Last year, Austin, Tx. police officer Wayne Williamson fired three times at a suspect he believed was armed. Fellow officers were surprised at his decision “to use deadly force in a situation that, each said, clearly did not call for it,” reports the Austin Chronicle. In his mind, Williamson might have been thousands of miles away, in an Iraqi desert where he was stationed for nearly a year, starting in 2005. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says that “re-experiencing” a war zone is a classic sign of “combat stress reaction,” which, if persistent and untreated, can result in post-traumatic stress disorder.
Williamson is one of at least 36 Austin police officers who have been called up for active military duty since 2001, deployed to the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although seven years have passed since the U.S. first engaged in combat, only recently have police departments gotten serious about developing programs to help their officers make the transition from a life of military combat to a life of relatively peaceful policing. The International Association of Chiefs of Police is planning to issue a report on the questions involved. In Williamson’s case, he was ordered terminated, and is leaving the department and returning to his National Guard service. Today, Williamson says that if faced with the same set of circumstances, he would not again choose to fire his weapon.