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How Best Protect Your Force Against Officer Suicide

John Violanti
John Violanti, Research Professor at Buffalo, discusses the importance of making police departments aware that officer suicide is a problem. According to Violanti, police officers have a significantly higher rate of suicide than the general public. Reasons for this higher risk include the accumulative effects of trauma and stress.

Violanti describes steps police agencies are taking to help police officers, including teaching recruits what they may experience on the job. He also explains the need to change the culture so that police officers are more acceptable to seeking help when needed.

JOHN VIOLANTI: Well, I — I've been involved with research with NIJ for several years on other matters, the psychological and physiological health of police officers.

I came to IACP because I think this is a worldwide organization and departments need to be aware that suicide is a problem. And I think this sort of seminar we have had here today will help get the word out that our officers need better care.

[ON SCREEN TEXT] How common is officer suicide and who is most at risk?

On average, police officers commit suicide at a higher rate than the general working population. We found on some of our research that officers have about 69 percent greater risk of suicide. So, it's fairly prevalent in law enforcement.

There are many things within the police profession that contribute to this. I think one of it is the amount of trauma that an officer has experienced during their career and stress. So, it has a cumulative effect on their ability to cope with situations. And after a while, that ability affects their ability — their ability to cope with life in general.

[ON SCREEN TEXT] What steps are police agencies taking to help officers?

Well, I think one of the most promising practices that law enforcement is now doing is teaching young recruits that come into the police academy what they may experience on the job. They inoculate them ahead of time about the stress and the trauma they may experience. And this seems to help them prepare themselves for what they're about to experience. This has a great effect on relieving a lot of the expectations that may occur in policing. So, that's essential. And I think there are a lot of programs also which need to change the culture if you will, to have police officers be more acceptable of help if they feel that they're depressed and then they need any psychological interventions.

Date Created: May 16, 2017