Introduce, Discuss, and Analyze: Suicide in Police Officers

Length: 7 Pages 1864 Words

The suicide of police officers is a growing problem in the United States, and it is a problem that is rarely discussed openly. The National Police Suicide Foundation states, "The numbers of deaths due to suicide are two to three times the number of line of duty deaths among law enforcement agencies and emergency workers" (Douglas). Other researchers note that in 1986, the national average rate of suicide was 12.8 per 100,000. However "Various police suicide rates have been reported: 80 per 100,000 for the New York Police Department; 203 per 100,000 for the state of Wyoming; 17.9 per 100,000 for the St. Louis Police Department; and 0 per 100,000 for the Denver Police Department" (Beigel and Russell 236) during various studies done prior to 1990. Clearly, the rates of suicide among police officers in most areas are higher than the statistics for the general population. Many reasons for this incidence of suicide exist, including the high stress levels of the job, the difficulty in maintaining personal, off-duty relationships, and the inability to discuss much of what the officers experiences in their day-to-day work. Two researchers into policing note a wide variety of reasons police officers face gre Continue...

They often are immersed in their husband's job and have altered their own lives to accommodate the police world" (Beigel and Russell 236-237). A divorce or break-up of a relationship. However, as Whitlock returned to the station with Pillard, she suddenly "bolted" from the car and ran to her pickup truck, where she eventually shot herself in the chest with her 9mm weapon (Emery). This continually indicates that departments are loath to study their own suicide rates, or admit they have a problem. This is another reason that personnel and family members need to be aware of the warning signals and act on them. Often, the media, who portray police officers as unflappable in the face of all crises, reinforces this idea. Unfortunately, her superiors, fellow officers, and husband did not recognize the signs in time to help her. Most completed studies do show, however, that police officers do have a higher rate of suicide than the general population (Kenney and McNamara 97-99). The resulting stress can lead to a variety of coping reactions, from depression to alcoholism, divorce, and even suicide. Most officers still find reporting despondency or depression nearly impossible, because they fear reprisal, an affect on their assignments, and even removal from the force. A critical incident can be an "event that is experienced on or off the job that is outside the realm of normal human experience and could be expected to produce significant emotional reactions in anyone" (Kurke and Scrivner 170). One reporter notes, "According to a 1992 article in the 'Southern Medical Journal,' one reason for the lack of data is 'a desire to keep secret the internal affairs of a particular department'" (Horvitz 9).