A study of Police Suicide Statistics
RN, MS, Connecticut State Police (ret.)
California Highway Patrol (ret.)
A Badge of Life Police Mental Health Foundation article
January 4, 2013
Badge of Life has completed
its annual survey of police suicides. Known as NSOPS (National Study
of Police Suicides), this is our third in a series of studies that began in 2008.
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It will take us several months to
review our data and profiles of cases, but one thing is already clear: police suicides took a noticeable drop in 2012. We
are the first group to track police suicides on a scientific basis and this is the first reduction we have seen since we began
monitoring them in 2008. This is encouraging news that we tentatively attribute to the increased number of departments
adopting peer support programs and the increased willingness of officers, many of them younger, to seek professional assistance—not
only when they have a problem, but before problems develop (through things like annual "mental health checks"). Other
factors may be involved, as well, and we will keep you advised through our newsletters, website and, of course, the final
published study. Our studies show the following:
2008 police suicides: 141
2009 police suicides: 143
2012 police suicides: 126
Profile of suicide cases:
Average age, 2012: 42
Average yrs on job: 16
data from the study that might be of interest to you includes:
91 percent of
suicides were by males.
Ages 40 –
44 were most at risk.
Time on the job:
15 – 19 years were most at risk.
63 percent of
suicide victims were single.
11 percent of
suicides were veterans.
This national study of police suicides
(NSOPS) was a massive undertaking, requiring the review of almost 50,000 emails, the monitoring of news and websites and the
voluntary contributions from many of you in the field. In spite of this encouraging news, the fact is that police suicides
continue at a rate much higher than the number of police officers killed by felons. This alone reminds us of the need
to redouble our efforts, not only at suicide intervention, but on the maintenance of mental health in law enforcement. We
cannot lose sight of the fact that the officer whose mind is on other problems, be they at home or at work, is a danger to
himself and other officers who are relying on him. Much remains to be done.
Police suicide is not a popular topic in
the law enforcement culture. As we learn more through research and study, however,
it becomes obvious that suicide is merely “the tip of the iceberg” in comparison to the more important issue of
mental health in law enforcement.
may well prove impossible to develop a program that can identify and prevent 150 suicides in a force of almost a million
police officers. It is clear, however, that when efforts are focused on
mental health, instead of the narrower “suicide prevention,” there can be be benefits that
include not only suicide prevention, but fewer:
deaths from shootings and accidents
and off-job injuries
NSOPS 2012 represents a turning point
in efforts to save police lives and bring career quality and improved personal lifestyles to the men and women working America’s
streets in uniform. If you have any questions regarding the study or would like
additional information regarding mental health training programs for law enforcement, contact Badge of Life at firstname.lastname@example.org
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