The disproportionately high number of black males killed by America’s police inspired the creation of the bold Black Lives Matter Movement. But based on the 228 people of another group that America’s police killed in 2019 it might be appropriate for another movement to start.
American society cannot exist without the brave men and women of the police who put their lives at risk every day to keep American citizens safe. Unlike the minority of rogue officers who murder black males, the vast majority of America’s law enforcement officers maintain the law and order of society by treating citizens with justice and respect. Unfortunately, a growing trend of a new group of people being disproportionately killed threatens the law enforcement community’s ability to maintain the law and order of American society.
For the last 4 years aside from killing black males, America’s police have increased killing each year a surprising segment of society, THEMSELVES!!! America’s police are now killing themselves each year by committing suicide. According to Blue H.E.L.P., a non-profit law enforcement support organization that collects law enforcement suicide data, in 2016 143, in 2017 168, in 2018 172 and in 2019 228 police officers committed suicide. The 228 police officers who committed suicide in 2019 are more than the 128 local, state, and federal law enforcement officers combined that the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund says were killed in the line of duty in 2019.
Last year within the first 2 weeks of the month of June a New York Police Department (NYPD) deputy chief facing mandatory retirement, a veteran homicide detective who had talked dozens of people out of killing themselves, a young patrolman handling domestic violence cases and going through a divorce and another veteran officer found dead in his home all committed suicide using their police department issued guns.
The suicides prompted New York Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill to declare a mental-health crisis and to direct officers to seek help. “There is no shame in seeking assistance from the many resources available both inside and outside the department,” Commissioner O’Neill said in a message to his 36,000 officers. “Accepting help is never a sign of weakness — in fact, it’s a sign of great strength.”
In 2018 after 5 suicides of Chicago police officers in 6 months, a Department of Justice report in 2017 stating Chicago’s officer suicide rate was 60 percent higher than the national law enforcement average, the Chicago Police Department released a video titled, “You Are Not Alone!” hoping to put a spotlight on suicide prevention and mental health.
In a profession where mental and physical toughness is required to confront daily life threatening situations, most police officers consider it to be a sign of weakness to seek help in coping mentally with the routine violence and stress they encounter. Many police officers worry that seeking help could mean career setbacks and suffering their biggest fear of all, the shame of having their weapons removed.
The code of silence causes many police officers to rely on substance use to self-medicate their feelings and forget the horrible things they experience on duty. Using alcohol and/or drugs leads to a downward spiral affecting work performance. This increases feelings of stress and depression, which in turn, leads to further substance abuse. Substance abuse is also one of the main contributing factors to suicide. Of the 89 NYPD suicides over the years, 72% of the officers had alcohol in their system at the time of the suicide.
A suicide study among first responders found that police officers commit suicide at a 20% higher rate than the general public. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the main reason and affects the police at a rate 5 times higher than the general public. Even if suicide does not occur, untreated PTSD can lead to poor physical health and impaired decision-making.
Since the founding of the Black Lives Matter Movement America’s law enforcement has been the target of much needed increased scrutiny about how they perform their job. Now for continued peace and law and order in American society by the brave men and women who provide it, a new movement needs to join side by side with the Black Lives Matter Movement. The it’s OK For Police To Seek And Receive Stigma Free Mental Support And Treatment Movement, for the estimated 188 critical incidents of shooting and taking the life of a person, intervening in domestic abuse, witnessing child abuse, engaging in physical altercations to subdue a criminal and managing the scene of deadly traffic accidents encountered during the average career of a police officer. Not only will it save the lives of law enforcement, but it will ultimately make the lives of all Americans safer.
Isaac Newton Farris Jr. is the nephew of Martin Luther King, Jr. and serves as Senior Fellow at the King Center. Growing up in one of the most socially and politically active families has given him a unique perspective on current events. Drop by his website for straight talk free of one-sided political spin.
Originally published at https://isaacnewtonfarris.com on January 15, 2020.