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Jacob Carlson

Casper police officer Jacob Carlson stands for a portrait Friday morning at the Casper Star-Tribune offices. Carlson, who was left near death after being shot in the line of duty on May 6, returned to work in November but has decided to take a medical retirement. 

In May of last year, police officer Jacob Carlson was gravely injured in a shooting in Casper. In the months since, his road to recovery has been anything but smooth. And now, eight months later, he’s chosen to take medical retirement starting on Jan. 31.

Carlson said Chief Keith McPheeters offered him his choice of jobs within the department. But the physical injuries Carlson suffered prevent him from continuing to serve as a patrol officer, and he said he didn’t feel mentally equipped to continue working in law enforcement, though he hasn’t been formally diagnosed with PTSD.

We’re glad that McPheeters and the department made strides to accommodate Carlson’s needs. Because for a while, it seemed he didn’t have the support of city officials. When Carlson was in the midst of his recovery, the city and the police chief seemed at first unwilling to give him the time he needed before demanding he return to work. Thankfully, they soon saw the error in their ways — McPheeters said he failed to effectively communicate with the wounded officer — and gave Carlson the time needed to make a full recovery.

The emotional and psychological demands of law enforcement jobs are well outside of what is expected of average civilians. Officer Carlson was shot numerous times — he shouldn’t be expected to move on with his life like nothing happened.

We can’t possibly know what it’s like for first responders in this line of work, but we do know that the emotional burden of being shot, or shooting at someone, shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially because our law enforcement officials are going to be back out on the job one day, faced with the possibility of encountering a similar situation. Post-traumatic stress disorder can wreak havoc on a person’s ability to rationalize in triggering situations.

Cops need to be level-headed at all times. If they aren’t given thorough mental health support following traumatic events, their capacity for level-headedness is likely diminished.

Officer Carlson is an example of how the traumatic aspects of the job can impact a police officer. And we hope he continues to receive any mental health support he should need.

We wish him well in his future endeavors and hope he continues to prioritize his health, both mental and physical. And we thank all of the law enforcement officials and first responders who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe.

We also hope that all agencies invest in increased mental health resources for first responders, especially those involved in traumatic situations.

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