The Blue Wall of Silence

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When a police officer dies in-the-line-of-duty, officials memorialize the death by engraving the officer’s name on a national monument. Sadly, in 2024, this tradition will continue, because 136 officers died last year.

The statistics related to the officers deaths fall into the categories listed below:

  1. Firearms related deaths
  2. Traffic accident deaths
  3. Medical issues and other events not related to guns or cars

Notwithstanding, a relevant category not captured in the total is officer suicides. Historically, suicides are not classified as line-of-duty deaths. Usually, it is difficult to conclude an officers’ suicide was directly caused by their job. However, it is not impossible to form this conclusion. For example, after the unrest at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, a responding officer’s suicide was deemed a line-of-duty death.

Tragically in 2023, suicide ended the lives of more than 100 officers. Given the volume of officer suicides last year, it seems plausible that some of the deaths were attributed to policework. The threat of suicide continues to threaten departments nationwide and studies show, officers are more likely to die by suicide than other work-related injuries.

Despite the psychological risks associated with policing, most cops stigmatize mental health. Thanks to Connecticut’s recent police reforms, officers are mandated to undergo behavioral health assessments at least once every five years. Although this new protocol is an improvement, a lot can occur during the non-screening years. Therefore, more must be done to protect officers and the communities they serve.

Dr. James T. Scott

Scott is an Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Albertus Magnus College and a retired Sergeant, Connecticut State Police