By Saul Roth
On February 13, 2014, The Huffington Post reported on the four victims of terminated police officer Chris Dormer, which entailed one of the biggest man hunts in the history of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Chris Dormer was fired by the LAPD in 2008. In 2013, he went on a revengeful campaign killing two civilians and two police officers before killing himself. Police officer suicide is a serious problem and must be addressed in a serious way.
The DHHS website relates that September 10th of every year is World Suicide Prevention Day. In 2010, the DHHS started the Nation Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. This alliance consists of suicide experts, healthcare providers, public officials, faith leaders, federal agencies, and the Armed Forces. In 2012, the Surgeon General released a National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. The U.S. government is actively working toward lowering the national suicide rate. In addition, the National Suicide Foundation was founded in 1997. The reason for forming this foundation was the increasing number of police suicides. The Foundation includes a crisis hotline and referrals to other hotlines. The Foundation also offers training in trauma of law enforcement and travels throughout the country to perform this training. It also offers scholarships to children of police officers that have committed suicide.
Additionally, the Badge of Life is a group of experts that studies police suicides. The group reported 141 police suicides in 2008, 143 in 2009, and 126 in 2012. Though the group has experienced some success, more needs to be done. The average age of a police suicide victim in 2012 was 42, with about 16 years of service to the police department. The Badge of Life’s website reports the average age of a police suicide victim to be between 35 and 39, with 10 to 14 years on the police department. The Badge of Life organization claims that of all the suicides in the last three years, not one was attributable to the officer’s work. Even if most were not directly attributed to police work, one would think that at least one would be from the officer’s service. This statistic suggests that police departments need to continue to investigate police suicide.
The debate will continue to whether police suicide is a bigger problem than that of the general population. Though the U.S. government is addressing the problem of suicides in the general population, police officers cannot be lumped in with the general public. Police officers cannot be in group therapy with the population. The general population may be inhibited from speaking and would perhaps feel uncomfortable if a police officer were present. I applied for a part-time job with the U.S. Census Bureau in 1990. When it was learned that I was a police officer, I was not allowed to work for the Census Bureau because they did not want police officers entering the citizen’s homes. If criminality were afoot, I would have to take action. If the general population learned that officers were working for the Census Bureau, they would be less inclined to participate.