Note: This article was written in conjunction with a medical professional. However, it is important you review, understand and apply all of your department’s rules, policies and procedures regarding this, and all law enforcement scenarios.
Nationwide: As a law enforcement officer, you are faced with myriad of challenging, often life-threatening situations.
Some of the more extreme situations officers respond to are domestic violence calls, severe car accident scenes and violent crimes- especially involving children.
These emergency situations aren’t reserved for law enforcement officers on the street. They apply to correctional professionals as well. They have to deal with fights among the inmate population, overdosing from drugs that were smuggled into the prison, even hostage situations involving prison staff. Correctional officers are usually only equipped with radios and nothing else- an extreme situation.
But what about responding to a person who is in the process of wanting to end their own life. Whether they are standing on the edge of a skyscraper, have a gun pointed to the head, or are holding a knife to their throat.
These are very tense situations and are among the most complex scenarios law enforcement officers must deal with. It is sensitive, delicate and is comparable to ‘walking on eggshells’ where the slightest move can be disastrous.
Arriving to the Scene
When an officer first arrives on the scene of a potential suicide situation, a lot is going through their mind. They must be prepared to face a difficult and dangerous situation and work quickly and efficiently to de-escalate it to save the person’s life. In this article, we will discuss the mindset of someone willing to kill themselves, the vital information the officer should know, and how best to manage such a situation.
Suicide is never an easy topic to discuss, but it helps to understand the frame of mind that someone may be in when considering ending their own life.
It’s likely a combination of pain, hopelessness, and exhaustion that leads to a person feeling so desperate that they can’t find a way out. They may feel like any potential solution is impossible or that no one will understand them.
Ending it all might seem like the only viable choice in the darkness and despair of their situation; it’s only by having empathy for these individuals and understanding their plight that we can truly reach out and help them before it’s too late.
The Vital Information the Officer Should Know
Firstly, it is essential to understand that when someone has reached this point in their life, they have most likely felt hopelessness and desperation for some time. Officers must recognize this feeling and approach the situation with empathy and compassion.
It is also essential to understand that this person may be in shock or numb, as they are likely feeling overwhelmed by the gravity of their decision.
Secondly, officers must have all the necessary information before attempting to de-escalate the situation. They should know who is at the scene, what weapons are present, if the person is alone or with others, and most importantly, how to approach the situation safely. All this information will help inform their decisions on how best to manage the situation.
Lastly, officers should do everything they can to de-escalate the scenario while maintaining safety. This may include speaking slowly and calmly, using non-threatening body language, and refraining from making any sudden movements. It is also essential to remain patient while the person works through hopelessness and helplessness.
Additionally, staying close enough to be able to intervene quickly if needed can help ensure that the situation does not become more dangerous.
When an officer is faced with a high-stakes and dangerous situation, they must understand the mindset of someone willing to kill themselves and have all the necessary information. They must also approach the situation calmly, use non-threatening body language, and remain patient while working through the person’s desperation. Following these guidelines can help de-escalate the situation and save a person’s life.
Note: We want to remind you to learn and understand your departments regulations, policies and procedures involving this, and every other law enforcement scenario. Take your training serious because if it’s a topic during a training class- it WILL come up again in a real-life situation.
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!