The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) has just released a new resource for law enforcement on police officer suicide, with information and resources on prevention and response to the problem of law enforcement officer suicide. The resources on their website are from their symposium entitled: “Breaking the Silence: A National Symposium on Law Enforcement Officer Suicide and Mental Health” and their website is loaded with lots of downloadable and reproducible materials.
According to the IACP website: “To address the mental health stigma within law enforcement as well as the critical issue of law enforcement suicide, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, in partnership with the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, U.S. Department of Justice (COPS) hosted Breaking the Silence: A National Symposium on Law Enforcement Officer Suicide and Mental Health in July 2013. The participants at the symposium, which included the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, law enforcement and mental health professionals, worked together to develop a national strategy to address officer mental health wellness and suicide prevention”.
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
I recently had a chance to interview Julie Zielinski about her new book entitled: “Matt’s Last Call: Surviving Our Protectors”. Julie wrote the book after her son, a sheriff’s deputy in Washington state, took his own life. As Julie reflects on the death of her firstborn son, she informs parents and children of the dangers of suicide, the difficulty of coping, the pain of everyday life, and lastly the days that happiness returns, even if just a little bit.
Matt Zielinski was an athlete, a U.S. Marine Corp. Sergeant, and ultimately fulfilled his dream of becoming a law enforcement officer. Matt worked for the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office in Wenatchee, Washington. He loved his work and was due to be appointed to the SWAT Team because… Continue reading
Thank you to all of our readers and congratulations to Deborah Louise Ortiz and everyone involved in the “Code 9 Officer Needs Assistance” film project. The producers have reached their $25,000 fund raising goal five days early. This will allow them to move forward with the completion of the film.
The film is being produced to help law enforcement officers survive the rigors of their very stressful careers. This powerful documentary explores the darker side… Continue reading
This is just the trailer for “Code 9 Officer Needs Assistance” a new film being produced to help law enforcement officers survive the rigors of their very stressful careers. This powerful documentary explores the darker side of law enforcement as it documents the stories of police officers and their families who are now suffering the mental anguish of the careers they chose, which has led some to suicide.
You can find the above trailer or make a donation to help them finish the film by CLICKING HERE Note: Their Kickstarter campaign is an ALL OR NOTHING campaign and what that means is if they do not reach their goal of raising $25,000 dollars by March 3rd then they will not receive any of the money pledged. And that any one who makes a pledge will not be charged for their pledge unless they meet their fundraising goal. If they don’t reach their goal, then you will never be charged
One of the film’s producers, Deborah Louise Ortiz, is the wife of a retired state trooper. When her husband retired from his 22 year law enforcement career all of their dreams of how his retirement would and should be turned into nightmares. Little did they know that his years on the job would transform into the demons he still battles today. Deborah says that she did not understand what was happening to him and watching his downward spiral was heart wrenching and it has torn their family apart. After much pain and family trauma they now know that he suffers from job related Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
This book will definitely have an impact on all who read it.
With a synopsis of the author’s career and the struggles he and his family endured as a result of his chosen profession, a chapter written by his wife giving her perspective of that career, and a chapter by David Joseph, a respected psychologist, readers are somewhat prepared when they begin to read about ‘Our Heroes’.
‘Our Heroes’ are 8 featured police officers who took their own lives. Each one of the officers are portrayed as the amazing human beings they were and it is a complete waste and disappointment that they are not with us today.
The most heart wrenching portions of this book however, are the letters from the officers’ loved ones. Letters were written to each officer after their death. Questions like “Why”, “What were you thinking”, “Why didn’t you talk to me”, and “Was it really that hard to ask for help?” are asked and of course, will never be answered by the one they are asking.
My Life For Your Life not only tells a story, but explains to police officers,… 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?
We’ve mentioned this before but as I have been watching the news lately there seems to be a preponderance of evidence to support this claim and I wanted to share some of the links with you. To begin with you will find an excellent article in yesterday’s Boston Globe Sunday Magazine that has an excellent perspective on the issues. CLICK HERE to read their article. Forgive the links showing below but I wanted you to see where they are coming from.
Switzerland – January 26, 2010 – Police chief found dead on eve of Davos meeting
Taiwan – A policeman shot himself to death early January 23, 2010 at the Hsinsheng South Road police substation of the Daan Precinct in Taipei, marking Taiwan’s second police shooting suicide in 10 days.
Philadelphia – January 25, 2010 Police in Philadelphia say an off-duty officer who died following a crash earlier in the week apparently killed himself.
India – December 22, 2009 ‘Harassed’ by senior, cop commits suicide. A sub-inspector with the… Continue reading
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