In the past decade, 1,553 law enforcement officers died in reported duty deaths. That is an average of one duty death every 58 hours or an average of 150 duty deaths per year. However, there is a far greater threat to officers.
Law Enforcement Suicides
One statistical category that is absent from reporting agencies is law enforcement suicides. The lack of credibility and validity with reporting law enforcement suicides makes it difficult to understand the gravity of the problem. However, if we take a snapshot from 2008 through 2012 on reported suicides, the average is 135 law enforcement suicides a year. This would place the number of law enforcement suicides for the past decade at approximately 1,350 officers.
These numbers are alarming, and to study the problem takes the courage to accurately report and categorize any law enforcement death. An officer who is suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or another mental-health diagnosis that leads to the officer taking his/her own life, needs to be studied so proactive intervention and treatment strategies can be developed to try to prevent this tragedy from occurring. Misclassifying these incidents casts inaccuracy on the actual duty death numbers in law enforcement.
I believe it is a disservice to the profession to ignore the deaths of these officers by not including them in any meaningful analysis. Timely and accurate reporting on law enforcement suicides needs to be established. It is time to add two additional categories:
- On-Duty Suicide
- Off-Duty Suicide
Taking care of the fallen and learning lessons from their deaths makes the profession stronger.