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How Many Police Officers Have Taken Their Own Lives?

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Last updated on September 19th, 2023 at 05:49 pm

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We don’t know.

My initial reaction to that was that I found it staggering, but then I began to think a little deeper.

Journalist Carl Eve of the Plymouth Herald has written what I believe to be a first class exposé of the chaos surrounding Police Officers who have taken their own lives.

If you want to know how many Police Officers have been arrested for Murder or Assault we can tell you.

If you want to know how many Police Officers have been murdered or assaulted we can tell you.

If you want to know how many Police Officers are off sick at any time we can tell you.

If you want to know how many of those are off sick with Stress/PTSD we can probably tell you.

If you want to know how many Police Officers (or former Police Officers) have taken their own lives, sorry, we can’t tell you that, we don’t record those stats.

I’m not convinced that I believe that, Police Forces do like a good set of stats and certain of them have been known to issue the odd pork pie in response to an FOIA request.

In November 2017 Plymouth Live revealed that of the police officers in Devon and Cornwall who had lost their lives since 2009, a quarter had taken their own lives.

Plymouth Live made Freedom of Information requests of 49 police forces in the country, including British Transport Police, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Ministry of Defence Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary and Police Scotland, asking for details of the number of officers who died in service and the causes of death, such as traffic accidents, natural causes, terrorism or suicide. The process took around eight months to complete as a number of forces delayed their responses far beyond the statutory 20 working days agreed by the law.

Only 37 forces replied and 30 of those forces revealed that while they kept records for how many officers died while in service, none had any details of the causes of death or details regarding

Those that have read my previous post will know that I once had to deal with the suicide of a friend and colleague. His occupation was not hidden from my report or the Coroner’s Inquest. Why would it not be recorded somewhere? It undoubtedly was but not necessarily in a retrievable format.

At least one other former friend and colleague also took his own life. I know why he did that and I’m not going to include it here, but be assured it was 100% related to his job.

Demands on Police Officers has increased dramatically. In tandem, Police numbers have been ruthlessly reduced by successive governments since 2010. Leaves have been cancelled in alarming numbers. I think that 12 hour shifts are currently the norm, often more. Officers are routinely single-crewed, on their own, no backup. Hundreds of thousands of hours Time Off in Lieu have been racked up. Hundreds of thousands of Rest Days are waiting to be re-rostered, officers often not having any inkling when they will be able to take them. Annual Leave has been denied en bloc affecting not only the officers but their families also. I can imagine that wives and partners are not overly impressed by that and may become quite vocal on the subject.

I refer to my previous post, even if the Forces suddenly start collecting the stats, that on its own means nothing. Effective and appropriate support needs to be provided in a timely fashion. A lot of that used to happen in canteens, but they’ve all been closed. Adjourn to the local Golden Arches? Somebody will take a photo and sell the story to a newspaper somewhere, more stress. Go for a pint after work? Even if the pubs are still open when you get off, someone will make something of it.

Have the stats by all means, but the infrastructure has to be there to protect the Force’s most valuable asset, their officers.

Anything less is a National Disgrace. Get it sorted.

At the same time as all this is going on officers are frequently having to contend with Trial by Social Media and Armchair Experts.

Knife Crime and Moped-Enabled Crime have hit record highs over the last 18 months and if Police intervene and ‘knock’ someone off their moped, or stop and search a group of youths for knives etc, there is always someone there who can’t wait to upload a heavily edited few seconds of video footage to the ‘net and cause mischief and strife. All of this adds to the stress that ALL Front Line Officers are already under.

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2 thoughts on “How Many Police Officers Have Taken Their Own Lives?”

  1. As I stated earlier; A Mirror Image. I’m sure there’s a huge opinion in the U.K. that we are all trigger happy over here. I won’t engage in a gun control debate with anyone. I’m a lifetime gun owner, end of. I was also our departments Firearms Instructor from 2003 to my retirement in 2013. I trained many officers from departments across the region. My philosophy “Be Right Tonight” when your life or those of your brothers, sisters and the wider community are at immediate risk it doesn’t matter, the world will make you wrong in the morning, just “be right” in the circumstances you are in. CNN doesn’t have the right to make that decision for you and neither does the always pending civil litigation and possible criminal prosecution nor the community persecution you will face. I speak from experience, it’s not fun but it’s a must.

    We too faced our higher ups trying to rule our personal lives as well, one tried to ban us from the local police watering hole. Didn’t work and those hours of moaning and just being around your own kind probably saved lives, might’ve ended a few marriages though.

    I try to keep up with policing over the water because I have friends who live there and it broke my heart to leave there. I see the job of the PC going to private companies that submit the lowest bid. Hendon will be run by a private company and what you consider “bad” now will be recalled as the “good old days”. I truly hate that because it really is a noble profession. When I attended the West Virginia State Police Academy, here every officer regardless of agency attends the same basic academy. The first lesson of the day was the foundation of American Policing. The first thing we learned there was about Sir Robert Peel and how professional law enforcement was born. I doubt very many officers in the U.K. know how much of a colony we still are (half joke). I hate to see this happen.

    Some states allow police unions, West Virginia doesn’t however we can sue the Sheriff through our Association not as individuals. We have and won every time. Some states have tried to establish quasi-police officers similar to PCSO’s which I suppose would be nice if it was in addition to officers instead of replacing them. You cannot take a radio and a notebook to a gunfight though, just doesn’t work that way and that’s what has blocked much of that here.

    Regarding shifts. I could never understand why you guys don’t work set shifts with set days off. We did forever until recently the department went to 12 hours with sliding days off. Instant misery. I don’t think I could’ve stood to work some of the shift patterns you guys work without screwing my Glock into the ear of some of the brass.

    I don’t want to turn this into a forum, I will try to not interject to much in the future. I do enjoy the posts though.

    1. Glad you enjoy them, feel free to chip in any time, always welcome. Opinion from a different perspective is also useful for a healthy debate. Stay strong.

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