Breaking the Silence of Police Suicide
by Trish Buchanan
Please take five minutes of your time to consider, and then do something to stop police officer suicides in 5 easy steps.
1.Start with this short 4 minute video that was created by Trish Buchanan who is the widow of East Hartford Connecticut Police Officer Paul S. Buchanan, a dedicated police officer for almost 24 years and, who sadly took his own life in his police department March 12, 2013. Please take 4 minutes to watch this video.
A finalized report of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund website shows a total of 129 police officer fatalities in 2012. Of these, 52 are specified as “traffic-related”. This is in contrast to 49 officer deaths specified as “firearms-related”. The remaining 28 officer deaths are attributed to “other causes.” This is a reported decline of 22% compared to 2011, when 165 officers died in the line of duty (72 firearms-related, 60 traffic-related, 33 other causes).
These fatalities are representative of the primary danger of policing. The primary danger of policing is comprised of the inherent risks of the job, such as working in motor vehicle traffic, confronting violent persons, and exposure to traumatic incidents.
Sadly, there is an insidious and lesser known secondary danger in policing. This danger is often… Continue reading
CopsAlive was honored this week to be able to interview a police officer who attempted suicide and survived, and has maintained their career. This is critical to our discussion about wellness in law enforcement because we have a problem in our industry that we need to fix. Statistics indicate that somewhere between 2-6 times more officers kill themselves each year than are murdered in the line of duty. Police officer suicides are an issue that is long overdue for serious discussion within our profession.
It seems that the person who is best suited to describe this problem is someone who has been there, and lived through the depression leading up to a suicide attempt. Officer Kathleen Graves of the Seattle Police Department is just such a person, who after a lifetime of battling chronic pain, an addiction to pain killers, and bouts with depression, attempted to take her own life a little over a year ago. She created an elaborate plan to give away all of her worldly belongings, including her beloved dog, and even checked into a hotel room under an assumed name. She chose a hotel outside of her own jurisdiction to avoid traumatizing her peers, then she took a massive amount of pain killers. When she realized she hadn’t died, she took even more pills but was found by her rescuers before they could kill her. Her story is fascinating, and even more crucial for other officers to hear, because she was rescued, despite her own efforts to hide from her rescuers, and has been able to rebuild her life and her career. It is a remarkable story of tragedy and triumph. It is also a great starting point for an informed discussion about police officer suicides.
You can CLICK the play button here to listen to our 55 minute interview:
Or you can download the 10 MB mp3 file by using a RIGHT CLICK HERE to start the download (that’s CONTROL CLICK if you use a Mac then SAVE LINK AS…) of a copy of the mp3 file.
In our interview you will hear Officer Graves, a 14 year veteran, talk about her battles with chronic pain; her struggle with depression (a condition faced by many police veterans) and her feeling of burnout. She describes… Continue reading
Thanks to American Police Beat and the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association for putting the issue of police officer suicides on the “front page”. On the front page of their February 2011 edition, American Police Beat magazine features an article by Gary Delagnes the president of the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association entitled: “We need to talk about suicides”.
Police officer suicides are an issue that is long since overdue for serious discussion within our profession. We need active discussion, awareness training and action because If we don’t care about it, who will. We are leaving a legacy for our police families to deal with because we are too ignorant or afraid to handle the fact that more of our brothers and sisters are falling at their own hands than are being murdered in the line of duty. This is an issue that should be discussed in Command Staff meetings as much as in Roll Call sessions about the world. CLICK HERE for a copy of our Roll Call discussion guide.
Statistics indicate that somewhere between 2-6 times more officers kill themselves each year than are killed by the bad guys.
A quarter of female police officers and nearly as many male officers assigned to shift work had thought about taking their own lives, a study of police work patterns and stress has shown*.
What to Do?
We Need to Discuss This Topic Now. It should be a part of Roll Call Training and at every level of your organization. We should ask:
Did You Know Someone Who Committed Suicide?
Have You Ever Contemplated Suicide Yourself?
How Should We Help Someone We Think May Be Contemplating Suicide?
Police Officer Suicides are becoming an epidemic. Over the last several years suicides by police officers have out numbered the number of officers killed in the line of duty by 3 to 1. It is estimated that between 400 to 500 officers take their own lives each year. This is a major problem and as law enforcement professionals we must resolve this problem ourselves. The first step is awareness and then we must take action. I started this blog at www.copsalive.com when a friend and former Sheriff’s Patrol Sergeant committed suicide. No one saw it coming and in my twenty three years as a police officer… Continue reading
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