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'Suicide has been the number one killer of law enforcement officers' — 2019 count is highest yet

Posted at 10:23 PM, Sep 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-18 00:02:29-04

TULSA, Okla. — Keeping the peace and the community safe is what officers do, but keeping peace inside the mind can be a tough task, especially when their professions are often accompanied by dark encounters.

Red and blue lights are a universal symbol. They usually mean something bad is happening. While most people do not run into these scenes, often those uniformed, behind the lights are regulars.

“Officers are exposed to trauma almost every day,” said Jim Warring, a former Bartlesville police officer with more than 25 years of law enforcement experience.

The traumas do not get easier with time nor can be avoided in the line of duty, but long-term consequences can be. That is what those serving need to know.

“Suicide has been the number one killer of law enforcement officers and that’s just not okay,” Dr. Robbie Adler-Tapia said. Dr. Robbie is part of the Emergency Responders Assistance Program that provides emotional support to emergency responders and spouses.

The Blue H.E.L.P. organization tracks police suicides. Its count for 2019 is the highest yet, at 228. The organization’s statistics include suicides among current and retired officers. So far, in 2020, the count is at 125.

Dr. Robbie said the number of officers seeking help is up, too, because she is seeing triple the number of clients, several of them undergoing betrayal trauma.

“I have multiple officers who’ve been shot three, four, five times in the line of duty. Imagine when you turn on the TV and you are villainized,” Dr. Robbie said.

Some police departments have internal mental health resources, others do not, but there is outside help. 1-800-267-5463 is COPLine. It is confidential and answered by retired officers.

There is also a 24/7 crisis text line. Law enforcement officers can text "blue" to 741-741. Non-law enforcement can text "talk" to the same number.

“Nationwide, we have to do a better job of taking care of these people,” Warring said.

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