It would appear to most of us Christopher Dorner lost it, blew a fuse, and went on a psychotic rampage unjustified by whatever workplace wrongs he faced.
But, alarmingly, a new study suggests that “psychotic disorder” for cops and other first responders who face traumatic experiences on the job might not be that unusual.
The most interesting thing about this new study out of the Bloomberg School's Department of Mental Health?
This kind of disorder is more likely to affect those newer to the badge. Dorner was on and off the job for a few years when he was fired in 2009, allegedly for lying about his training officer's use of force.
Christopher N. Kaufmann, lead author of research being published in this month's journal Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, says:
When we examined the relationship of exposure to common traumas with the development of mood, anxiety and alcohol use disorders among protective-services workers, we found that these workers were at greater risk for developing a mood or alcohol use disorder. Interestingly, this relationship was not seen in those who had been in these jobs for a longer period, but was strong and statistically significant in workers who recently joined the profession.
The study also looked at firefighters and measured the prevalence of mental disorders among emergency workers. Here were the key traumatic elements, according to a summary:
… Seeing someone badly injured or killed; unexpectedly seeing a dead body; having someone close die unexpectedly and having someone close experience a serious or life-threatening illness, accident or injury.
Of course, it didn't appear that Dorner faced any of those things as a young cop (though it's possible).
Ramin Mojtabai, senior author of the study, says coping skills among emergency workers need to be examined and perhaps fostered with “support programs:”
Future research should examine the coping skills of protective-services workers who have been in these jobs for many years, which might make them less likely to develop psychiatric complications in the face of various potentially traumatic experiences.