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11-26-07, 12:00 AM #1Corporal
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The Brotherhood -Will I devastate my brothers?
Someone emailed this to me and I thought I would pass it on for thoughts... it was long so I didn't copy the whole thing... if you want the rest let me know...
The Brotherhood--Will I Devastate My Brothers?
What are you doing NOW to prevent your own suicide?
Updated: November 23rd, 2007 08:32 PM EDT
Process Problem Solving Contributor
Cop funerals are about the most painful event I have ever
When talking about it with other officers, their sentiments are much
the same. Over the years, I've pondered why cop funerals are so
traumatic. There seems to be agreement that the pain is rooted in
some or all of the following issues.
I feel duty-bound to attend. It's the last gesture of caring and
concern that I can show for my fallen brother.
The officer, whose body is lying in the casket, in full uniform,
could just as easily have been me, instead of him.
Depending on the circumstances of the loss, I might even wonder for a
moment why I survived when he did not.
The sound of the pipers playing Amazing Grace chokes my throat and
fills my face with unstoppable tears--no matter where I am when I
I stand with fellow steely-faced officers at attention. Each one of
us fears that he will be the first to break down and show the
emotional pain being suffered.
About six weeks ago, I participated in my first cop funeral where the
dead officer took his own life--with his service weapon. He was a
well-liked and respected sergeant in a municipal agency of about 100
I knew only a couple of officers in the department, which is located
about 40 miles north of where I live. The funeral was scheduled for
Saturday morning with visitation on Friday evening.
Upon arrival at the visitation, I saw many new faces ranging from
grunt cops all the way to the chief. I returned on Saturday for the
There was a palpable difference in the air. Yes, there was that sense
of loss which ran deep. But, there was more.
The faces of this crew spelled out a variety of emotional pains.
There were blank stares showing confusion about what these cops were
feeling inside. All showed a high level of personal anguish. Their
faces held many questions, but few answers.
"How did I not see this coming? I am a trained observer. How did I
fail my brother officer?"
"Why didn't the sergeant tell someone he was having problems greater
than he could handle?"
"Didn't he trust me enough to be able to tell me about his thoughts
before he took his own life?"
Some of the cops acted as though it was not even possible that their
sergeant capped himself. "It must be a bad dream from which I will
He was my brother. I would have taken a bullet for him without a
moment's hesitation, but I couldn't save him from this.
And yes, there was some anger that this sergeant would knowingly
inflict this kind of emotional devastation on those who loved him,
respected him, and worked side-by-side with him.
Even at the visitation, there was one very young officer who cried
almost constantly. I learned later that the officer had been mentored
and guided by this sergeant from his very first day on the job. They
were very close and the young cop deeply respected and cared for that
sergeant. He was hurting and felt betrayed.
How does suicide happen?
Not literally, but mentally.
I recently talked to a young officer in my state that I sensed might
be considering suicide. Bringing it up ain't easy. It's
uncomfortable. But, there's times the subject must be broached.
The response of this young guy was the same as every other time it's
come up: "I would NEVER take my own life. I wouldn't even seriously
Those are typical words. And they were probably uttered at some time
by the sergeant whose funeral I attended. I can't imagine that a cop,
out of the clear blue, with little or no stress in life, would
respond any differently to questions about considering suicide.
Yet, suicide takes far more cops than do the well publicized line of
duty deaths. Many departments don't report the loss as a suicide for
fear of recrimination or loss of benefits.
Suicide becomes a consideration when a person is hurting, under a
great deal of stress or pressure, and sees no other way to correct or
bring an end to the problem.
It closes in on a person often without realization of what's
Think of it like a trap set for a wild animal in the forest. A cage
has food inside and there is a cone-shaped entrance that allows the
animal in to get the food, but then closes so as to trap it inside.
That's what happens in suicide.
It can be difficult for others to see because often the person at the
center doesn't see it for themselves.
By the time the person at the eye of the storm realizes that he's
been trapped, he feels helpless. He's embarrassed that this could
happen to the strong, sturdy, self-reliant cop who has helped
hundreds or thousands of others over his career. The last thing he is
inclined to do is tell anyone out of fear of exposing his own
I teach cops in classrooms all across the country. They're reluctant
to even ask a question in a group for fear of looking ignorant. Yet,
when alone in the car on the street, the questions flow like a river.
How then can anyone be surprised that a cop would hide notions of
suicide so close that no one else can perceive that they exist?
By the time suicide is a real consideration, the subject's mind is
clouded. He is no longer objective. He probably can't think of
anything other than getting relief from whatever is hurting him.
He doesn't even consider the pain he is about to inflict on the very
brothers whom he loves and trusts most: the ones at work. He is
mindlessly about to create a scar so deep and so wide that it will
never heal for most of them.
Life has times of crisis
It is inevitable. You cannot escape them,
Three years ago, my wife was diagnosed with cancer. After surgery,
the doctor told me it was terminal. Thank God, he was wrong.
The stress of a marital breakup is very tough. If there are kids
involved, it can be mentally and financially crippling.
There may be the death of a loved one--like a parent. You have the
job of handling the estate and its affairs.
Today's economy has left people in very difficult financial
situations because of the drop in the value of real estate. Lots of
folks find they owe more on their mortgage than the house is worth.
Variable interest rates only compound the problem to the level of
being a real crisis.
It might be a critical incident. A close friend of mine was involved
in an officer-involved shooting where the shitbag was killed. It was
a good shoot. Yet, it left my friend mentally awash for some time as
he struggled with the fact that he had taken the life of another.
From big to small, you will face a crisis in your lifetime, and
probably more than once.
What are you doing today to prevent your own suicide?
Suicide prevention starts first within each one of us.
It can come to anyone, without exception. Including you. You will
know it has made its appearance long before anyone else. When it
does, what will you do?
First, stop pretending that it can't happen to you. It can. Every cop
who's capped himself said, "it can't happen to me," at one time or
another. Believing otherwise is ignoring reality and is downright
What to do? Use the strategy you've been taught repeatedly--employ
the WHEN/THEN approach to crisis situations and possible suicide.
Get close to some other cops. It doesn't need to be in your own
agency. In fact, it might be better if they're from somewhere else.
There are three guys on my list: a street cop from Michigan; a
sergeant from Omaha; a senior agent with the feds based in Florida.
They comprise my team. I talk or communicate with them frequently--at
least every few days. They are my pals.
I share my work-related successes with them. And, I know that they
are there when I'm in trouble. Now for a short war-story.
About a year ago, I was looking to make the move from part-time to
full-time cop. I looked for agencies that have their own academy,
believing that in that environment I could work the street and teach.
I began the application process with Madison, WI PD. Through the
testing and application process I was at/near the top of the pool. I
needed to pass the physical agility test to be held in late January
to be selected.
I'm a bodybuilder, so strength was not an issue. But, I have a
deformed right knee which I had to teach to run to meet the
requirements of the running component of the test.
I hired a professional to teach me to run. I was in physical therapy
twice each week. I went to the gym two or three times every day to
run. I ran in the swimming pool. I worked my ass off in preparation
for about three months straight.
On test day, I aced every event, more than doubling the requirement
for each item. Then came the run. I took off like a shot. About a
third of the way into the run, I tore a tendon or ligament in my left
foot/ankle. I was down on my face on the track.
I was devastated. I had my heart set on Madison. The recruiter had
told me that I was the "perfect" candidate. But, now I was
disqualified due to the injury. I was on crutches. My spirit was
broken. I had to tell all of my friends who were rooting for me that
I had failed. I was probably as close to suicide as I will ever get.
Fortunately, it never became a serious consideration.
As I returned to the hotel, my wife saw the crutches and immediately
came to my aid. I then turned to my pals that I mentioned earlier,
telling them of my fate.
They ministered to me. One had his brother at my hotel within an hour
offering help and support. The others sent repeated emails of
encouragement. They were on the phone checking on me and just
offering an ear. The reassured me that better things would come, even
though I couldn't imagine how. My brothers surrounded me (mentally,
not physically) and held me up when I was most weak.
The WHEN/THEN approach requires that you consider and plan for the
time that you will face such a crisis. It may come when you least
expect it, but it will come.
Reaching out to others to support me in my weak areas is a sign of
strength, rather than weakness. I understand: there is fear when you
expose a vulnerable area of yourself. "I'll wait until something goes
wrong, then I'll ask for help." It may be too late, then.
You wouldn't commence learning to shoot only if/when you come under
fire on the street. That would be crazy.
Figure out who is in your life that you are comfortable talking with.
Who understands your sick sense of humor? Who will listen when you
need an ear? Who are you willing to support, in return?
It might be one person. It might be more, like I have. I am close to
the buddies who support me. I can tell them my innermost thought and
I am not threatened with worries that they will think badly of me.
They are available to me whenever I need them.
I know they accept me and I am comfortable in our relationship.
Another war story: when the doctor told me that my wife had terminal
cancer, one of my first thoughts was to bring my daughter home from
college immediately to be with the family through the next few days
of trauma. Problem was that her school was an eight hour drive away
I called one of my three pals from the hospital. He and another guy
were on the road in less than an hour, delivering my daughter home
the next morning. He wouldn't even let me pay for gas.
I understand. We are men. We are cops. We fix shit. We don't call
someone else to do it for us.
However, when something on the street goes sideways, we call for
backup, knowing in advance that it's there.
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