Are Police Obliged To Act On Reports Of Suspects’ Suicide Threats?


Are police departments obligated to act on reported suicide threats by suspects in custody? That is the issue in a North Carolina case reported by the Charlotte Observer. Christina Bankhead called Charlotte-Mecklenburg police from Missouri, worried about the safety of her friend, Brian Cobb, who had been involved in a contentious domestic dispute and had written a suicide note to Bankhead. The note read: “Theres a 12 (gauge) with my name on it.”

Bankhead said police assured her that Cobb probably was safe because he was in jail on allegations he violated a domestic violence protection order. One day later, on Jan. 29, the 39-year-old nurse and father of three was found dead in his home from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Bankhead and another friend are questioning why police did not do more to protect him. “There were people in positions of authority with the ability to stop him, and they did not stop him,” Bankhead said. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police acknowledge receiving a request for officers to check on Cobb the day before he was found dead. When asked by the Observer whether police policy dictated the department inform jail officials about Bankhead’s call, spokeswoman Rosalyn Harrington would not answer.

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