Proposed database would clarify scope of police suicides

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Last year, for the third straight year, suicides of police officers outnumbered deaths in the line of duty.

Bipartisan legislation before Congress would require the FBI to create a national, anonymous database of those deaths with the goal of identifying patterns and giving agencies new information to help officers before it’s too late.

“We need to be there for these men and woman who put their lives on the line, who choose to wear blue,” bill sponsor Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said. “They face trauma, they’re in tough situations and then they don’t have anywhere to go.”

With 167 suicides by law enforcement officers nationwide in 2018, Hawley said it’s now the leading cause of death of the group.

“What they need to know is what kind of problems to look for,” fellow Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt said. “This is a problem we have to solve. These are people who stand between us and danger.”

Several of the country’s largest law enforcement groups are backing the plan, saying it will help shed light on the trauma officers experience.

If passed, agencies would have the option to report data on officers’ suicides but would not be required to do so. They would be asked to include locations, demographic information about the officer who died and what role the officer held.

“If we’re going to bring in resources, we need to know the scope of the problem,” Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., who is cosponsoring the bill, said. “Focus on mental health or behavioral health or whatever it is that we have an understanding of what’s causing this.”

The House has introduced an identical bill. Hawley said he hopes both chambers will pass the plan soon.