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NCJ Number: 193532 Find in a Library
Title: Lessons Learned: A Suicide in a Small Police Department (From Suicide and Law Enforcement, P 45-56, 2001, Donald C. Sheehan and Janet I. Warren, eds. -- See NCJ-193528)
Author(s): JoAnne Brewster; Philip Alan Broadfoot
Date Published: 2001
Page Count: 12
Sponsoring Agency: US Dept of Justice
Quantico, VA 22135
Sale Source: US Dept of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Behavioral Science Unit FBI Acad
Quantico, VA 22135
United States of America
Document: PDF|PDF
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Document
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This analysis of an individual case of the suicide of a police officer employed in a small city department explores the impact on other officers and on the department as a whole; lessons are drawn for other departments that are facing a similar situation.
Abstract: The precipitating event for the suicide of a 16-year veteran officer was an allegation of sexual assault made by a woman with whom he had a sexual encounter while on duty. The next evening, the woman went to the officer's home while he was at a class and informed his wife of the incident. The officer was confronted by both the woman and his wife just before he was to report to work; although admitting to consensual sex, he denied sexual assault. The alleged victim's lawyer advised her to call the police chief and the State police, who began an immediate investigation. The officer, who had returned to patrol, was asked by the dispatcher to return to the department, and he agreed to return shortly. Approximately 90 minutes later, he was found in his cruiser shot to death with his service weapon. The assumption was that he could not face losing his marriage and family, his job, and his reputation. Administrators were just as shocked and distraught as other members of the department in response to the suicide. In addition to having to make practical decisions to address the aftermath of the suicide, they had to cope with the high levels of anger and criticism of the department's response to the allegations against the officer. Psychological services were offered to all officers and family members. Through a long process of self-analysis and communication, along with some changes in internal procedures, the department gradually stabilized, but some aspects of the grieving process lasted more than 2 years. The general lessons and suggestions drawn from this case are divided into three main areas: developing departmental procedures to be followed after the suicide of an officer, understanding and coping with the departmental grief reaction, and preventing officer suicide. Suggestions for aftermath procedures focus on funeral protocol and other honors, acting as host for law enforcement officers visiting from other jurisdictions, the distribution of information, backup for essential law enforcement services, psychological services, and expressions of sympathy. Suggestions for the prevention of police suicide include training in risk factors, the recognition of risk in particular occupational conditions, and appropriate departmental response to officer dysfunctional behaviors.
Main Term(s): Police suicide
Index Term(s): Case studies; Police internal investigations; Police misconduct; Police occupational stress; Police policies and procedures; Suicide causes; Suicide prevention
Note: Paper submitted to the Suicide and Law Enforcement Conference, FBI Academy, Quantico, VA, September 1999.
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