Police suicides are responsible for more deaths than occur in the line of duty each year, according to Blue H.E.L.P., a nonprofit organization that’s tracked the issue since 2016.
Last year, the total reached 165, the group says, ABC News reports.
That number is “conservative,” said Miriam Heyman of the Ruderman Family Foundation, a nonprofit research organization.
There isn’t a central database for all police suicides. “Police officers experience trauma on a regular basis — not just what is on the front line of nightly news,” Heyman continued.
She said 10 percent of police officers have injured or have killed someone in the past three years, and officers experience on average 188 “critical incidents” over the course of their careers.
Top law enforcement officials agree. “It’s usually not an event, it’s a culmination of many events,” Anthony Riccio, said first deputy superintendent for the Chicago Police Department, at a discussion sponsored by the Police Executive Research Forum of federal, state, local and international law enforcement officials to address the problem.
“I can’t think of a more important issue,” said PERF’s Chuck Wexler.
Riccio cited a police officer who drove into a parking lot after she reported for duty and killed herself in her police cruiser.
“It’s been hard for us,” he said, choking up. “We take it personally. I’ve never seen it as bad as it is now,” he added, citing his 35 years on the force.
This year, the Chicago department has had three officer suicides.
“If you are a law enforcement officer, you have a 54 percent greater chance of dying from suicide,” said John Violanti, an epidemiology and environmental health professor and expert on police stress at the University of Buffalo.
Additional Reading: The Ambiguity of Police Integrity