MESA, Ariz. — In 12 News' survey of Valley police officers, 94% said there is a stigma within law enforcement when it comes to seeking help. But as retired Mesa Police Sgt. Ben Alexander found out, when an officer does gain the courage to come forward, that is only half the battle.
“So many times as police officers people are quick to discredit the human element," said Alexander.
Alexander relieved the traumatic incident that brought him to where he is today. It was five years ago and he was trying to stop a suspect in a stolen car in Mesa.
“She hit us. Later found out that the initial impact moved our vehicle eight feet laterally and that impact is what thrust me forward into the windshield causing me to hit my head," said Alexander.
The driver didn't stop there.
“She had actually put it in reverse rammed backwards into the marked patrol vehicle who had gotten behind her put it back in drive and rammed us again. The way it was described to me is that she had a grip on the steering wheel with the intent to run me over," said Alexander.
Right away, Alexander knew he was physically hurt. It wasn't until months later though that through his family, he realized something wasn't right with his mental health.
“My wife filed for divorce. Completely took me off guard. My kids started to distance themselves from me," said Alexander.
Alexander was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. He would try to distract himself so he didn't have to cope with it.
“I was self-medicating. I was drinking beer by the 12-pack. I was numbing myself," said Alexander.
Alexander was able to save his marriage. Then, in January, he retired from the Mesa Police Department. It was one of the hardest decisions he had ever had to make.
“This was my dream job. I loved everything about it," said Alexander.
Because of Alexander's mental injury, he filed a workers' compensation claim with the City of Mesa. It would allow him to continue his treatment.
He was shocked when his claim was denied.
“It is the most difficult challenge I’ve ever been through in my entire life. I’ve joked with my buddies that I’d rather go through boot camp twice than have to redo the last nine months," said Alexander.
Alexander has been diagnosed with PTSD by five separate medical professionals. Still, the city required him to get evaluated by an independent medical examiner, who concluded that Alexander does not need any mental health treatment for the traumatic incident five years ago.
Alexander is so frustrated that he decided to speak out at Monday night's Mesa City Council meeting.
"My question to you is simple. Why? Why do you allow the maltreatment of honorable, dedicated, decorated police officers and firefighters?" said Alexander.
Alexander is appealing his denied claim and will now bring the fight to the Industrial Commission. It's a fight he says is about much more than himself.
“I see that something is wrong and I want to make it right. I want to improve the quality of life for people that have experienced the same things that I have," said Alexander.
12 News reached out to the City of Mesa. A spokesperson said they cannot comment.
Alexander will bring his case to the Industrial Commission in October. 12 News will be there and will bring updates as they develop.