Each year, so many police officers in the U.S. kill themselves that the number of suicides sometimes exceeds those who die in the line of duty, reports the Orlando Sentinel. Just how many die ranges from estimates as low as 120 to as high as 500. The true number remains unknown because no agency tracks police suicides nationwide, and few speak openly about the deaths. Survivors of officers who killed themselves and some law-enforcement leaders view the suicides as an epidemic and say much more prevention is needed. “It’s common knowledge that we eat our young,” said Orange County, Fl., Undersheriff Malone Stewart, who advocates making mental-health training mandatory each year for every deputy, officer, and agent in Florida.
Florida cops are struggling to understand the suicide of Orange Deputy Sheriff Paul Terry, who killed his son Ian, 8, and daughter Elyse, 10, on Oct. 10 — the day a judge likely would have ordered shared custody for his estranged wife. Terry’s children were the sixth set of victims killed so far this year by a law-enforcement officer who then committed suicide. There were at least 23 more murder-suicides nationwide involving officers in the last five years. “Murder-suicides are on the increase in police families,” said University of Buffalo professor John Violanti, an authority on police suicides. Suicide victims often are those who won’t ask for help and try to blot out their feelings with alcohol, multiple romantic relationships, or denial; others are overwhelmed by debt or accusations of corruption. In the absence of a database, the deaths are tracked by grieving family members, former cops, therapists, and academics who collect information through a network of police and news sources.