Survivors speak: A different view on police suicide
Sgt. Clarke Paris of the Las Vegas Metropolitan PD told Force Science News that he believes every officer should be aware of the “eternity of pain” suicide inflicts on survivors
A different perspective on police suicides is the novel theme of a haunting new book by Sgt. Clarke Paris of the Las Vegas Metropolitan PD. Instead of probing the psyches and personal demons of officers who commit the ultimate act of self-destruction, he gives voice to those left behind, the friends and family members who often are caught by surprise by their loved one’s deliberate death.
Paris, who conducts a traveling seminar called, “Winning the Battle” for law enforcers on detecting and controlling stress, has spent more than a quarter-century on the job in Vegas. At one point, he himself suffered a breakdown that he says could easily have led to suicide, after years of “stuffing down” the stress and psychological scars of what he had experienced.
In his book, My Life for Your Life, Paris and his wife Tracie recount his personal ordeal, which eventually reached a positive outcome after he acknowledged that he needed help. He also includes a chapter on the effects of cumulative stress written by psychologist Dr. David Joseph. But the bulk of the 200-page volume is devoted to what the survivors of 8 LEOs who committed suicide have to say.
His approach is to present a “biographical portrait” of each officer, composed by a close relative, and then to reproduce letters that he asked spouses, children, parents, or friends to write to the deceased.
From these intimate communiqués, some powerful themes emerge:
• In contrast to the bitterness one might expect, the survivors express essentially happy memories of the dead officers alive, frequently citing specific positive influences that they had on those around them.
• Inevitably, the suicide ruptured the lives of those left behind, wrecking families and inflicting awful pain for which there seems no explanation or justification.
• Still, love for the suicidal officer endures; it’s a bond, certainly with the parents who write, that even the willful act of seemingly senseless desperation can’t break.
• Equally enduring is a sense of regret, felt over what the dead officer is missing because he turned his back on the possibility that life would get better.
• And there is often expressed a lingering, eternal question: “Why didn’t you ask for help? I would have helped you if only you had trusted me enough to reveal your pain.”
Paris told Force Science News that he believes every officer should be aware of the “eternity of pain” suicide inflicts on survivors. “I believe that 99.9 percent of cops who take their lives never thought they would earlier on. I know I felt that way. But we all have a big pot of ‘cop stew’ simmering on the stove inside us.
“If an officer begins to struggle, I hope he’ll remember from reading this book how a self-inflicted death affects others. You may think they’ll be better off without you, but they won’t.
“I also hope that no matter how deep or dark or lonely the place is that you’re in, you’ll understand that help is available that works.” He lists some of these resources in the book.
More information (including ordering) for Paris’s book and his seminars is available by clicking here.