Law enforcement officer suicides, which soared last year, have slowed in 2020 as the deadly coronavirus pandemic has put increasing demands on officers to enforce local shutdown orders and placed them at risk of contracting the virus, says the police advocacy group Blue H.E.L.P., reports USA Today. Officer suicides are down nearly 30 percent compared to the same period in 2019, a drop from 89 deaths to 63. The group relies on data submissions from family members, law enforcement agencies and online searches. The increased need for public services during the health emergency and a wave of goodwill for those who provide it, may be helping to sustain the most vulnerable. “We don’t know why the numbers are going the way they are going,” said Blue H.E.L.P. president Karen Solomon. “It could be that people are not reporting like they normally would because of the virus. Or it could be that the pandemic has created a sense of purpose and need for helpers that can make a difference.”
Before COVID-19, law enforcement and health officials had sounded an alarm about the suicide threat stalking the ranks of police departments. The New York Police Department declared a “mental health crisis” while the Chicago Police Department grappled with rising numbers of its own. In February, Attorney General William Barr cited “staggering statistics” gathered by Blue H.E.L.P., which reported 228 suicides in 2019, a 44 percent increase from the year before. Though many institutions track police officer deaths in the line of duty, there has been no national repository for tracking and analyzing officer suicides.