Austin (KXAN) — “Police officers are people who seek to help others solve problems and protect those in need. often refuse to acknowledge,” the online obituary said.
The obituary was addressed to a Texas police officer who took his own life on December 2nd last year.
The following day, December 3, a second Texas state trooper from a different law enforcement agency also died by suicide.
Both officers are in their 40s and have worked for their departments for more than 15 years.
The tragic deaths of these two police officers were an anonymous source who wanted people to recognize how a Texas police chief honored the deceased officers and acknowledged the importance of mental health in the profession. A source caught the attention of KXAN.
Chief Jeff Bryan has been with the Garland Police Department for almost 27 years. Bryan said he was the first police officer to die by suicide since working for the Garland Police Department.
“It hit us like a pile of bricks,” Brian said.
Bryan said he quickly had to make a difficult decision about how to handle the situation.
“This sort of thing isn’t written in any policy, but it’s just a decision we have to make as we go through it,” Bryan said.
Ultimately, Brian decided to publish the following message the day after the police officer took his life.
Bryan told KXAN, “This was not an easy decision to make, but I was not going to ignore it. That’s why I made the decision to honor this officer by dedicating him as if he was martyred in the line of duty. ‘ said.
“When I became chief five years ago, one of the things I wanted to prioritize was the mental health of our officers and recognizing the impact this job had on you.” said Brian.
KXAN found that Bryan isn’t the only one taking an active stance on bringing mental health awareness into a law enforcement culture that has historically stigmatized mental health issues.
There have been several new developments in 2022 regarding how suicide and mental health are addressed within law enforcement in Texas and across the United States.
Texas Law Enforcement Peer Network (TLEPN)
87th Texas Legislature Passes Unanimously Senate Bill 64 Received bipartisan support for the creation of a statewide peer support network for all law enforcement officers in Texas.
As stated on its website, TLEPN’s mission is to “End Police Officer Suicide in Texas, because one is too many.”
KXAN spoke with Jeffrey Spivey, executive director of the Carruth Police Institute and former police chief in Irving, Texas.
“One of my passions, even before I became chief, was the mental health and well-being of police officers,” Spivey said.
When SB 64 passed, Spivey made the decision to retire after 35 years in law enforcement.
“I retired from the police and saw it as an opportunity to continue to influence the police profession from a mental health standpoint,” Spivey said.
TLEPN officially launched in April 2022 and has already trained 700 peers statewide, over 1,000 users using the resources provided in the app, and recently added to the state General Fund budget. Slots will be given and funds will be doubled to provide more resources. Texas police officer.
“It’s one of those things that everyone accepts and recognizes. We have to do a better job of dealing with this issue,” Spivey said.
According to the State Comptroller, Texas has 254 counties with populations ranging from over 4 million to just over 100.
The Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) currently maintains nearly 80,000 licensed security personnel across 2,755 operating agencies in Texas, according to its website.
With TLEPN, employees of government agencies large and small can access the same mental health resources offered through the program.
“I think the biggest challenge is overcoming the stigma of admitting that police officers need help with that,” Spivey said.
Federal Efforts Against Suicide Tracking
For over 90 years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has tracked various types of crime data and law enforcement statistics through the Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR).
“Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program Generate reliable statistics for law enforcement use. It also provides information to criminal justice students, researchers, the media and the general public,” the website states.
But the UCR has never tracked statistics or kept records of suicide attempts or deaths by current or former law enforcement officers.
Data and statistics related to police suicide have traditionally been maintained and studied by academics and non-profit organizations such as: blue help.
In 2020, that changed as a result of the 116th Congress passing Senate Bill 2746, proposed by Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nevada).
This bill established a new section of the UCR program. Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act (LESDC).
According to the FBI’s website, the law is intended to “help authorities better understand and prevent suicide among current and former law enforcement officers, corrections officers, 911 callers, judges and prosecutors.” It says.
KXAN reached out to Cortez Masto to ask what prompted her to sponsor the bill.
“After hearing from police officers in Nevada about the mental health issues they are facing, I am working with law enforcement to address the suicide crisis and ensure that officers have the counseling and support they deserve. I tried to get the bill signed,” he said. Cortez mast.
In 2022, Published by the FBI The first-year statistics on police officers who died by suicide or attempted suicide consisted of reports from 22 agencies nationwide, reporting 32 suicide deaths and 9 attempted suicides among current and former police officers.
The FBI report acknowledged that the first year’s data was limited, but said it wanted to be transparent and said its collection was still in its infancy.
KXAN asked the FBI what challenges they face in collecting this data and to encourage government agencies across the country to not only track this information but also voluntarily submit reports to LESDC. asked what he was doing.
The FBI is currently preparing a response. KXAN will update this story as soon as we get a response.
“I will continue to fight to ensure that first responders have the mental health resources they need to do their jobs and protect the public,” Cortez Masto said.
Public Safety Officer Benefits Program (PSOB)
The U.S. Department of Justice PSOB method In 1976, it was intended to provide death, disability and education benefits to eligible police officers who were killed or injured in the line of duty.
According to the Justice Department, the PSOB office reviews more than 1,200 claims related to work-related deaths and injuries each year and has provided nearly $2 billion in assistance since 1976.
In August 2022, proposed amendments to the PSOB were announced. Public Security Officer Assistance Act (PSOSA) signed into law.
“Public security personnel are more likely to die by suicide than other job-related deaths, according to the Department of Justice.
For the first time in nearly 50 years, PSOSA has entitlement to entitle survivors and injured police officers to benefits when a police officer’s suicide or attempted suicide is the result of exposure to a traumatic event on the job. giving.
https://www.kxan.com/investigations/law-enforcement-suicide-state-and-federal-governments-take-action-to-support-officers-track-deaths/ Law Enforcement Suicide: How State and Federal Governments Are Supporting Police Officers and Tracking Deaths