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
also being gathered and published. In
summary, the results of our studies are as follows:
2008 POLICE SUICIDE STUDY
In 2008, Badge
of Life did 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.
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
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. This 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:
Time on the
Means of suicide
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 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
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.
data compiled was the average
age of a police suicide victim, which was again 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.
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.
was published in the
International Journal of Emergency Mental Health. If you are in or connected
enforcement, a copy can be obtained by contacting Badge of Life.
2015 POLICE SUICIDE STUDY
sampling (July through
December) of suicides was taken during 2015 and has not been published.
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
A full study
is underway for 2016. Whether a downward trend in suicides continues
or not will be of significant interest. Contributing factors to a reduction
prove to be the increased use of peer support and chaplaincy programs,
intensified education, and the infusion of a younger generation that is more receptive
to mental health therapy.
will be published in the
International Journal of Emergency Mental Health.