Editor note: David Chianese, the author, is a decorated NYPD Detective with an expansive community service background.
On Friday August 16th, 2019 a meeting took place at 1 Police Plaza that was discreetly arranged for all executive staff.
A police source states that the boardroom was thick with arrogance and bewilderment as brass gathered to discuss the PR quagmire they find themselves in.
Unable to make any headway in turning the skyrocketing suicide rate in the department, up 100% so far this year, the guardians of “Puzzle Palace” gathered for a brainstorm. Like a bloom of jellyfish they gathered, spineless and impotent in unfamiliar waters.
One police source, speaking on a condition of anonymity stated he looked askance at everyone while they discussed options and destroyed ideas. It appeared the biggest issue was a fear of budget costs and spending too much on overtime for certain programs or in rescheduling of officers.
Always putting budget before service and dollars before brethren, a typical decision was made.
In the end, it was agreed that the department would direct a training video to combat suicide and mandate all to watch the program.
The decision of course was unanimous, but not until one holdout was put in place by the collective for wanting to take steps to actually combat the issue and take the lead on this national epidemic.
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Videos don’t fix demons, they won’t cure PTSD and will not end the stigma.
Videos such as the one by the PBA yelling “Don’t fucking do it” won’t put bullets back in the barrels.
As a nation, we need to push our leaders to do more to combat the problem and bring those lost to their mental battles back to their families and friends. We need leaders to rise up and demand that the real issues that address these stigmas are dealt with.
Phone numbers won’t help someone afraid to dial and stepping forward to get grounded won’t pay the bills. We need real decisions and serious debate and I welcome 1 Police Plaza, Local Police Commander’s and Politicians to sit with my colleagues and I and make real change that works for all, including their purse strings.
In the meantime, the sister of NYPD cop Robert Echeverria is speaking publicly… and says “his blood is on the hands of NYPD”.
Officer Echeverria killed himself at his home in Queens on Wednesday. Now she says she warned the department that her brother was unstable and might shoot himself if they didn’t step in.
Eileen Echeverria lives in West Islip, Long Island.
In an email she provided to The Post, she shows she warned the NYPD’s Internal Affairs Bureau on June 11 that her brother was a threat to himself.
“I really am concerned about guns in the house,” she wrote to the IAB.
She says they did step in, but only briefly.
According to his sister, his firearms were taken away. They were returned a few days later when an NYPD shrink said that he wasn’t a risk to himself or to others.
Eileen claims that when an IAB lieutenant told her he was getting his guns returned, she told him her brother would kill himself.
“I said to them my brother is going to kill himself and the blood is on you,” Eileen told the Post.
And now… her heart is shattered.
“Almost two months to the day my brother killed himself, and now I have to bury him.”
On Wednesday evening, Robert Echeverria, 56, was off duty when he shot himself in the head around 6:20 p.m. Police got a call from Echeverria’s wife, who found her husband unresponsive on the ground with a gun nearby on his bed.
He was rushed to North Shore-Long Island Jewish Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
Echeverria had served in the NYPD for 25 years and was a part of the elite Strategic Response Group, a team of law enforcement officials that are assigned to mass shootings, large protests and similar events.
He’s the ninth NYPD officer to die by suicide in 2019, and the second this week. He took his own life just one day after 35-year-old city offer Johnny Rios fatally shot himself at his home in Yonkers. At the time of his death, Rios was temporarily assigned to detail surrounding Yankee Stadium.
She’s beyond angry at the city and NPD, saying they could have stopped it.
“The NYPD destroyed my entire family. [They] didn’t give a shit,” she added.
She claims they are all talk.
“When they’re on TV saying they care about mental health, they don’t give a shit. It’s disgraceful what they’ve done. They killed my brother.”
According to Eileen, her brother had a history of mental health problems, and she says it wasn’t the first time she’d warned the department. She says he had an up and down relationship with his wife and had huge financial problems, despite his six-figure salary from the NYPD.
She didn’t pull any punches on Mayor de Blasio either over his inaction after recent officer suicides. She said he’s:
“A piece of shit mayor who doesn’t care about police. ”
The NYPD didn’t respond to the allegations.
It is being reported that the brass at One Police Plaza are scrambling. Reports circulating that outside mental health staff will be brought into every police facility. The hope is to have a watchful eye present and to have a door open for officers to walk into.
For officers who still fear opening up to department services and or staff, know that there are protections for you. If you’re still conflicted, don’t go it alone, outside sources are another avenue to explore.
By stepping outside of the traditional programs, officers that fear they’ll jeopardize their career can seek help anonymously early on. Services like those provided by Lemonaid Health allow for officers to receive assistance via an app-based system that also allows for a slew of other health services.
This option does provide the protections through HIPPA same as going through your own insurance. Check them out at http://lemonaid.com or download their app in the Google or Apple store.
In a press conferences, Police Commissioner James O’Neill said an average of between four and five officers have killed themselves in the NYPD over the past five years.
But just since June, there have been seven of the nine NYPD suicides this year.
That high volume of suicides is leading some 800 executive NYPD staff to begin training with mental health experts to combat the uptick in suicides, according to O’Neill.
He said goal is to eventually retrain the entire department.
On Wednesday night, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a 2020 presidential candidate who continuously attacks law enforcement publicly, took to Twitter to try and get attention for himself.
“Tonight our city mourns a tragedy. We won’t let anyone struggle alone,” the mayor wrote. “I want every one of New York’s Finest to know we are here for you. We value you. Help is available. Please reach out.”
Rest easy, Officer Robert Echeverria. We’ll take it from here.