When Cleveland police officer Rex Mehaffey attacked his estranged wife, then killed himself late Tuesday, he became the second member of the city’s safety forces to take a life in the last six days, says the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Six Northeast Ohio public safety officers who have been accused of a violent crime in the past three months. Experts say some police officers and firefighters can be susceptible to the high stress inherent in putting one’s life on the line to protect others and constantly dealing with human tragedy. Relationships can suffer as a result, which creates high divorce and suicide rates for police and firefighters.
In an average year, 450 of the nation’s 673,000 sworn law enforcement officers commit suicide, said Robert Douglas of the National Police Suicide Foundation. “They kill themselves two to three times faster than they’re being killed,” Douglas said. More than 95 percent of the officers commit suicide over relationship issues, he said. Officers usually shoot themselves in the head with their service revolvers. Murder-suicides among police officers are on the rise. In the last two years, Douglas knows of 22 cases nationwide. Francis McCafferty, a psychiatrist who has worked with police departments, said another factor is the many hours that officers work. “They are not paid as high as they should be, and they have to work second or third jobs,” he said. “It puts a significant stress on the marriage when they don’t have time to be at home.”