How do we change police culture to save the lives of fellow officers?
By Mark Bond, professor of criminal justice at American Military University
In Public Safety
As a profession, we openly talk about officer safety, yet we refuse to talk about the number one killer of police officers: law enforcement suicide. Law enforcement suicide is real and yet the police culture continues to ignore the facts. What makes us afraid to talk about a real problem? Why do we not have stronger leadership on this issue?
Law enforcement suicide occurs 1.5 times more frequently compared to the general population. The estimated number of law enforcement suicides in the past decade is approximately 1,350 officers. It is difficult to get accurate numbers because many times these incidents are not reported accurately to protect the reputation of the department and its officers.
Law enforcement officers are trained to be resilient. They learn to turn off personal emotions in order to handle the constant exposure to human suffering and tragedy. Many police researchers estimate there are 125,000 active law enforcement officers on full duty who are suffering with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is not the main cause of police suicides, but it is a factor in depression and untreated depression is responsible for the majority of law enforcement suicides.