POLICE Magazine

APR 2019

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38 POLICE APRIL 2019 himself in the head." Solomon says that an officer in her area died by suicide, but the obituary in the newspapers told another story. "We had an officer whose death was report- ed as a 'complication of [a disease].' e guy never had [the disease]. It was just something the family made up to put in the obituary. e family told us—and we were able to verify it—but they didn't want people to know." e Chicago-area psychologist says, "ey've avoided the issue of officer sui- cide for many years. ey ignore it or it gets reclassified—it gets hidden. I can tell you that there were 17 suicides in the Chicago Police Department in 2017 that were unreported." e psychologist added that the rea- son for the sudden attention paid to this issue in and out of Chicago is because officers have recently taken their lives outside of a police station or in their squad cars. "It's hard to hide that over a police scanner," he says. e psychologist adds that a police spokesman on the scene after a senior CPD officer died by suicide told the assembled news media that it was a murder. Soon, however, the fact of the suicide became public. "He and the department had to publicly come out and correct it and classify it as a suicide. Hiding these suicides is not working anymore," he says. A veteran officer with CPD confirms that the number of officer suicides at his agency has not "spiked" but that the news coverage of those deaths certainly has. He says the Chicago Police Depart- ment has had a high rate of suicide for some time, but that until now, it was kept from view. e officer—who has decades on the job with CPD—says, "Nobody really talked about it back in the day, but now, cops are talking about it because it's in the news." He adds, "Some [suicides] still don't make the news. We just had a retired guy kill himself and the only reason we know about it is because cops are talking about suicide more than ever before." e anonymous CPD officer says that the department has a "good program" to assist officers, but many officers don't take advantage of it. Worse, some offi- cers in the program have killed them- selves over the years. BlueH.E.L.P.'s Solomon says there presently isn't enough data to support any assertion of a rise in police suicide nationwide—or at CPD. "We started this study with the idea of collecting five years of data before we did anything really serious with the data," Solomon explains. "We're starting year four. After year five, I might say, 'ere's definitely a rise in suicide'—but until we have a couple more years of data, I don't feel comfortable saying that." RESISTANCE TO ASSISTANCE P olice officers are natural-born prob- lem-solvers. ey're trained in the academy, mentored by their FTOs, and educated by the alchemy of thousands of hours of duty to solve problems. ey're hard-charging type-A person- alities reluctant to admit a fault or a flaw. So it's anathema for many officers to admit that they have a "problem" in need of solving. Worsening matters, many agencies are unwelcoming of an officer's request for assistance. ere- fore, we have a recipe for reticence when it comes to asking for help, espe- cially emotional help. Departments may have robust Em- ployee Assistance Programs, but are those services confidential? Is there a stigma attached to calling upon EAP for help? In too many agencies, there is need- less blowback on officers seeking help because personnel records are shared with supervisors or made available to defense attorneys—or worse, plaintiffs' attorneys bringing suit against an officer. is needs to change, says Jeff Mc- IS OFFICER SUICIDE ON THE RISE?

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