The purpose of the Chaplain article in each FBINAA Associate magazine is to provide both an emotional and spiritual support message to our general membership and specifically to those members who are concerned about faith and emotional health.  In the past two years, we have embarked on a “Quest for Excellence” in our lives by looking at a spiritual and emotional walk of deliberateness by spending time routinely in solitude, scripture, and service.

In 2020 we will continue this journey with a study of deliberate support of others and deliberate study of the significant events in our lives.  However, for the last Associate magazine article of 2019, I wanted to deviate from this discussion and look at an issue that has been weighing heavy on my mind in 2019.  That is the issue of suicide among the ranks of our agencies.  On the date, I am writing this article, American law enforcement has lost 201 of our officers to suicide in 2019.  Although a staggering number on its own, some estimated the actual number to be as much as two or three times higher than this.  My heart just breaks as I try to mentally and emotionally digest this information.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has tracked life expectancy for decades.  For the first time in my lifetime (and I am old enough to collect Medicare) the CDC has lowered the life expectancy for American males.  The cause for the decline in life expectancy is due to what they call “the diseases of despair”.  Suicide is one of these diseases.  Since the percentage of police officer suicides is higher than the general population, this disease of despair is particularly disturbing. 

I have spent quite a few days in class studying suicide this past year and can easily roll out pages of statistics on suicide.  Elderly suicides, military suicides, juvenile suicides etc. The reality is that police officers and our brothers and sisters in the fire service are suffering.  As a Chaplain, I find this so frustrating because we find many references to the peace and comfort that is possible when you have a spiritual relationship with God.  One of the most famous biblical verses in Psalm 23, promises that when we are going through the shadow of death, God is with us and his comfort can surround us.

As members of the FBINAA, we all hold positions of influence in our respective agencies.  We are the people who must take action.  We cannot leave it to anyone else.  Many of us support programs of officer wellness, and resiliency.  The FBINAA is heavily invested in Officer Resiliency due to our partnership with Motorola to provide nationwide training to our membership.  The IACP has its own program, and our State Chiefs Association in Ohio has a program.  Clearly, we must do more because suicides continue to increase every year in law enforcement.  We can no longer just sit and wait thinking this tragedy will not visit us sometime soon.

One thing we know helps is to talk about the topic of suicide.  We need to encourage discussion about suicide in our line up roll calls.  We need to place suicide discussions on the agenda in staff meetings. We need to encourage two officers meeting for a cup of coffee to discuss their thoughts through the police car window.  In addition to encouraging discussions about suicide, we must ask ourselves what our own values and viewpoints are about suicide.  Review the following questions or statements. There is no right or wrong answer, or side of the issue to stand on.  However, a robust conversation on these ten points will certainly provoke some great dialog about suicide in our agencies. It will also cause us to look deep into how we feel or what we believe about suicide.

  1. Is suicide wrong?Morally? Legally?
  2. Is suicide a sin?
  3. Is suicide the act of a coward?
  4. Is suicide justifiable in some cases?
  5. Everyone should have the freedom to choose!
  6. Suicide is irrational!
  7. I will stop someone from completing suicide.
  8. I failed if someone I helped completed suicide.
  9. I would be ashamed if a family member completed suicide.
  10. Suicide will never be the right choice for me.

It is critically important for all of us to realize that how we personally and philosophically view suicide can have a dramatic and many times detrimental impact on how we may deal with the suicide of one of our staff, or how we may view their mental toughness when they express suicide idealizations.  Our number one responsibility as police managers and executives is to keep our staff members safe and we must do better.  We can do better.

It is believed that April is the worst month for suicide completions in the general population; however, the holiday season upon us is the worst for completed first responder suicides. If you have read this article, stop and think, “Is there a person I need to go check on?”  “Is there a person who has had a rough 2019 and needs some encouragement?” I do not believe you will regret taking a step to talk to them.

II Corinthians 1:3, 4 says, “All praise to God ….. He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us along someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.”   MSG

January is a time of the year where we look to start fresh, lose weight, start a hobby, or make a change in our lives.  Let’s resolve this January to make 2020 a year where we aggressively attack the issue of law enforcement suicide.  We cannot sit idle.

Proverbs 3:5, 6 – “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own.  Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track.”

Until next time, I pray that the peace and joy of the Christmas season surround you and your family and friends.  May we take this opportunity to extend the olive branch of peace to all.

Until next time, God Bless.

Jeff Kruithoff

Contact me at jkruithoff@fbinaa.org