NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – An NYPD officer says he’s exposing the truth. He claims the department’s mission to help officers with mental health problems is a publicity stunt.
The police say they’re doing more to help, but could it be too little too late?
Jonathan Oliveras and his husband are in the midst of moving out of New York City to Rockland County.
“When I am not working, when I’m off, I want to feel like I’m actually off,” the 40-year-old said.
For the past 13 years, the NYPD officer says he has felt under pressure patrolling Manhattan – while also dealing with his own mental health problems that started while he was a U.S. Marine in Iraq.
“The second tour in 2005, was really rough, saw a lot of things and it kind of stayed with me.”
Amid an epidemic of officer suicides within the NYPD – 10 active-duty officers this year alone – Oliveras thought it was finally safe to tell the department about his anxiety and PTSD.
In an exclusive interview with CBS2 producer John Dias, Oliveras says it was the wrong move.
“If I would have kept my mouth shut, I would have been on the right path like I was before,” Oliveras said.
He says the NYPD doesn’t care about mental health problems; they’re all about saving face.
“It’s a lie, we know it’s smoke and mirrors. They do it to cover themselves.”
In August, he says he was publicly stripped of his gun and placed on restrictive desk duty for telling the department he was on prescribed anti-depressant medication.
“I had to tell people why I was out, so it was more embarrassing. I was ashamed.”
Since then, he has been re-assigned five times and says the NYPD has no concrete plan to put him back on patrol.
“They sent me to a site where the majority of people have trouble.”
The veteran says finding other NYPD officers in similar situations is his new motivation.
He received one voicemail from someone who said, “I give you credit. You speak up because that’s what they’re known for, to backstab. The minute you open your mouth, something is wrong with you or family, they stigmatize you, and that’s what the department is known for.”
CBS2 asked NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill about Officer Oliveras.
“If he endured that, I am sorry he went through that experience, but if you look at what we’ve done over the last three or four months, we’re trying to move heaven and earth to get people to take services,” O’Neill argued.
The department also said in a statement, “the decision to remove a firearm to protect the well-being of an officer in crisis is based on careful evaluation.”
Recently, the NYPD launched an upgraded peer-to-peer support system, but Oliveras says that’s not enough.
“Our persona is to be tough and the only thing we pretty much know is to punish, there has to be a gentle touch when dealing with these situations,” the officer said.
To get into the NYPD, candidates must pass oral and written psychological assessments, which Oliveras did. He tells CBS2 he has no suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming others.
The NYPD has budgeted $1.2 million for their mental health program. Officers can call 646-697-2020 to get help 24/7.
- Employee Assistance Unit: 646-610-6730
- Chaplains Unit: 212-473-2363
- POPPA (independent from the NYPD): 888-267-7267
- NYC WELL: Text, call, & chat www.nyc.gov/nycwell
- Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255)
- Crisis Text Line: Law enforcement officers can text BLUE to 741741 (non-law enforcement can text TALK to 741741)
- Call 911 for emergencies