While line-of-duty police officer deaths grab the public's attention, officers more often die by their own hands, perhaps two or three times more often, says the New York Times. “We're losing a police officer every 19 or 20 hours of self-inflicted wounds,” said Robert E. Douglas Jr., a former Baltimore officer and chaplain who runs the National Police Suicide Foundation in Maryland. He estimates that 400 to 450 officers kill themselves each year, compared with 150 to 200 who die in the line of duty.
Some law enforcement agencies have beefed up prevention programs after seeing troubling spikes in suicides within their ranks. The California Highway Patrol expanded peer counseling and suicide-related training after losing 10 of its 7,900 officers to suicide in 2005 and 2006; last year, there was only one suicide. After a cluster of suicides in the 1990s, the Maryland State Police started programs to identify officers at high risk, along with mandatory psychological consultations and firearms reorientation for officers involved in fatal shootings. “I know we didn't have a suicide for years after that,” said David Mitchell, Maryland's State Police superintendent from 1995 to 2003 and now Delaware's secretary of safety and homeland security.