Police Suicide

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By Saul Roth

Still, there is debate as to the extent that police suicide is actually a problem. As previously mentioned, that there are professions with higher suicide rates.

A study conducted on New York City police officers reviewed death certificates of active police officers from 1977 through 1996 (Marzuk, Nock, Leon, Portera, & Tardiff, 2002).

This review took into account many accidental deaths that were probably suicides. Some of these deaths involved carbon monoxide poisoning, hanging, high falls, and firearm use. Between 1977 and 1996, there were 668 police officer deaths that the study considered to be a suicide. There were years with low suicides and years with high suicides.

For example, in 1982 there were zero suicides in the New York City Police Department (NYPD), while 1987, the department experienced 10 suicides. The rate for NYPD male officer suicides from 1977 to 1996 was 14.9 per 100,000 officers. The rate of suicide for the general population during those same years was 18.3 per 100,000 people.

Female officers had a slightly higher rate than the general population. There was only a very small sample of female officers that committed suicide.

The study found that the rate of police officer suicides in New York City to be no higher than the general population, and in fact was a little less. There were only three years in the study in which the police officer rate was higher than the general population rate (Marzuk et al., 2002).

Other experts on suicide have claimed that there is no difference in the rate of police suicides to the general public. It is claimed that the studies that do state that police suicide rate is higher are flawed. It is disclosed that the comparison groups are usually too small and that the groups used are flawed.

A study in Rome, Italy for example happened to be all traffic cops that do not experience the same stress as patrol officers or detectives. The studies are worldwide and different jurisdictions have different reporting procedures.

One of the largest studies on police suicide was in France by Bourgoin (1997). The study included the years 1979 to 1996. The general population was 35.4 per 100,000 and the police suicide rate was 34.8 per 100,000.

A study in Germany by Scmidtke (1999) showed police suicides at 22.7 per 100,000 compared and the general public at 23.7 per 100,000. The general public considered males age 17 to 60. This was more closely related to the police comparison.

In the United States a study by Guralnick (1963) and Labovitz and Hagedorn (1971) used statistics from 1950. It showed the police to have the second highest suicide rate of suicide of 36 occupations at 47.6 per 100,000.

But a study by Stack and Kelly (1994) showed the rate to be 26 per 100,000, and that being a police officer did not create a higher risk of suicide.

There are other studies that show no difference in the suicide rate of police officers to the general public. (Hem, 2001).

The rate of suicide for the general public and police is the same. The problem is the police should not have the same rate of suicide as the general public.

As shown the general public has the mentally ill, criminals, extremely handicapped etc. The general public should not be compared to police officers.