these reactions. The entire 222-page book published by the National Institute of Justice can be accessed online for free at:


Post-Violent Event Trauma
Shooting expert Massad Ayoob of the Lethal Force Institute has produced a videotape about Post-Shooting Trauma called Post-Violent Event Trauma concerning the causes, symptoms and recovery from post-shooting trauma. The tape states that PST is not Posttraumatic Stress Disorder but a reaction to a single cataclysmic event or critical incident.
   To order the tape, go to: Write: Police Bookshelf, P.O. Box 122, Concord, NH 03302-0122. Call toll-free: 800-624-9049. Phone: 603-224-6814. Contact


Post-Shooting Trauma Studies
To examine psychological studies on post-shooting trauma, check with major medical or science libraries. Most provide access for people who are not doctors or students. Ask the librarians for help.
   For online abstracts of studies, go to the website for The National Center for PTSD: Phone: 802-296-5132. They allow free access to their huge Pilots Data-base. Search also The National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS): Call toll-free: 800-851-3420.