Following a suicide by the police – Justice officer

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It has been said that with every death by suicide, at least six other people are affected in one way or another. However, this long-held belief has been called into question, and according to Dr. Julie Cerel and her team at the University of Kentucky, it is believed that many more people are affected. Cérel et al. (2014) devised a range of grief (eg, continuum) or “survivorship” that includes both short-term and long-term grief, classified as “suicide” and “suicide risk” (p. 5). It is believed that across a range of ailments from death to suicide, these single digit numbers jump to the double and triple digits of those affected or exposed in some way.

The consequences of suicide are numerous. Those closest to the deceased will often have the most damaging and impactful effects, as well as the longest lasting. However, when you think about the connections many law enforcement personnel have, that number could run into the hundreds, if not thousands. Those who stay after suicide include family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, etc. Each of those affected will be so different, for different lengths of time, for different reasons and with often immeasurable grief.

So why is all of this important? According to Johnson (2020), since 2017, almost 600 officers (e.g., police and correctional officers) have committed suicide (www.nlesmd.com). This includes active / sworn officers, retired and former officers. This number only includes deaths confirmed as suicides, dozens awaiting verification by the medical examiner / coroner’s office. This is important because thousands of people must mourn this loss, and those who remain often must do so during their time, while working, supporting their families, and with minimal support. And, depending on the agency’s response (whether positive, negative, or indifferent), many agents may not feel supported in their grief and never feel completely closed off.

Suicide is traumatic and affects many people in its wake. The ripple effect left by a death by suicide is not only devastating but often with no definitive end in sight as memories, vacations, big events now unfold without your friend, family member, loved one.

According to Michael Hardee, national chaplain for the FBI National Academy Associates and consultant for the Blue Wall Institute, how we cope with these losses can often define how we recover, and now is the time to turn to faith and prayer. . In doing so, we increase our resilience with healing and closure. Hardee explains that God is with us forever; He will never turn his back and we can find hope in his word.

“He heals broken hearts and heals their wounds” Psalm 147: 3. God heals our broken hearts, even when we lose someone we love. Unfortunately, there is no timeline for mourning, but you can hold on to the promise that God will heal broken hearts.

For survivors, dealing with these tragic deaths can often leave us depressed, confused, alone, and often with more questions than answers. We have hope through our faith that God will bring us comfort and peace as we turn to him, especially in times of need.

Scripture tells us, “Ask, and it will be given to you; Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For all those who ask receive; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7: 7-8).

Proverbs 18:10 “The name of the Lord is a mighty fortress; the godly race towards him and are safe.

Psalm 61: 3 “For you have been my refuge, a tour de force against the enemy. “

The number of people bereaved by suicide is considerable, and more than previously believed. The truth is that many are suffering and many are in need of healing, understanding and a certain sense of closure, for memories will again be viewed with love and joy and with pain and suffering. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who committed suicide and those who remain.


If you or someone you know is suicidal, please consult the following resources:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)

TEXT: BLUE to 741 741

Call Securely Now: 1-206-459-3020

Cops Helpline 2 – 1-866-C0P2COP

If you are suffering from suicide loss, please consult the following resources.

Answering machine health

Serve and protect: 1-615-373-8000

Blue suicide survivors

National Police Suicide Foundation

Believe 208

Association of Law Enforcement Chaplains


Dr Johnson is the founder of the Blue Wall Institute, an Air Force veteran and a former police officer. Dr. Johnson is an expert in police suicide and prevention and holds the American Association of Suicidology Law Enforcement Psychological Autopsy Certification. She has developed the National Suicide Mortality Database (www.nlesmd.com) where she has been tracking suicide deaths since 2017. She holds an MA in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Missouri, St Louis, and a doctorate in organizational leadership. Management of the University of Phoenix. Dr Johnson previously worked as a Senior Research Associate for the Intergovernmental Research Institute as a Senior Instructor for the VALOR Officer Safety Program and was a Program Advisor and Senior Instructor for the Suicide Awareness Program for Men and Women. law enforcement officers (SAFLEO).

Major Mike Hardee (retired) is the Chaplain of the National Council of the FBI National Academy Associates (FBINAA) and past president of the Florida Chapter of the FBINAA. His law enforcement career spanned over 40 years in senior management positions for over 30 years. He is a trainer / consultant for the Blue Wall Institute and Senior Director of Operations at Covert Investigations Group, a Florida-based private investigative agency specializing in high-level corporate investigations and undercover operations.


The references

Cerel, J., Brown, M., Maple, M., Singleton, M., van deVenne, J., Moore, M., & Flaherty, C.

(2018). How many people are at risk of suicide? Not six. Suicide and endangerment of life

Behaviour. DOI: 10.1111 / sltb.12450.

Cerel, J., McIntosh, J., Nemeyer, R., Maple, M. & Marshall, D. (2014). The continuum of

“Survivorship”: definitive questions the day after a suicide. Suicide and endangerment of life

Behavior, 44(6), 591-600. DOI: 10.1111 / sltb.12093

Johnson, O. (2021). [Unpublished raw data on the demographics of police suicides for the years

2017 to 2021]. Blue Wall Institute, Belleville, IL.

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