The amount of support we have received for Scott and Bigby has been overwhelming. I have read some of the most amazing messages and letters and they prove what I already knew: our friends, family, coworkers and community are intelligent, compassionate and thoughtful. Thousands of people have read my Request for Help and many have assisted us in educating the city of Phoenix on PTSD and service dogs. Unfortunately the city still has not realized that Scott has the right to bring Bigby to work and took retaliatory action against him yesterday. Below I’m posting my email to Chief Yahner which I sent today. Thank you so much for your continued support. We could never have done this without you. I owe you all lots of lemon bars and hugs.-Christie
Dear Chief Yahner,
I am extremely disappointed in your response. By taking retaliatory action against Scott you are halting the resolution of what should be a simple issue. However, I’m glad that we have started a dialogue. I only wish that it had taken place earlier.
One of my main concerns with this situation is the extremely inappropriate phone call that Scott received from the Human Resources department. It is clear that the city needs to take steps to educate this particular employee and the department in general. No one has yet addressed this issue. I expect Scott to receive an apology and I would like reassurance that the city will address this issue and work to educate their human resources employees so that this will not happen to anyone else. Scott and I have always been willing to have a dialogue regarding his use of a service dog. We are fully aware that he is breaking some new ground and can provide you with resources to better educate city management as well as police management.
When Scott made the decision to have a service dog he also made a decision to join the service dog community at large. As such he knew that part of this would be educating the public, his coworkers and family about the role that Bigby his service dog plays in his life. He also has a duty to fight for his rights when they are violated. Your assumption that the city makes the decision on whether he can bring his service dog to work is incorrect. He has a legal right to have a service dog at work and city or police management do not have the ability to change this law. I’m sure you are well aware that the community supports Scott and Bigby. I have received copies of some of the letters that have been sent to the city manager’s office. We are so incredibly lucky to have such articulate and compassionate family, friends, neighbors, officers, veterans and community members. Please use the information that they have provided you with.
The retaliatory action of asking Scott to remove his shield and gun while in public is not only ridiculous but also completely contrary to every action the department has taken prior to Scott asserting his right to a service dog. You yourself have been at several public events with Scott where he has worn his shield, service weapon and had Bigby with him. Scott has suffered an egregious injury in the line of duty and I think you should be proud that the police department has made reasonable accommodation to allow him to safely and proficiently access his service weapon in the form of a thigh holster. Scott has been able to pass all of his qualifications and there is no reason that he should not be allowed to wear his service weapon and shield in public. Scott has been successfully working as a Missing Persons detective with Bigby for over two months. If a citizen were to approach him for help he would be able to professionally and proficiently provide assistance if in the unfortunate instance that it would require the use of his service weapon. The reality is that Scott will live in some degree of pain for the rest of his life. He will also live with the physical consequences of missing portions of his small and large intestine that prevent him from being able to be on patrol. However, none of these injuries prevent him from using his service weapon or being able to assist the public as the department has been well aware up until this issue arose.
I feel as though the portion of this discussion that you have not yet realized is that Scott and Bigby are a symbol of hope. Your officers need to know that if the worst were to happen you would support them in their recovery. I’m sure you are aware at this point that the community expects this from you and the city management as well. Scott is not the only officer that is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He is not the only officer that suffers chronic physical pain from injuries sustained in protecting this city. This issue is larger than Scott and Bigby; it is about how you treat all of those who serve. We have to be adamant in demanding that this issue is dealt with quickly, appropriately and with compassion because we have to show other officers there is hope. The worst possible outcomes from these types of situations lead officers to hide their physical and psychological pain. That road only leads to anger, pain, alcohol abuse, drug abuse and death. Scott and Bigby are on a different path. Scott immediately sought treatment both physically and mentally following his shooting. He has been in many hours of extremely painful and difficult work. He left no stone unturned in searching for help. This path led him to Bigby as a way to be his best possible self and the best possible officer that he could be.
Scott is your greatest ally. Or at least he will be; never doubt the power of an apology. If Scott can forgive the person that shot him and move forward in such a positive manner imagine what he will be able to do for the department. The department has made some great advances under your leadership. There is more awareness of PTSD than ever. There is a new employee assistance unit (EAU) and the officer who has been in communication with me has been compassionate, logical and professional even in the midst of my grief and heartache at the pain that has been caused by the city’s careless actions. However, it is clear that more work needs to be done. Scott found a path that led to his best self after the type of critical incident that has proved career ending for other officers. He is a model of what to do following a critical incident. He has taken every step necessary so that he can serve this city and continue his career as a public servant. What better resource could there be.
Do the right thing. Show your officers that you have care and compassion for the inevitable suffering that some of them will face. Return Scott’s shield and gun to him in public. Work with the city management to get Scott his well-deserved apology and to educate them on this issue. I know this has been a headache and a hassle but this is bigger than just Scott and Bigby. This is about how the leadership in our city deals with those that have sacrificed for their city. You have the opportunity to do something great; don’t let it pass you by.
I look forward to our continued communication on this issue.
Christie Prince Sefranka