Below is the story of Officer Craig Tiger who was diagnosed with PTSD during treatment for alcohol abuse after he was arrested for DUI one year following an incident where he was forced to take the life of a suspect. After he was fired for the DUI arrest his ability to continue with needed psychological counseling for diagnosed PTSD was greatly diminished. After his termination, Craig continued to struggle with the demons of depression and nightmares that continued to plague him and he ultimately took his own life 14 months later.
A message from Ken Crane
Vice President, Phoenix Law Enforcement Association
Instead of weighing the situation based on the totality of the circumstances and seeing the DUI for what it was; a symptom of a much bigger problem, Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia, knowing Craig had been medically diagnosed with PTSD, fired him. I urge you to read the story and watch the videos. We hope you will be sufficiently moved to send an email to the Phoenix officials listed at the end of this story to let them know your thoughts.
I realize it’s a long list and if you only have time to write to a few people the ones at the top of the list are the most important. It is our hope, with pressure applied from law enforcement people everywhere, that the city will develop a more humane and compassionate policy for people like Craig Tiger. If we had a better system in place, combined with a Chief that understands those situations are best dealt with from a perspective of compassion rather than discipline, he might be alive today.
On Monday, November 17 the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association and the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association held a joint press conference calling for a vote of no confidence against Chief Daniel Garcia over a long list of transgressions that has decimated the morale of the Phoenix PD. The final straw was the Chief’s inept handling of the Craig Tiger incident.
If your agency has developed a sensible and humane policy for dealing with officers who have job-related PTSD, we would appreciate hearing from you.
Abandoned by his agency,
a good cop takes his own life
In early November, another police officer committed suicide. He was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after he was forced to kill a man to save the lives of others. It’s a tragedy that didn’t need to happen. The officer and his association pleaded for help, but it all fell on deaf ears. Now another officer is dead by his own hand. It didn’t have to be this way.
On June 4, 2012 everything changed for Phoenix Police Officer Craig Tiger, a quiet 12-year veteran with an unblemished record whose fellow officers all say was a good cop.
It was a hot summer afternoon when the call went out that a man was acting wildly in a local park threatening people with a baseball bat, including a four-year-old. Craig Tiger and his partner responded to the scene.
“We gave him numerous verbal commands to drop the baseball bat,” Tiger told reporters with CBS Channel 5 afterwards. “He didn’t comply. I actually back stepped a couple of times trying to give him even more of an opportunity to drop the baseball bat. He did not.”
It’s a situation law enforcement officers hope they never have to face even though they are trained to respond with lethal force when it does. Based on the suspect’s behavior and his refusal to comply with Craig and his partner’s demands to drop the bat, the officers made the split second decision that lethal force was their only option – there was only 12 to 15 feet separating the officers and the bat wielding man.. Both officers fired three shots at the same time and the suspect died at the scene.
“I went home that night to an empty house,” Tiger remembered. “It started immediately. I proceeded to self-medicate with alcohol. It started that night. That very night.”
Tiger, who would readily admit that he was no stranger to alcohol and a weekend drinker, began to self-medicate by drinking on a daily basis. He struggled with sleeplessness, nightmares, depression, and images of the event he could not purge from his brain.
His former wife, Rebecca Tiger, also a veteran Phoenix officer, said Craig was utterly devastated that he was forced to take a life.
“He would cry,” Rebecca said. “Craig would say it over and over again about the shooting. ‘It’s all I see, Becca. It’s all I see.’ He drank to drown the memories.”
On the one-year anniversary of the shooting, Craig was still struggling with nightmares, flashbacks, and depression. After several drinks he decided to drive to his family’s cabin in the woods where he planned to commit suicide. But on the way he was stopped by a county sheriff’s deputy who arrested him for DUI.
“We have a family cabin up north,” Craig told reporters after his arrest. “And I was going up there to kill myself. I had guns with me in the car. In hindsight, getting stopped by that deputy probably saved my life. I wouldn’t be here right now.”
After his arrest Tiger was ordered to attend a 30-day inpatient treatment program for alcohol abuse. That’s where doctors discovered he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Officer Tiger was not only facing criminal charges for the DUI arrest, but a Department disciplinary hearing for driving under the influence.
The hearing took place months later. Phoenix Chief Daniel Garcia met with Officer Tiger and Joe Clure, the president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association. During the hearing, Officer Tiger, who had 12 years of service with no prior discipline, poured his heart out to the Chief in an attempt to explain what he had been going through since the shooting in 2012.
Craig begged the chief not to fire him, as did PLEA’s Joe Clure. Clure told Chief Garcia that Craig had been diagnosed with PTSD and needed help. But their pleas fell on deaf ears. The Chief refused to see that Craig had been broken by the very job he was hired to perform. Rather than help this officer get treatment, Garcia chose to fire him from the Police Department.
Joe Clure, in his position as the president of the Association was furious. “I am pissed off,” Joe told reporters. Clure went on to lay the death of Tiger at Chief Garcia’s feet. He noted that the Chief opted to fire Craig rather than give him help and that is the reason he is not with us today.
Joe Clure reacts to Craig Tiger’s suicide. In some older news footage Craig Tiger speaks to a reporter out about the incident where he was forced to take a man’s life and the impact it had on him.
Craig’s former wife, Rebecca Tiger, is angry as well. “The Department had a responsibility to help him recover,” she said. “If he had been physically injured they would have helped him. “Instead the Chief fired him. Why wouldn’t they help him? He needed professional help to recover. Instead they threw him away. The loss of his job isolated him. He lost his identity.”
Watch this exclusive interview with Rebecca Tiger who challenged the Chief to come to her home and talk to their children.
“I would like to invite him into my home,” she said. “I want him to express his condolences to me and our children. Craig was a great man, a great officer and a great Daddy. I would like Daniel Garcia to explain to them why he decided he was not worth saving.” In some ways Officer Craig Tiger had the last word. Before he took his own life he left a series of notes to friends and loved ones. In every message he blamed Chief Garcia for his fate. In one letter he wrote, “See you on the other side Chief Garcia. You and the City of Phoenix failed me plain and simple.” We will not tolerate this failure of leadership
“We can not and will not tolerate this failure of leadership on the part of Chief Garcia and the Phoenix Police Dept., that expects so much of our men and women on the front lines, Joe Clure said. “When one of us needs help after suffering the aftermath of a shooting or the many other extreme situations our job constantly forces us into, we have every right to demand support and compassion from our agency. By firing Craig Tiger, Chief Garcia abandoned Craig Tiger and every other officer in the Phoenix Police Department and that is intolerable. Instead of care and compassion which is what Craig Tiger so desperately needed, the Chief’s actions exhibited nothing but cruelty.” A post on the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association’s website states in part that the decision by the Chief sent many messages: You’re no longer worthy to wear the badge. I no longer believe in you or trust you. You’re not worth saving. Whether you have been diagnosed with PTSD or not isn’t my problem. “This past August, a Phoenix sergeant was forced to take the life of a 50-year-old mentally ill woman who charged him along with other officers with a claw hammer,” Clure explained. “Instead of supporting his officers in the aftermath of this tragic event, Chief Garcia made apologies to the family and held a teary-eyed press conference where he announced that all his officers would be required to take ‘mental health training’ so incidents like this would not occur again.”
If you want to see Chief Garcia in action, watch this video. He refuses to answer any questions and is hostile to the reporter.
A demand for change
Together PLEA’s Joe Clure and Sean Mattson who serves as president of the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association, sent a letter to every city official under both their signatures. It reads in part:
“We can no longer discard personnel who become mentally ill by performing a difficult and stressful job. A better level of care is owed to those who serve. We must do much better in assisting the men and women in law enforcement impacted by PTSD by providing the needed treatment to assist in the recovery process and aid in their future success.
The very real issue of PTSD in the ranks of the men and women who serve in law enforcement can no longer be ignored. We cannot continue business as usual by discarding police officers who are injured or broken by the job like yesterday’s trash.
This letter is to inform you that we are demanding change in the way that the City and Police Department treat those of us who are suffering with PTSD. We do a good job of treating our physically wounded and now it is time to step up and do a better job of treating our psychologically wounded.
We are proposing a working group backed by the city with police unions as the driving force incorporating the appropriate experts that would allow us to come up with a more realistic streamlined program to treat those diagnosed with PTSD or PTSD symptoms. Experts tell us that with proper care and treatment that most PTSD issues can be resolved allowing employees to return to workplace as productive employees.
Public safety is one of those professions plagued with the “Iron Man” syndrome. As the guardians of society who are always supposed to be there for everyone in their hour of need, there is an unspoken rule that we don’t break and can never show weakness.
For those who do suffer the debilitating effects that often come with the job, there is a very real fear of being stigmatized by peers, managers and the employer who, for whatever reason, view them as weak or no longer worthy of the profession. It is for this reason that many in this career field suffer in silence.
Not only can we do better, we must do better. We owe it to the men and women who daily put their lives on the line to protect society. We are confident you will agree that we can and should do much better on addressing this very important issue and anxiously await your response.”
Too all our brother and sisters out there, please help us honor the memory of Craig Tiger by emailing the following Phoenix officials. Let them know how you feel about the cruel treatment he suffered at the hands of his agency and the chief, Daniel Garcia.
Mayor Greg Stanton: firstname.lastname@example.org
City Council Members
Thelda Williams: email@example.com
Jim Waring, Vice Mayor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bill Gates: email@example.com
Laura Pastor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Valenzuela: email@example.com
Sal DiCiccio: firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Nowakowski: email@example.com
Kate Gallego: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are links to resources that might be helpful: