His blood is on the hands of NYPD.

That’s the message today from the sister of NYPD cop Robert Echeverria.  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.

Did you know that Law Enforcement Today has a private new home for those who support emergency responders and veterans?  It’s called LET Unity, and it’s where we share the untold stories of those patriotic Americans.  Every penny gets reinvested into giving these heroes a voice.  Check it out today.

LET Unity

As we look at what’s happening across the country, we get a better picture of why officers are struggling with PTSD… and just how the system is failing them.

Is anyone else tired of watching political posturing taking the place of common sense?

Connecticut, of all places, recently enacted the same measure that the Ohio state senate recently rejected.  That’s a house-passed bill that would have provided funding for firefighters and officers to file for workman’s compensation for PTSD.

In Ohio, it also called for all workers filing a claim to provide their immigration status.

With those provisions stripped from it, the Senate passed the bill.

But the House Speaker said that they would not endorse the Senate version of the bill, requiring a conference committee to reach an agreement.

The Glenford Republican said he has prepared an amendment to extend the workers’ compensation existing budget for another 90 days. The current two-year budget expires Sunday.

“They pulled all of our language out,” Householder said, pointing in particular to post-traumatic stress disorder being covered for first responders.  “This is an issue in the state that’s been debated for a number of years. I don’t think there is any more debate to be had.”

He also was displeased with the Senate killing provisions to more clearly distinguish independent contractors from employees.

According to an article written for Firehouse, Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, indicated he personally supports PTSD coverage for police officers, firefighters and others, even if not accompanied by physical injury, for developing a psychiatric disorder after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event on the job.

However, the Senate wants more time to study the issue and other provisions passed by the House as part of the workers’ comp budget, which would increase 5% to $319.8 million in the year beginning Monday and 2% to $324.8 million the following year.

With the current budget being roughly $303 million, they are quibbling over $21 million. And while we can all understand and appreciate fiscal responsibility, sometimes you have to skip the partisanship and just do the right thing, politics be damned. 

“If a police officer breaks his leg carrying an injured child to safety, workers’ comp is there to help him heal,” the Ohio FOP said in a prior statement. “If that same child dies a painful death in the officer’s arms, and the officer isn’t otherwise injured, there is no help for the officer to process and cope.”

This is not the first time that caring for our emergency responders after injury has been a topic of conversation here at Law Enforcement Today. Earlier this month, we published several articles focusing on the continued healthcare for emergency responders after responding to the Orlando Pulse Night Club shooting. We learned the story of retired Orlando Police Officer Gerry Realin.

It’s a story that sparked intense emotion on both sides of the aisle – those who believed Realin should get the benefits, and those who didn’t.  After exploring both perspectives… our team at Law Enforcement Today came to a simple conclusion:

We need to start having more conversations about Post Traumatic Stress… and we need to start having them at the federal level to protect our officers.

According this article, we learn about:

The Battle

For more than three years, former Orlando Police Officer Gerry Realin and the City of Orlando have been battling over a medical benefits fight after the Pulse nightclub shooting.

On Friday, an Orange County judge ordered a trial without jury to resolve it.

Realin’s pension was awarded without medical coverage for his family three years ago.  This, after he was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder following his assignment to remove the dead from Pulse nightclub.

His wife, Jessica Realin, told local media that the family medical benefits cost “one-third” of the total pension benefits, roughly $1,700 a month or $23,000 a year.  That’s more than five times the amount he paid before he left the department.

The Controversy

A number of officers were upset that this is even being fought in court… but not for the reasons you might imagine. Shawn Dunlap is the President of the Fraternal Order of Police for Orlando Lodge 25, and sits on the Florida State Lodge Executive Board.  He wrote in to LET to share some more insight.

Dunlap said he believes the current lawsuit centers around a section of the Florida Police Officer Bill of Rights which states: 

Any employer who employs a full-time law enforcement, correctional, or correctional probation officer who, on or after January 1, 1995, suffers a catastrophic injury, as defined in s. 440.02, Florida Statutes 2002, in the line of duty shall pay the entire premium of the employer’s health insurance plan for the injured employee, the injured employee’s spouse, and for each dependent child of the injured employee until the child reaches the age of majority or until the end of the calendar year in which the child reaches the age of 25 if the child continues to be dependent for support, or the child is a full-time or part-time student and is dependent for support. The term “health insurance plan” does not include supplemental benefits that are not part of the basic group health insurance plan. If the injured employee subsequently dies, the employer shall continue to pay the entire health insurance premium for the surviving spouse until remarried, and for the dependent children, under the conditions outlined in this paragraph. 

Dunlap said he believes the lawsuit is an effort for Realin to have the City of Orlando cover his family’s insurance, not for he himself, as his is already taken care of. 

The Problem

Here’s what matters. This is an example of a much bigger problem we face in society these days – and that’s perception about Post Traumatic Stress.  As we can see in the law, it’s still not understood or recognized the way it needs to be to protect those who wear – or wore – a uniform.

The Answer

What is the answer? Is it more money? Is it guaranteed coverage for free for life? Is it generating better public awareness for the public regarding PTSD. changing the perception? Could it be all of the above?

Whatever the answer is, we must do a better job of continued care for our emergency responders. They put their lives on the line for us every day…it is should be something we all believe to be a no-brainer. 

Social media tends to bury pro-law enforcement stories – but here’s how you can change that.  On Facebook, 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!
 
Facebook Follow First