My name is Adam Carter; I started my policing career with a large police agency in Ontario in 1998 and spent my first five years working uniform patrol in four different divisions, where I also served as a Bicycle Patrol Officer. I then spent 13 years working out of Traffic Services as a Breath Technician, Radar/Lidar Instructor-Trainer, Speed Management Coordinator and Collision Reconstructionist.
My policing career has “gifted” me with two departmental collisions during my first month on the job (I was passenger in both), a shooting incident in my 4th year, a time lost duty injury as a result of an accused trying to take my firearm, and nearly 600 collision investigations (two thirds of which were life-altering or fatal injuries), and these are but a few of the ingredients for my “Operational Stress Injury” (OSI) Receipt.
In 2015 I was on-call for over 28 weeks and attended 76% of the unit’s crash investigations. The start of 2016 was a milestone anniversary for my father’s death, but saw the early passing of my mother-in-law, which brought up a lot of memories of my father. Compounding my personal stressors were my ancillary duties as a Team Leader, Unit Training Officer, and the ever stressful process of competing for promotion. On July 20th, 2016 after having worked 22 hours the day before, my body decided it had enough and shut down on me. Being a “Phys Ed” major, a varsity athlete with a national bronze medal, an internationally licensed soccer coach, and a lifelong cyclist this was the last thing I ever expected!
BUT, the combination of personal stressors, sanctuary trauma, repetitive exposures, and perceived injustice all lead to; memory loss, anxiety and panic attacks, temporary vision loss, uncontrollable crying, bloodied inconstancy, and much more. With no member wellness program in place, or guidance on what was happening to me, I made a “cold call” to BADGE OF LIFE CANADA, and BILL RUSK called me back almost immediately! BILL (coincidently my father’s name), spent nearly 3 hours on the phone with me normalizing my experience, sharing his journey, and providing me with the professional resources to help me understand what I was experiencing and get me back to adaptive functioning.
After nearly three months away from work, and against my psychologist’s professional recommendation I attempted to return to light duties. This was short lived and a scenario which played out two more times before finally returned to full-time duties in March 2017.
During my time in the detective office, I had ballooned to over 220 lbs, and at only 5’9” that made me obese! Basically, I had stopped working out after my shooting incident in 2003, stopped playing competitive soccer by 35, and abandoned my love for cycling in 2008 because it was “interfering with my job”. So after a six-year cycling hiatus, a close friend and fellow recruit got me back on the two-wheeled horse. I sporadically returned to cycling in 2015 to prepare for the Canadian Police Memorial Ride to Remember (R2R). However, I used “staffing issues” as an excuse and again put “my career” before my own wellness and did not join the R2R that year. In 2016 I was only 1800 Kms into my cycling season by the third week of September, but my brother in blue supported me as I pedalled my way through a very emotional five days, and 700+ km R2R journey.
Since going off work with my OSI in July 2016, I have become obsessed with wanting to know the “why and how” it happened to me. This has led to me wanting to know how I can prevent this from happening to my colleagues and my friends. I do not want any of them to go through what I had experienced. So, I have educated myself and have become a voice for member wellness. Unfortunately or fortunately, LIFE has a tendency to “keeping us honest” and in 2017 I missed the R2R because of a reoccurring injury to my back that was a result of my departmental collisions. However, because of my self-education and awareness I used this setback to fuel my resilience.
Since my OSI, I have logged over 35,000 Kms on the bicycle, dropped 30 lbs and used my love of cycling to not only start the conversation about wellness, but keep it rolling with the wheels. I am currently coaching my service’s Cops for Cancer Team, and took over the Team Captain duties for their R2R Team starting in 2020. In 2019 I also rode in the Big Move Cancer Ride with Team Meridian Credit Union, and in the inaugural Peloton Ride on September 14th with two dozen of my colleagues from around the province in support of BADGE OF LIFE CANADA and “Mental Health and Suicide Awareness”.
My service now has a Member Wellness Program, and I am proud to be part of both our Critical Incident Response and Peer Support Teams, giving back to my colleagues and our future guardians. I have completed my Certification in Critical Incident Stress Management from the University of Baltimore Maryland County, obtained my Certificate of Specialized Training in Emergency Services with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, and I am a Certified Trauma Responder with the Association of Traumatic Stress Specialists. I look forward to sharing my knowledge and paying it forward during the last quarter of my career.
Safe Keeping, Coach Carter #StrengthInNumbers
– Adam Carter