How many suicides does a public safety worker have to see in a 25 to 30-year career?
Depending upon the community they serve in, it can be dozens to even hundreds. Police officers, EMT’s and firefighters see the aftermath of such horrible incidents, yet far too many take the same way out.
First of all this is not a rant, but the thoughts of one old tired peacemaker who believes there is plenty of blame to go around. For those of you who choose not to believe that this is not a problem — simply stop reading now, because you are a part of the problem. Third and most important is that the numbers don’t lie. Despite the fact that there is an active war going on against our peacemakers, we lose more officers to suicide than we do in the line of duty.
So, who is to blame for this? Why are so many people who spend their days defending, rescuing and caring for others taking their own lives? Is it spineless local government officials who placate the very people who are killing officers by opposing public safety workers at every turn?
There is no doubt that it is now politically the norm to hate public safety workers. Taking every useful tool from away from them, scrutinizing them and crucifying them in the public eye whenever the opportunity arises is now a routine political play for votes.
I personally have heard an elected public official say, “That behavior is not that criminal”.
How is it that we are we justifying criminal actions on a regular basis?
Social media could be an entire rant in itself. How did we get to the point where the murder of a police officer is live streamed on Facebook and shared and viewed by thousands? It’s understandable that people can put things on before it is caught but to allow it to stay out there shows a massive degradation in our society.
Leadership seems to be leaving our ranks in the public safety sector. Not to say that all public safety leaders are bad, but the numbers of good ones are shrinking, only to be replaced by ones who are not interested in leading – only playing into politics. One of the toughest feelings as a public safety worker is to know that your leadership doesn’t have your back. Some agencies have such toxic work environments that officers fear to take any action because choosing to do nothing is safer than attempting any type of real enforcement.
When crime rises in a community because of the toxic leadership, spineless politicians and media sensationalism typically paint law enforcement in a bad light. The public safety workers are the ones who are doing everything they can to control the community, but they end up being the ones who are blamed. Recently in Chicago they had one of the most violent weekends on record. Who do you think will get the blame?
It comes down to simply this: control. Every public safety worker is given the role of bringing order from chaos. The stress and helplessness of trying to do all that you can do to bring stability being met by enemies on all sides is mentally devastating.
America’s warriors usually get to come home from their wars. They leave the operation behind and come back to their lives. But members of law enforcement face their battlefield every day… it is right outside their door.
With the lack of support by their own leadership, self-serving politicians, constant social media assassination and a news media that is decidedly anti-police, is it any wonder there aren’t more suicides? Sadly, there are going to be more of these. What’s worse is that we could have done something to prevent them.
Our leadership in local government and in public safety needs to take a long hard look at themselves. Our peacemakers need someone to have their backs.
Tomorrow is too late to start. Get off your butts and become the leaders you are supposed to be.
To those who might have been reached by this article and are contemplating this terrible choice: please don’t. Reach out. There are those around you who care about you – whether you believe it or not. For those of you who are worried about a coworker, do something now. Waiting until tomorrow might be too late.
Daniel L. Watson MPA FBI NA # 228 Retired Peacemaker