A new law may be the first step to reducing officer suicides in the future.
The Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act, signed in 2020 by President Donald Trump, will officially launch on January 1, 2022.
The law allows agencies to voluntarily report details of suicides, such as the circumstances or events that occurred before the suicide, the location of the suicide, demographic information of the deceased, their occupational category, and the method of suicide.
The law was a response to an increase in suicides over the past several years within the law enforcement profession.
As of December 10, Blue H.E.L.P. has recorded 151 suicides among first responders in 2021.
Sergeant Beth Prall of the Greene County Sheriff’s Office said two officers in her department died by suicide since 2018.
“It is not talked about, it’s not reported,” she told Dayton 24/7.
Psychologist Dr. Kathy Platoni said the law was “long overdue,” referencing the 99 officer suicides that have happened since September this year alone.
“A lot of police departments do not appreciate that we need to have mental health available because there’s still such a stigma in alpha-male dominated professions,” Dr. Platoni said.
Before the law went into effect, a pilot program was run to ensure the FBI was accurately collecting the data. However, suicides that occurred during the pilot program or before January 1, 2022 will not be included in the data.
Amy Blasher, Unit Chief with the FBI, Crime and Law Enforcement Statistics Unit, said the reason is to maintain “uniformity” within the data.
Sergeant Prall hopes the data can eventually be used to acquire more funding.
“My hope is that all agencies will get on board and we will make sure to get that data to the FBI so that this can start being tracked so that we can make long-term decisions and laws and funding to help us, to help law enforcement, to help firefighters,” Prall said.
The law requires the FBI to to report the data to Congress in June 2022, meaning there will only be a few months of data at the beginning.
“I think forming any conclusions about just a couple months worth of data, I think would be a disservice to law enforcement,” Blasher said.
However, many see the law as a first step towards recognizing and bringing awareness to the issue, which will lead to more resources to address it.
“Even though this [suicide] should be considered a line-of-duty death, they consider it something that should be swept under the rug. They see it as a sign of weakness,” Dr. Platoni said.
“Our law enforcement community does what nobody else will do and so that nobody else has to and that isn’t realized at all,” Dr. Platoni continued.