THE BADGE OF LIFE

A Study of Police Suicide in 2008-2016
Dealing with a Suicidal Police Officer
Police Suicide - What It ISN'T
PTSD - The "Hidden Injury"
Police Suicide - Making a Difference
The Importance of Therapy
Police Suicide - the SOLUTIONS
Interview with the BOL Chairman
So-Called "Helpers"
A MATTER OF PUBLIC TRUST
2016 Police Suicide Study
Annual Mental Health Checks
Stigma - The Human Stain
2016 Police Suicides: the NSOPS Study
Police Stress vs Trauma--a difference?
Does PTSD Cause Violence? from the Badge of Life
Cumulative PTSD - a Silent Killer
A New Police Suicide Prevention Program for the 21st Century
Police Suicide, Just a Bad Choice?
Chiefs Lead the Way
"Bring a Buddy"

THE BADGE OF LIFE

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A Study of Police Suicide 2008-2016

During the years 2008 to 2016, Badge of Life has been compiling data on the numbers of active duty police suicides in the United States.  Other, extensive demographic information is also being gathered and published.  In summary, the results of our studies are as follows:

2008 – 141 Suicides

2009 – 143 Suicides

2012 – 126 Suicides

2016 – 108 Suicides 

 

 

2008 POLICE SUICIDE STUDY

 

In 2008, Badge of Life began its first full research project on police suicides, with the goal of finding out how many suicides are actually occurring nationally by law enforcement officers.

 

Considerable confusion existed in the law enforcement community until then over “how many” police suicides occur in a given calendar year. This led to a variety of speculative, often wildly exaggerated figures (300, 400 and even 500), none based on verifiable research or gathered in an organized, useful manner. Attempts to obtain a copy, a verifiable sampling of data or even the most rudimentary validation from the authors were futile.

 

Our National Surveillance of Police Suicide Study (NSOPS) is the first of its kind to study actual suicides on a daily basis across all 50 states for an entire year. The initial study took place from January 1, 2008 until December 31, 2008, inclusive. A variety of web surveillance techniques were used, including over 100 daily online search queries (Google Alerts), independent press reports, and information from social media and individuals.  An additional 37 percent has already been added to the raw totals to account for misreported, hidden and covered-up suicides.  The information gathered in this and subsequent studies went beyond mere numbers and encompassed a range of other questions surrounding each suicide, including:

 

Date

Location

Department

Age

Rank

Time on the job

Means of suicide

Circumstances leading to the suicide

 

It was found that, during 2008, 141 suicides occurred among active law enforcement personnel nationally.  The rate of suicide was 17/100,000, compared to a national public rate of 11/100,000.  Notable discoveries included the age at highest risk for suicide (37 years of age) and that service time at highest risk was 10 – 14 years.

 

A copy of the published study for 2008 can be obtained from the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health or, if you are in or connected to law enforcement, from the Badge of Life.

 

 

2009 POLICE SUICIDE STUDY

 

The NSOPS study was repeated in 2009 in order to verify the results and methodology used in 2008. This study was not published.  The same search methods were used as in 2008.  A slight increase was noted in the number of police suicides, from 141 in 2008 to 143 in 2009.  The suicide rate remained at 17/100,000, with a public rate of 11/100,000.

 

In terms of other results, it appears that officers in the age category 42 years were now at a higher risk for suicide, with 27% of all suicides found in this age group. This was a slight shift “upwards” from the previous year.  There was a similar shift upward in the years of service to 20 years and above.  . 

 

 

2012 POLICE SUICIDE STUDY

 

A third study of police suicides took place for the year 2012.  Identical search criteria and methodologies were employed.  This time, a slight decrease was noted in the number of police suicides, to 126.

 

Among the data compiled was the average age of a police suicide victim, which was 42 years of age.  Time on the job for this study was 16 years.  The rate of police suicides was 14/100,000 compared to a revised figure for the general public of 13/100,000.

 

It should be noted at this point, in comparing the police suicide rate and the rate for the general public, that one should expect the law enforcement rate to be significantly lower than the public, in that recruits are subjected to rigorous background investigations, training, and psychological testing and screening.  This suggests the work environment may be a significant factor in police suicides.

 

This study was published in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health.  If you are in or connected to law enforcement, a copy can be obtained by contacting Badge of Life.

 

 

2015 POLICE SUICIDE STUDY

 

A six-month sampling (July through December) of suicides was taken during 2015.  This study yielded a total of 51 police suicides nationwide for the six month period.  The figure suggests a second decline in this type of death.  While this was a sampling only, all criteria and methodologies used in previous studies were employed. 

 

 

2016 POLICE SUICIDE STUDY

 

All previous methodologies were followed again in 2016 and it was found that 108 police suicides occurred during the year.  This was a 14 percent reduction from 2012.  California led the nation in such deaths, followed by New York.  The average age of a police suicide was again 42 years and the average time on the job was 17 years.  Sergeants and above accounted for 22 percent of law enforcement suicides; five were chiefs.  87 percent were males and gunshot was the most common means (80 percent).


The national rate for police suicides dropped to 12/100,000, compared to a public rate of 13/100,000.  It is believed the rate for officers should, nonetheless, still be much lower given the psychological/background checks that officers go through during the hiring process and the resultant good mental health at time of entry.  The reduction of suicides in both 2012 and 2016 can likely be attributed to the increasingly aggressive application of mental health programs, suicide prevention training, peer support and chaplaincy programs, CISM and an increasing openness by officers to psychotherapy in a toxic career field.


2017 POLICE SUICIDE STUDY


The study will continue into 2017 with the same methodology to further measure trends and patterns.  YOU CAN HELP us in our information gathering by reporting any police suicides that come to your attention during the year.  Please send your information to Ron Clark at badgeoflife@gmail.com.


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