Have you ever stopped to ask what’s really killing us? I’m not so sure the answers are as important now as the right questions. But a BIG questions are in doing a little threat assessment on our careers.
What’s the biggest threat to a police officer’s life? Is it being murdered by some felon? Is it a terrorists bomb? I think the biggest threat is the one most of are not facing head on – Stress and all of it’s side effects.
I retired five years ago because I was worried about the stress from the job taking a further toll on my life. Since then I’ve watched my friends and fellow officers as they continue in what I think is the most difficult job in the world and I wonder what a toll it’s taking on them.
Some of my friends are in their 60’s and are still pushing a patrol car around everyday. I’ve read about the effects of stress from the job but never knew what they really casued until the day when one of my friends took his own life. He was like me, he had retired young to pursue work in his family’s business. He left law enforcement as a patrol sergeant after 14 years on the job on two different sheriff’s departments. He was happy go lucky and everyone loved him. He seemed to be doing well in business and everyone was shocked when he committed suicide.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund 145 officers lost their lives in the line of duty in the United States in 2006. Of that number 56 were murdered and 89 died accidental deaths (mostly in motor vehicle accidents). The National Police Suicide Foundation reports however, that the numbers of deaths due to suicide are 2 to 3 times the number of line of duty deaths among law enforcement agencies and emergency workers That means that over seven times as many officers took their own lives than those who were killed by the bad guys. Research and anecdotal evidence suggests that cops have a higher incidence of almost all forms of cancer than most Americans, and may have a higher incidence of alcoholism, divorce and perhaps financial ruin or bankruptcy. Further anecdotal evidence suggest that this in an international phenomenon with universal implications.
The National Police Suicide Foundation says it has verified an average of 450 law enforcement suicides in each of the last three years, compared with about 150 officers who died annually in the line of duty. According to an article in USA TODAY published February 8, 2007. Robert Douglas, executive director of the National Police Suicide Foundation says no more than 2% of the nation’s law enforcement agencies have prevention programs.
There isn’t a lot of research available about what’s killing cops. You might be skeptical about what you read.
The bottom line is that we need to be asking MORE QUESTIONS and maybe just the RIGHT QUESTIONS about what is killing us and what we can do about it.
National Police Suicide Foundation: http://www.psf.org/
USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-02-08-police-suicides_x.htm
Wall Street Journal: http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110009658