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Old 02-02-2013, 02:04 PM
 
9,186 posts, read 9,267,265 times
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I got the idea for this post from something Phil said in the thread about the New Town tragedy and the stress that first responders suffer dealing with these kinds of ordeals.

Who either read Joseph Wambaugh's book, "The Onion Field" or saw the movie?

To recapitulate, the story involves two LAPD police patrolmen who made the mistake of surrendering their firearms when a criminal pulled a pistol on them. The officers were subsequently directed to get in the back of an automobile and were driven to an onion field in Bakersfield, California. The two officers were Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger. When they arrived at the onion field, it was around midnight. Ian Campbell was than shot, murdered. The killers shot at Karl Hettinger, but couldn't hit him in the dark as he ran from them. Hettinger ran until he was able to locate assistance from a nearby farmer.

The two killers were subsequently arrested and after a long legal battle were sentenced to life in prison. One died in prison back in September after almost 50 years of incarceration. The other ultimately was released on a parole and has subsequently died. My post isn't about the crime though. My post is about what happened to Officer Karl Hettinger.

Hettinger was quite undone by his experience in the onion field. Who could blame him? He saw his partner shot and killed as he stood beside him. He ran for his life as the killers shot at him, barely missing him. Hettinger was never the same again. One issue was that he was considered a "coward" by some of his fellow officers who couldn't accept the notion that he had voluntarily given up his gun to criminals rather than attempting to "shoot it out" with them. Hettinger had difficulty talking about his experiences at all and was asked to do so over and over again as part of training for various groups of police officers. He was given different jobs on the LAPD none of which he was able to perform satisfactorily.

One day, while assigned the job of detective, Hettinger began shoplifting from stores. He stole a variety of items before he was caught. Rather, than ask any questions or attempt to figure out what had happened to Hettinger, the LAPD forced him to resign under threat of criminal prosecution. Later, Hettinger was able to win a disability pension after he established with psychiatric testimony that his shoplifting was behavior most likely caused by untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Hettinger never worked as a police officer again. He later died younger than he should have primarily because of complications related to alcoholism.

What happened to Hettinger happened many years ago. There is a greater awareness today of the effect that PTSD has on individuals. Still, what happened to him was a travesty. It is an example of the enormous price that many people for a decision to be a "first responder".
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:19 PM
 
Location: Dublin, CA
3,813 posts, read 3,656,523 times
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Mark,

An EXCELLENT example of what I was referring too. The Onion Field is an issue still talked about in police circles, all these years later. Tactics, such as giving up your gun, splitting apart, etc have been discussed and debated, because of this incident.

Hettinger was shunned by the police officers of the day as a "coward." As you correctly pointed out. He was basically "drummed" out of LAPD and, instead of just quitting, he committed a petty theft which FORCED him to quit. He didn't have a choice. Such an issue still occurs today. MANY police officers commit minor crimes and infractions, in order to have an "out" so as not to be branded a "coward," etc to get out of the "business." As I said, it still happens to this day.

A good friend of mine, who USED to work for the local sheriff's department, was arrested for stealing a 12 dollar pair of sunglasses in San Diego. Huh? He made 100k a year. He did it, so he could quit, without the stigma of being a coward and not being able to handle the job. This occurs ALL the time, with law enforcement all across this nation.

I DO NOT make excuses for them. They are wrong. Yet, the stress of this job makes people do stupid things. Some of which gets them killed. You have heard of "Suicide by Cop?" I have seen Suicide by Crook.
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Old 02-02-2013, 05:38 PM
 
Location: Coastal New Jersey
56,009 posts, read 54,523,130 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markg91359 View Post
I got the idea for this post from something Phil said in the thread about the New Town tragedy and the stress that first responders suffer dealing with these kinds of ordeals.

Who either read Joseph Wambaugh's book, "The Onion Field" or saw the movie?

To recapitulate, the story involves two LAPD police patrolmen who made the mistake of surrendering their firearms when a criminal pulled a pistol on them. The officers were subsequently directed to get in the back of an automobile and were driven to an onion field in Bakersfield, California. The two officers were Ian Campbell and Karl Hettinger. When they arrived at the onion field, it was around midnight. Ian Campbell was than shot, murdered. The killers shot at Karl Hettinger, but couldn't hit him in the dark as he ran from them. Hettinger ran until he was able to locate assistance from a nearby farmer.

The two killers were subsequently arrested and after a long legal battle were sentenced to life in prison. One died in prison back in September after almost 50 years of incarceration. The other ultimately was released on a parole and has subsequently died. My post isn't about the crime though. My post is about what happened to Officer Karl Hettinger.

Hettinger was quite undone by his experience in the onion field. Who could blame him? He saw his partner shot and killed as he stood beside him. He ran for his life as the killers shot at him, barely missing him. Hettinger was never the same again. One issue was that he was considered a "coward" by some of his fellow officers who couldn't accept the notion that he had voluntarily given up his gun to criminals rather than attempting to "shoot it out" with them. Hettinger had difficulty talking about his experiences at all and was asked to do so over and over again as part of training for various groups of police officers. He was given different jobs on the LAPD none of which he was able to perform satisfactorily.

One day, while assigned the job of detective, Hettinger began shoplifting from stores. He stole a variety of items before he was caught. Rather, than ask any questions or attempt to figure out what had happened to Hettinger, the LAPD forced him to resign under threat of criminal prosecution. Later, Hettinger was able to win a disability pension after he established with psychiatric testimony that his shoplifting was behavior most likely caused by untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Hettinger never worked as a police officer again. He later died younger than he should have primarily because of complications related to alcoholism.

What happened to Hettinger happened many years ago. There is a greater awareness today of the effect that PTSD has on individuals. Still, what happened to him was a travesty. It is an example of the enormous price that many people for a decision to be a "first responder".
I read The Onion Field years ago. Thanks for the nice recap of the story. It was a tragedy, and yes, a good portrait of a man with PTSD.
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Old 02-02-2013, 11:09 PM
 
Location: Dublin, CA
3,813 posts, read 3,656,523 times
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Alot of times people, the general public, ask why do police officers do certain things. Its because of incidents such as this. In my original post, I said police tactics changed due to this issue. They change due to alot of things. Some of you see it as barbaric and rude. Some of you see it as unnecessary because "you aren't doing anything." Yet, how am I to know you aren't or will not? You are with someone who is and/or will. So, until I know other wise, I treat you the same. Yes, I treat you hard. I treat you nasty. Yet, the goal for me is to go home at the end of my shift in one piece.

You are in the bank. Its being robbed and there are 30+ people in there. When everyone comes out, I treat you ALL the same. You are ALL potentially the bank robbers. As the robber, I can just blend into the crowd. How am I supposed to know WHO is the "bad guy." You get mad at me, because I stick a weapon in your face and handcuff you. Yes, I understand your frustration. However, do you understand mine? But I told you I wasn't the bad guy. Uh, ok. That and 10 cents will get you no where. You don't think the bad guy will lie too? Unfortunately, until the bank is completely cleared and an investigation is completed, you are ALL suspects and treated as such, until we know otherwise. Don't get mad at me, get mad at the crooks who have, in the past, mingled with the hostages in order to get away.
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Old 02-02-2013, 11:37 PM
 
Location: CO/UT/AZ/NM Catch me if you can!
4,740 posts, read 4,366,460 times
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I don't have a problem with police officers being ultra cautious - especially these days. Even when it's just a routine traffic stop, for all the cop knows I'm Bonnie and Clyde is ducked down in the back seat with 2 or 3 guns.
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Old 02-03-2013, 07:55 PM
 
Location: So Ca
15,763 posts, read 14,998,967 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil306 View Post
The Onion Field is an issue still talked about in police circles, all these years later. Tactics, such as giving up your gun, splitting apart, etc have been discussed and debated, because of this incident.
I never knew this until I read the book years ago. Wambaugh's amazing ability to portray these two men as human beings and to tell their background story and portray the friendship they had before that horrific incident were what drew the reader in. I still think about what happened to Hettinger.


Quote:
A good friend of mine, who USED to work for the local sheriff's department, was arrested for stealing a 12 dollar pair of sunglasses in San Diego. Huh? He made 100k a year. He did it, so he could quit, without the stigma of being a coward and not being able to handle the job. This occurs ALL the time, with law enforcement all across this nation.
That's really tragic.
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Old 02-04-2013, 07:31 AM
 
Location: 39 20' 59"N / 75 30' 53"W
16,085 posts, read 23,883,960 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markg91359 View Post

One day, while assigned the job of detective, Hettinger began shoplifting from stores. He stole a variety of items before he was caught. Rather, than ask any questions or attempt to figure out what had happened to Hettinger, the LAPD forced him to resign under threat of criminal prosecution. Later, Hettinger was able to win a disability pension after he established with psychiatric testimony that his shoplifting was behavior most likely caused by untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Hettinger never worked as a police officer again. He later died younger than he should have primarily because of complications related to alcoholism.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil306 View Post

A good friend of mine, who USED to work for the local sheriff's department, was arrested for stealing a 12 dollar pair of sunglasses in San Diego. Huh? He made 100k a year. He did it, so he could quit, without the stigma of being a coward and not being able to handle the job. This occurs ALL the time, with law enforcement all across this nation.
I post this with all due respect to those in the trenches, military, law enforcement as well as other professions.

It's said 'Whatever you fight, you risk becoming the same'. There's truth to the statement, I've posted it in another forum and as pointed out, if you're in a sewer everyday, you're gonna come out with a stench.
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Old 02-04-2013, 03:53 PM
 
Location: Dublin, CA
3,813 posts, read 3,656,523 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by virgode View Post
I post this with all due respect to those in the trenches, military, law enforcement as well as other professions.

It's said 'Whatever you fight, you risk becoming the same'. There's truth to the statement, I've posted it in another forum and as pointed out, if you're in a sewer everyday, you're gonna come out with a stench.
Virgode,

You are absolutely correct. I've said many times on this board. The amount of psychological damage done to the first responders of this country is ASTOUNDING. Its NOT just them. Its the fallout all the way around. Their families suffer and, in turn, develop emotional/psychiatric issues.

Divorce, alcoholism/drug abuse, domestic violence, are some of the HIGHEST in the country. Much, of course until recently, you don't hear much about. Now, its plastered all over the front pages. I believe last week, a Las Vegas PD Lieutenant killed his wife, child, then himself. You read stories about this all the time, yet very few people in this country stop and say: Why? Why is this occurring and, moreover, what are WE as a society going to do to help stop it?

Its not just a cost in life, its a MAJOR financial cost. Look at Hettinger. "He later fought for and obtained a disability retirement." It cost the citizens of Los Angeles millions of dollars. He is but ONE of thousands, if not millions. LAPD is one department. Multiply that by the hundreds of thousands of departments across the country. Disability retirements are costing us BILLIONS of dollars. With early intervention, alot of this can be eliminated.

Unfortunately, alot of us just feel "its part of the job," and we go about our daily lives.
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Old 02-04-2013, 05:47 PM
 
9,911 posts, read 9,300,737 times
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Mark, thanks for that update. I read "The Onion Field" long ago but didn't see the movie. That is sad what happened to Hettinger.

My husband returned from Vietnam and never mentioned anything ... now many many years later he will pop up with a comment of some violent event he witnessed. I guess he has it buried deep for it to come out so many years later. When normal, sane people are shot at or see others killed I don't think this is something one can just file way or compartmentalize it and continue on with their lives.
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Old 02-04-2013, 07:20 PM
 
18,852 posts, read 31,703,820 times
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I was married to a law enforcement officer, our marriage was a sham. Because he could not separate his job from his real life. It got to the point that I never even wanted to talk to him, because he was either angry all the time about something, and could not tell me about it, or he would never talk about his job...hello, he did it 70-80 hours a week and then would say nothing? Okay, I get "it", but then, what do you talk about?

He did undercover for many years, I used to tell him to say "Hi" to his other wife and family, he was gone all the time, holidays...we could never plan a vacation, because inevitably he would have to work. And I think because he lived a lie when he was undercover, he came home, and just kept lying.

We lived two separate lives in the same house. Maybe it was him, or me? I personally think it was his job...
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