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The Street Survival Newsline
with Calibre Press

Police Suicide: A Special Newsline Series - Part 3

Part 3: Picking up the pieces

Editor's note: This special series ran previously in the Street Survival Newsline but the importance of the information contained in it remains extremely timely and relevant.

Read Part 1

Read Part 2

The Street Survival Newsline concludes its coverage of the conference, "Police Suicide: An Unnecessary Means to an End," sponsored in Largo, MD, by the Center for Criminal Justice Studies:
The only thing Teresa Tidwell-Tate wanted back from her husband's department after he shot himself to death was his suicide note. "It was the 1 thing that said he couldn't take the pain."
It took her 3 months to get it. "When the letter was finally returned to me," she says, "it was totally ruined." Fingerprint powder and "some kind of liquid" stained it so badly that "the words were completely gone."
What did come back intact were the shotgun he used to end his life and the bottle of liquor from which he'd drunk before he pulled the trigger. "They arrived from the department in a brown bag, sealed. I didn't know what was inside until I opened it."
As the most moving presenter at the Conference, Teresa Tidwell-Tate, formerly with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, made memorably clear that survivors of officers who commit suicide commonly suffer 2 assaults. First is the devastating impact of the violent death itself. Then there is the callous treatment they often receive at the hands of the officer's department.
To offer emotional comfort and practical assistance to survivors, who typically feel isolated and uncared about, Tidwell-Tate has founded Survivors of Law Enforcement Suicide, which publishes a quarterly newsletter and offers a support network for those who are left behind.
What she now brings to others, she has learned the hard way herself. Her husband, a municipal officer in Virginia, was 28 years old when he killed himself over 7 years ago (at the time of the conference). During about 6 years on the job, he developed 2 personalities, 1 for work and 1 for home.
"At work," Tidwell-Tate recalls, "he was perceived as a hard worker, a practical joker, the kind of person who was there for his peers. But at home he became withdrawn, less motivated. He suffered a loss of appetite, headaches, joint pain.

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