Five before Midnight

This site is dedicated to the continuous oversight of the Riverside(CA)Police Department, which was formerly overseen by the state attorney general. This blog will hopefully play that role being free of City Hall's micromanagement.
"The horror of that moment," the King went on, "I shall never, never forget." "You will though," the Queen said, "if you don't make a memorandum of it." --Lewis Carroll


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Location: RiverCity, Inland Empire

Friday, February 09, 2007

The other memorial

U.S.A. Today published an article last week on suicide among law enforcement officers. Within any 24 hour period, one law enforcement officer will kill him or herself, according to statistics provided at several Web sites addressing the issue. Three times more officers die from suicide than they do from other dangers of the job, yet this issue gets far less attention, perhaps in part because of the stigma associated with suicide in general and law enforcement in particular. And how many people know that there are memorials dedicated to police officers who have taken their own lives?

Suicide rates jolt police culture


The International Association of Chiefs of Police is circulating a proposal, obtained by USA TODAY, to make suicide prevention tools available to all of the nation's nearly 18,000 state and local police agencies.

"Current police culture … tends to be entirely avoidant of the issue," leaving suicidal officers with "no place to turn," a draft of the proposal says.

The suicide foundation says it has verified an average of 450 law enforcement suicides in each of the last three years, compared with about 150 officers who died annually in the line of duty. Douglas says no more than 2% of the nation's law enforcement agencies have prevention programs.

Suicide rates for police — at least 18 per 100,000 — are higher than for the general population, according to Audrey Honig, chief psychologist for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

Allen Kates, who is the author of the book, Cop Shock: Surviving Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, runs this Web site which provides information about this serious nationwide problem. He has a question and answer section which addresses the prevalence of suicide in law enforcement in comparison with that of the general population.


Is police suicide an epidemic?

Is police suicide an epidemic, as I often hear? I don't know. Suicide among law enforcement affects many people within a community, which satisfies the definition of epidemic. But what number or percentage fulfills that meaning? I think the word "epidemic" is used far too often and too loosely for us to label police suicide as an epidemic.

Do more police kill themselves than are killed on-the-job?

More police officers today commit suicide than are killed by criminals. This is true. We can't ignore it, but I don't think it helps us understand why police officers kill themselves. I don't think the numbers are as meaningful as the fact that rescuers in our society, people who are trained to help others who are suicidal, do not apply their training to themselves.

Is police suicide greater than the national average?

I've read that the suicide rate in Chicago is five times the national average while in Los Angeles the suicide rate is below the national average. How can you determine a national average for police suicide when the statistics are so broad from city to city and from small town to small town?In 1997, (according to the Census Bureau), the general population experienced 20.2 suicides per 100,000 people.

For the same year, according to the same source, the suicide rate for police officers was 18.1. In other words, 127 officers took their own lives that year. So, it appears that the suicide rate for police officers is below the national average - at least for 1997. But let's muddy the waters a little. In San Francisco, over a ten-year period, from 1987 to 1997, the general population's suicide rate was 21 per 100,000. For police officers, the rate was 33.3 per 100,000. Groups that track police suicides estimate that a police officer kills himself or herself every 24 to 52 hours.

What statistics do not show.

Statistics do not show the number of retired officers who kill themselves. Statistics do not show the suicides that are covered up by fellow officers or departments in order to validate the deceased's insurance or to avoid embarrassment. Statistics do not show that officers who take their lives as a result of personal stress and/or trauma on-the-job are often forgotten. Unlike the wall of names in Washington of officers killed in-the-line-of-duty, there is no memorial honoring officers who kill themselves. There is no national place for grieving. Taking into account the hidden suicides, what is the real suicide rate? I would estimate that police officers kill themselves at least twice as often as the national average. I can't prove it, nor can anybody else right now. But I think a figure of twice the national average is a conservative estimate.

Suicides are preventable deaths.

Statistics can make you crazy. You can bend them in any direction you wish. Statistics can also demean the human side of the tragedy of suicide. The tragedy is that these are preventable deaths. With knowledge, police families and fellow officers can help prevent suicides.

Dr. Beverly J. Anderson, who is the clinical director of the Metropolitan Police Employee Assistance Program wrote an article on suicide in law enforcement and its impact on other officers who work with the individual who kills him or herself. In her article, she also lists the warning signs which may lead to a suicide.


1. Personal and financial problems for which the officer feels there are no solutions

2. Increase in alcohol use

3. Work-related problems

4. Divorce or break-up of a relationship

5. Increase in sick days

6. Mood swings

7. Depression

8. Recent death in the family

9. Exposure to a work-related trauma

10. Use of deadly force

This article by discusses the difficulty of getting accurate statistics on law enforcement suicide given that many cases are actually categorized as accidents, i.e. from gun cleaning, so any count is probably too low. One of the agencies it refers to is the New York City Police Department which lost 137 officers in the line of duty in 1997 but 300 officers committed suicide during that same time period. provides information on suicide including its myths as well as training resources including how to set up a suicide-prevention program in a law enforcement agency.

The National P.O.L.I.C.E. Suicide Foundation is an organization which addresses this problem by providing among other things preventive training and support services. Some of the resources include F.Y.I. and Train a Trainer seminar programs.

Tears of a Cop is another site with resources including a section on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is a medical condition believed to impact 1/3 of all law enforcement officers. The site also has a blog that details what's going on around the country, particularly the devastating impact of suicide in Florida and efforts to obtain more funding for outreach programs from the state's governor.


PSF: In memory of

Tears of a Cop: Memorial

Yesterday, Riverside held its annual Black History parade and expo in downtown Riverside. Thousands showed up to march or ride in the parade, or to eat barbeque, to watch performers or just to walk around.

City officials rode in fire trucks, City department heads rode in their vehicles to pay homage to a group of people that many say, they spend the rest of the year discriminating against, including in the city's workplace.

As usual, discussions arose about the fates of Black city employees as well as Latino city employees who held management positions in city hall who have been fired, demoted or forced to resign with severance packages since City Manager Brad Hudson and his sidekick, Asst. City Manager Tom DeSantis came to town.

Riverside's own Black and Latino Hall of Fame:

Art Alcarez, Latino, former human resources director, forced to resign with severance package for unknown reasons though some feel it was for refusing to play ball with Hudson and DeSantis in hiring new employees .

Jim Smith, Black, former budget director and interim asst. city manager, demoted and sentenced to the Orange St. building before being hired by the city of Oakland. Smith was paraded at a city council meeting by Councilman Frank Schiavone as proof of the city's commitment to diversity just before his demotion by Hudson who replaced him with DeSantis.

Tranda Drumwright, Black, former director of housing and community development, fired for undisclosed reasons as an "at will" employee. She alleged that her supervisor told her that she didn't see her as a manager.

Pedro Payne, Black, former executive director of the Community Police Review Commission, resigned to seek better career opportunities according to the city but few people buy that explanation, given the actions taken against him and the CPRC in the past year.

Who will be next?

Of the original list of employees provided after the departure of Alcaraz who was on the list, only two remain with the city. Which one will be the next to go?

Cities commemorate the contributions of Black and Latino individuals in different ways. Unfortunately, the creation of this hall of fame appears to be one of Riverside's ways.


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