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Editor's Corner
with PoliceOne Senior Editor Doug Wyllie

Confronting police officer suicide

Resources and related articles:
Survivors of Suicide
20 tips for helping a traumatized officer
Police Officer Suicide: How to cope, how to heal
Practical pointers for preventing "suicide by inches"
P1TV: Dave Smith interviews Charlotte Rappley about officer suicide
Police officer suicide: Recognizing the signs and helping our colleagues in distress
"The Pain Behind the Badge": Powerful new documentary explores officers' trips to the edge-and back

This week, we suffered the suicides of two police officers. Officer Kyle L. Kovac, a five-year member of the Kansas City, Kan., police department, committed suicide Saturday after a fatal crash killed his friend and fellow officer, Mark Jaramillo. NYPD Lt. Michael W. Pigott was found Wednesday at a former airfield in Brooklyn, dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, just days after he had been involved in an incident in which a naked, distraught man fell to his death after being struck with a stun gun.
There is no news we at PoliceOne regret more deeply to deliver than the death of an officer - particularly one in which he or she has taken their own life. Yet it has been our responsibility to do so altogether too many times. Only two months ago, Lt. Derrick Norfleet of the Oakland Police Department died in his Vallejo home from what authorities said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Little more than two weeks ago, Chicago Police Officer Dannie Marchan shot his two young children, killing one and leaving the other critically injured, before fatally turning the gun on himself.
We at PoliceOne have sought to address the issue of officer suicide as delicately and deftly as is practicable, and hope that in some small way we can help the friends and families of these officers to deal with the aftermaths of their deaths. Further, while we fully recognize that some things simply cannot be foreseen nor can they be prevented, we hope to provide resources to help avert, to the extent possible, these kinds of tragedies from occurring.
"In the wake of the tragic loss of two officers to suicide this past week, we urge you to take a moment to read the information available on this critical topic," says PoliceOne Managing Editor Scott Buhrmaster. "Be sure you're able to recognize the signs of potentially suicidal behavior, both in yourself and in fellow officers, and that you feel confident enough to take the appropriate steps to help stop a potentially devastating downward spiral. Emotional survival is just as critical as physical survival. Our deep condolences go out to the family and fellow officers of the two who were lost."
Dr. Lawrence Miller has addressed officer suicide for PoliceOne in several outstanding columns. In one such article Miller says: "First and foremost, the problem needs to come out in the open. Both command and line officers need to educate themselves as to the nature of police stress, syndromes of impairment, and good and bad ways of coping. Next, officers should receive training in crisis intervention skills that they can apply to fellow officers in a similar way as they do with distressed citizens on patrol. This is, in fact, the rationale behind the peer counseling programs that have been set up in many departments."
Buhrmaster, writing with Dr. Alexis Artwohl in an article on PoliceOne that the first, most important step is to initiate contact - advice that is equally valid in the wake of an officer suicide as it is for overtly (or inadvertently) helping to prevent one.

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