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Examining what’s under the rug

Lexington Park, MD - Earlier this week, TheBayNet.com reported on the medical examiner’s findings regarding the death of a police officer. Sadly, the officer took his own life. That we went through the proper channels to obtain the information in a highly ethical manner and were following up on a previously reported story didn’t seem to matter to a few of our readers who felt the report was an invasion of privacy. I would like to explain why they are wrong and shed some light as to why this is part of a bigger problem that should not be trivialized or swept under a rug.

In 2014, an online publication called Community Policing Dispatch reported, “each year more law enforcement officers die by suicide than are killed in the line of duty. Officers are at a heightened risk for suicide due to experiencing such risk factors as exposure to violence, suicides or other job-related stressors—depression, anxiety or other mental illness, substance abuse domestic abuse, access to means to kill oneself and poor physical health.” The Dispatch went on to state that there was hope as ways to help officers in danger of taking their own lives had been identified and were being implemented.

However, fast-forward to 2018. Another national online publication, Law Officer, indicated the problem wasn’t getting any better. “As of the year’s end, a raw number of 102 self-inflicted deaths have been identified,” the article stated. “Many such deaths, currently hidden, remain to be identified for the year but will come to light and be publicized as 2018 progresses and further reports come in. A number of other cases do evade detection because of agencies that conceal them when they occur—an occurrence that is all too frequent.”

Communities, jurisdictions and states invest a lot in law enforcement. While much of the expensive, state-of-the-art technology used for crime fighting, crime prevention and public safety is very much welcome, there is absolutely no substitute for those extraordinary human beings who serve as law enforcement officers. Their lives are hardly private and they are also not invulnerable.

The Law Officer article goes on to quote Ron Clark, board chairman of the nonprofit organization Badge of Life, who described law enforcement as “one of the most toxic, caustic career fields in the world.”

That the greatest danger to a police officer is not a criminal but his or herself is a stark and statistically proven reality. Let that sink in.

The recent incident in Southern Maryland was a personal tragedy and the entire community grieves for the officer’s family. But not understanding how this happened won’t help us answer the bigger question—why it happened.

Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of TheBayNet.com management.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com

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