January 9th was Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. Many people took time to celebrate and thank the men and women, past and present, that serve (or have served) their communities. Some bought them a cup of coffee or sent them a card. Many sent a text to say, “Thanks.”
And then there is Adobe, the PDF and photoshop software giant.
In an effort to pedal their products Behance and Photoshop, Adobe sent out an email blast asking recipients to open up their creativity in a way that would “blow their minds”.
It was forwarded to us by a wounded police officer who had to medically retire because of the extent of his injuries.
In what can only be described as a disgusting display of anti-cop sentiment, the photos that accompanied the email were of a man with a badge and a gun. As you scroll through the photos, the cop goes from pointing the gun at someone off screen to turning the gun on himself and putting the barrel in his own mouth.
I will wait while you re-read that to make sure you read it correctly.
Now that you are as angry as I am, let’s dive a little deeper. Not only do the photos depict the man putting the gun in his mouth, it shows two different views with the gun at different angles, but in one, he actually has his finger on the trigger.
If it was unintentional, it is still disgusting and should have never been sent.
If it was intentional, that goes beyond disturbing.
We are just coming off a year that saw law enforcement community suicides increase 32% over 2018. There were 228 reported suicides by cops in 2019. The numbers have increased each of the last 3 years. Those numbers are completely unacceptable, and we, as a nation, must do better to support or law enforcement officers.
As larger groups (corporations) in society, we certainly must do better.
Under no circumstances should we be encouraging or portraying suicide for anyone, especially cops. There is never a day that anyone should use a suicidal officer as an advertising gimmick, least of all on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day.
Adobe and their marketing department owes a profound and sincere apology to the members of the law enforcement community. Common sense should dictate what a horrible idea it was to use those particular images in their campaign.
But as big of an issue as the photos were, police suicide is even greater.
It’s easy to sit back and ignore something if it doesn’t directly affect you.
We’re talking about the issue of police suicide — and how with the exception of law enforcement-related blogs and news outlets, it’s a widely unreported topic.
Don’t believe us? Let’s look at some numbers.
2018 became yet another year where police officer suicides exceeded all combined causes of line of duty deaths. According to Blue H.E.L.P., last year we lost 172 members of law enforcement to their own hand.
166 were killed in the line of duty.
California and Texas had the highest number of officer suicides, with a combined 26 who were lost to their own personal battles. At least 12 of those officers killed themselves while they were on duty either in their squad car or actually at their agency.
According to Blue H.E.L.P., of the 2018 officers who died as a result of suicide, 159 were male and eight were female. The average age was 42 years with an average length of 16 years of service.
In December alone, 22 officers died by suicide. In contrast, there were 10 line-of-duty deaths, they noted.
In 2017, 168 officers were killed by their own hand.
In 2016, 143 members of the force committed suicide.
We closed out 2019 at 228 confirmed reports of LEO suicide, well beyond the national average.
Are you seeing the problem here?
And yet, despite the insane numbers behind these tragic deaths… the national media essentially glances right over it.
While there’s no official record of journalists who have taken their own lives, a quick search through Wikipedia yielded a whopping 67 names of notable members of written news who have committed suicide.
Even without hard data, the difference between the two occupations is staggering. But does one statistic directly correlate with the other?
How many officers have been ripped apart by the media? How many officers have had their credibility, reputation and character destroyed by an article or news story that went out before all the facts had come to light?
How many times has a rumor or “fake news” story gone viral on social media, with users demonizing and publicly crucifying an officer long before an investigation can even be launched?
In a thankless job where you see horrors on a daily basis, and it seems that everyone hates you… it’s no wonder cops are losing their personal struggles.
And what happens if a member of an agency decides to actually bring their concerns to the department administration?
LET has a private home for those who support emergency responders and veterans called LET Unity. We reinvest the proceeds into sharing untold stories of those patriotic Americans. Click to check it out.
Often times they find themselves in an even worse position, forced to work behind a desk and attend mandatory “counseling” that most times does nothing to help.
Despite departments “taking steps” to address the epidemic, we can’t help but feel as though they are merely checking a box in order to alleviate themselves from the blame.
“It is not how they died that mattered, it is how they lived,” is important to bear in mind when thinking about these fallen heroes.
Police suicide has been a rising epidemic in nearly every area of our country, but New York has seen an especially difficult year.
A lot of people are chalking up the increase in loss of officers as a direct result of the anti-police stigma that’s spread across the country.
Many police chiefs and sheriffs, as well as police fraternal organization spokespersons have outlined the “anti-cop” sentiment fueled by politicians and activists as a primary motivator for police suicides.
And if that’s not bad enough, police suicides aren’t the only thing being ignored by the media. They’ve repeatedly glanced over line of duty deaths — straight up murders of police — in favor of other, more “newsworthy” stories.
Let’s go back one year to a piece we brought you on the subject, written by Nicholas Greco.
Suicide is a problem within law enforcement, and sadly it’s not going away. Suicide often gets overlooked, ignored, and avoided, fueled by stigma. Stigma that the person was weak, broken, or had something going on in their life that led to their suicide.
Those simplistic explanations ignore the fact that we failed them. We let these officers slip through the cracks and take their own life. We forget that widows and families are forgotten and left behind after an officer takes his or her own life. They are cut off from the Blue family, cut off from benefits, cut off from the support they were told would always be there for them. Why? Stigma, fear, misunderstanding. We need to start talking about police suicide and how to prevent it. The first step is knowing what to look for, even the non-obvious signs.
People ask me what drives someone to commit suicide. Why would they do it? They have such a great life, family, job, everything to live for. Well, yes, on the surface it certainly seems they do. Quite often I hear that the person showed no signs, that they would never have expected him or her to do this.
Many people may not show the typical signs of suicidal thought such as giving items away, talking about being a burden, feeling hopeless or having no purpose, or talking about death or suicide. Many people don’t see subtle signs, some don’t want to ask about what is going on, while others fear asking if someone is thinking about suicide may actually give them the idea.
In fact, it is often subtle signs that are often missed. Is the person not involved in family or social events as they once were? If they are attending social gatherings, do they seem like they are in another place, distracted? Family members have shared pictures with me of their loved ones who were there physically but not there emotionally.
They did not realize it then, but the person had a fake smile or no smile at all. They may have been off to side of others in the picture, standing with their arms at their side while others were hugging, and some almost seemed like they were almost photoshopped in.
Other subtle signs are when the person stops doing things they normally would do such as working out or hanging out with friends. They make up excuses such as being tired, having other things to do, or they simply say not today. While they may come to work, they may be late, need to leave early, be more anxious, irritable and agitated easily.
Some of the risk factors for suicide include a family history of suicide, depression, alcohol and substance abuse, isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people, barriers to accessing mental health treatment, loss (relational, social, work, or financial), physical illness, easy access to lethal methods, unwillingness to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental health and substance abuse disorders or to suicidal thoughts. Think about these risk factors and how many apply to law enforcement.
How many officers are willing to seek help without fear of reprisal? What many fail to realize is that seeking counseling outside of one’s department will not result in the loss of their badge and gun because they are doing it under their private insurance. And yes, some departments are very supportive and have internal peer support programs and EAP, but some departments are not.
The point is to seek treatment before things get worse, whether through your department or from outside counseling. If you had diabetes or a heart condition, would you treat it or would you allow it to get worse and take your life?
Ask yourself, do you have a colleague or partner who may be going through some rough times? Do they seem off? Not themselves? Will you ask them what is going on? What is wrong? Why not?
The biggest myth is that someone asking about suicide will give the person the idea. Guess what? It doesn’t. You are not going to give them an idea they already didn’t have. In fact, you may be the one thing keeping them alive to see the sunrise tomorrow. Asking someone how they are doing, how they are feeling, if they are thinking about dying will open a discussion and possibly save their life.
Want to make sure you never miss a story from Law Enforcement Today? With so much “stuff” happening in the world on social media, it’s easy for things to get lost.
Make sure you click “following” and then click “see first” so you don’t miss a thing! (See image below.) Thanks for being a part of the LET family!