Former Chesterfield police officer says he was unfairly fired after suffering from PTSD on the job (2023)

CHESTERFIELD TOWN, Mich. (WXYZ) — A former Chesterfield Township police officer says he was wrongfully fired after suffering PTSD on the job.

Former police officer Joshua Baker answers a call in neighboring New Baltimore after a 7-year-old girl and her grandmother were struck by a truck on September 30, 2022. The accident occurred near Greene and Washington. Although he was out of his jurisdiction, Baker was within minutes of the accident and offered help, his family said.

Baker's parents said that when their son arrived on the scene, he saw the girl lying under a truck with serious injuries. Baker and a New Baltimore Police Department officer removed the girl.

Baker told her parents minutes after being on the scene that she called paramedics to get an estimated time of arrival. When EMS personnel told them there were still about 10 minutes to go, Baker said he and New Baltimore officials decided to start transporting the boy to meet an EMS vehicle on the road or to the hospital.

“They started on the road. Josh was in the back seat of the police car. New Baltimore police officers were driving and Josh held her for a long time. She was alternately unconscious and covered in blood,” Jeff Baker said. , the father of a now fired officer.

Later that night, the Bakers said their son received a voicemail from their police chief. 7 Action News obtained the recording. In it, the person on the other end of the phone gives Officer Baker an update on the 7-year-old's condition. The caller he called also continued, "You made the right decision 100%. I'm glad you went and threw it away and left."

Despite the voicemail, the Bakers said that within days of the accident, the department began investigating their son for violating policy by leaving the jurisdiction and transporting personnel while responding to the accident.

"What he did, he saved that little girl's life, and as a parent or a grandparent, you would be very grateful. You would be nominating him for a lifesaving award, not giving him disciplinary action," said Michele, the now-fired officer's mother. police, Albeck said.

Although the girl survived, Baker's family said she began to show signs of post-traumatic stress disorder in the months after the accident. They said that she complained of not being able to sleep. They say she gets angry sometimes too and has lost 60 pounds from not eating. They said she took a lot of sick days because of it.

“After a few months, we noticed that his mental health started to worsen. She behaved differently. More aggressive," Baker's father said.

Baker's parents said their son finally sought help in March after the family repeatedly urged him to talk to someone. They said he called his supervisors in tears to tell them about the mental health issues he was going through. He confided to his superiors that he had a "nervous breakdown" and that he hadn't slept in days, even after trying melatonin and THC gummies.

Baker's father, who also has 30 years of law enforcement experience and served as police chief in Mount Auburn and Port Huron, said he also called the Chesterfield Township police chief to speak directly with him. He said he hoped it would give him a better idea of ​​how his son was struggling.

“I spoke to the supervisor and he assured me that he would help him. The plan was that he would be at work the next morning and his colleagues and friends would talk to him, he was already looking for help but they persuaded him to go looking. help," Baker said.

However, when Josh arrived at work the next day, he took a drug test, Baker said. The 28-year-old was also scheduled to have a medical exam next Monday and was ultimately diagnosed with PTSD, they said. Baker said his son was scheduled for two additional follow-up appointments, but he never saw a doctor again after the police department reportedly canceled those appointments.

“I have worked the streets for many years, and when we came across someone who was breaking the law and looking for help, we got their help and dealt with the violation along the way,” Baker said. "It was one of his colleagues. In law enforcement, we're supposed to be a family and look out for each other. Where's the help? That never happened. Instead, they opened another THC investigation."

The subsequent investigation continued until April 25, when two supervisors sent a letter to Baker's home informing him of his termination for a policy violation, Baker said.

The letter, obtained by 7 Action News, mentions that Baker was fired for testing positive for THC.

“Not only did he not receive help, but he knew that these people were your working family, they turned their back on you, they were investigating you, they fired you. It's really hard to understand," said Michelle Baker.

The rapid fire was especially confusing because her son was not the officer in question, they said. During his seven years with the department, he has won numerous awards, including Officer of the Year in 2018, they said.

"He's not a kid with a substance abuse problem. He's not a kid who's done something like that. He's not even drinking. He's trying to sleep," Jeff Baker said.

Shortly after their son was fired, the Bakers began speaking at town hall meetings and spreading the story online. since then there is Petitionyto finance meCreated to support Josh. The former officer also gained the support of the township trustee, David Joseph.

"We have an obligation to help him. We have an obligation to help protect our heroes and protectors," Joseph said.

Under community pressure, the department offered Josh his job on May 12 in a so-called "last chance" deal, the Bakers said. The agreement does not include mental health treatment or strict parameters for termination, Jeff said.

“[He says] that if he can't return, he will remain on unpaid leave and if this continues for more than 6 months, he will be fired again. That is what the agreement says, but they are willing to review the use of THC. ask yourself, what is behind this? I don't have an answer," Baker said in explaining the deal.

The Bakers say their son is taking full responsibility for smoking marijuana in violation of the policy. They said that while they also didn't think he should have gotten away with it, it was disappointing how the department used it as a reason to fire him without first helping his mental health.

Michelle and Jeff said they felt compelled to speak out against what happened to their son, as mental health remains a top concern for first responders.

according to a2021 Articles from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, both firefighters and police officers are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty. According to the article, an estimated 18-24% of dispatchers and 35% of police officers suffer from PTSD.

"I'm very proud of him. I'm appalled that the Chesterfield leadership would treat him like this. What they should do is help him and get him back on track," Jeff said. "All the family asked was to send him to a doctor and have him treated. At that point, the doctor said he could go back to work, go back to work, deal with the THC and move on."

7 Action News contacted Chesterfield Township Police for comment. The official said by phone that he could not comment in any way as it was an ongoing personnel matter.

The Bakers said they plan to continue attending township meetings to make sure their son's story is shared.

Copyright 2023 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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