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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

How many officer suicides (and murders) will it take to bring a change?

...Either the officer is going to blow up one day and kill others or he’s going to kill himself...

...No one even keeps a complete, running tally of how many officers have killed themselves or attempted suicide. That includes the FBI...

by carrie antlfinger
[Excerpts] MILWAUKEE — Police Sgt. Chuck Cross pointed his department-issue .40-caliber handgun at his temple, finger on the trigger, as he sat drunk against his hallway wall. "I was about eight pounds of a trigger pull away," he said. He's unsure why he stopped. Fellow officers, called by his girlfriend, took him to a mental health center. He was charged with disorderly conduct while armed, and was fired. He says his department had no idea how to handle his situation that March 2007 night, but after six suicides in three years the Milwaukee Police Department now provides suicide awareness training. Since starting the program early this year it has had two more suicides. It's among the few departments confronting the subject.
Experts estimate that only 2 percent to 10 percent of the 18,000 police departments nationwide actively work to prevent suicides within their ranks.
No one even keeps a complete, running tally of how many officers have killed themselves or attempted suicide. That includes the FBI, which issued a 726-page report seven years ago that called suicide a "significant issue confronting the law enforcement community." "We wear a Superman cape. You're not supposed to be emotional or show it. It might show that you are weak," said Cross, who pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and won his job back. "I don't think I'm so far off that a lot of cops haven't walked down the path I have." Milwaukee officers Tina Kurth and Dave Arndt have trained nearly all the department's 2,700 employees this year. They talk about depression signs, individual stories of suicides, how suicide affects survivors and department support efforts. The important thing is to raise awareness and reduce stigma...
The California Highway Patrol started a suicide awareness program after it had seven suicides in 2006, Capt. Susan Coutts said. It's had none since...
Andy O'Hara, who is retired from the CHP, this year started the Psychological Survival for Police Officers program, which offers departments mental health training services. He came close to suicide himself, and wants departments to provide nine hours of training at the cadet level and then yearly voluntary therapy sessions. His group and Survivors of Law Enforcement Suicide also plan to lobby the FBI for a centralized tracking system to help determine the problem's severity... Within the next several months, the International Association of Chiefs of Police plans to urge its 22,000 agency members in 100 countries to implement suicide training programs. It's also putting out two guidebooks. * P.O.L.I.C.E. Suicide Foundation: http://www.psf.org/ [Full article here]

Ntl. Assoc. Private Officers
Rick McCann
July 21 2008
[Excerpts] It has been a deadly week-end for law enforcement. Three police officers working for three separate agencies in three different parts of the country were killed in less than seventy two hours... These officers all died from self- inflicted gunshot wounds... Ask any police chaplain or crises intervention specialist the reason for the high rate of police suicides and you’ll hear the array of reasons. Stress, grief, the stuff cops see on a daily basis, feelings of inadequacies and job dissatisfaction, domestic issues, drug and alcohol abuse and many other issues. Pile that stuff on top of what every officer already silently carries inside and it’s a recipe for disaster. Either the officer is going to blow up one day and kill others or he’s going to kill himself... On Friday evening officers rushed to an officer’s home in Milwaukee after hearing rumors that he might be considering killing himself... A sergeant and several officers managed to arrive and talk to the officer who stood holding a gun to his head... On Saturday night less than twenty four hours later and hundreds of miles away police and emergency workers rushed to the home of a twenty four year Boston police officer who had been on the force since 2006. The young officer who was from a family of cops had also ended her life with a bullet... Boston Police Superintendent in Chief Robert Dunford told reporters and bystanders at the scene. “I have no explanation”... In the last nine years, 19 LAPD police officer’s have committed suicide as opposed to 7 killed in the line of duty in the same time frame...
There are no words to adequately describe what being a police officer really does to a persons mind, body and soul. Unless you wear the badge and live the life it would be hard to begin to bring you inside a world different that any can imagine...
I can only hope and pray that police departments worldwide will put forth the effort to recognize the symptoms, address them before the jumping off point, add trained professional counselors to the department’ staff and encourage their officers to open up and talk without being afraid of reprimand or suspension or termination for the feelings that they might temporarily be having or the issues that they might be facing. Police officers on the job day after day face battle fatigue no different than soldiers in combat and demons that are bigger than they are and we need to be there to help ease the stress, carry their load and sooth their pain and always be willing just to listen. [Full article here]

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