The notice came across my phone. It was from one of the local news agencies. It carried some sad, sad news…again.
Recently, a law enforcement officer from our area was found dead in his home. The report said there was no foul play expected. Apparently it was suicide.
Another law enforcement officer…another suicide.
Sadly, this happens far too often. In fact, the suicide rate among law enforcement officers is almost twice the national average. Even sadder, almost twice as many of them kill themselves each year as are killed in the line of duty. Other issues in this culture include an alcoholism rate that is twice the national average, a spousal abuse rate that is higher than the national average, and a life expectancy rate that is much shorter than the national average.
You might ask why. The answer is the unbelievable amount of stress that exist in the lives of law enforcement officers. Their culture is chock full of issues that, according to most studies, makes it one of the top 3 most stressful cultures in the world.
And, although the threat of bodily harm is always present in this culture, that is not the main threat. Emotional, psychological, familial, spiritual and relational threats are even greater.
In a few months, I will be finishing up my 20th year of working as a Chaplain among various law enforcement agencies. I have a deep love and appreciation for the men and women who choose to serve in this way. I have found them to be deeply committed, desirous to “make a difference”. Most feel called to serve in this way. I have deep compassion for them.
I am weary of the incessant negative narrative that our media propagates about law enforcement. Many have asked, “what about the ‘bad’ cops”. Like any other culture, law enforcement has some who do not play by the rules. Be assured they are few in number and the rest of the law enforcement culture deeply resents those ‘bad’ cops who cast a shadow over all of them.
After over 40 years of working in full time ministry, I can assure you that I know of more ‘bad’ ministers than I do ‘bad’ cops.
For years at Community Outreach Ministries we have had the privilege of walking with law enforcement officers. We have married them, buried them, and almost anything you can imagine in between. We have counselled, trained, worked beside them in crisis, and most especially loved and supported them.
Why? Because I believe in what they stand for. Because they are the only thing in our world standing between us and chaos. Because I understand the tremendous amount of stress that their culture throws at them. Because I have seen what they see (which nobody should have to, but someone has to), and I have experienced much of what they experience.
But, the biggest answer to my why? Because I believe if Jesus were here, He would be doing the same thing. I believe that these are the kind of people that He would run to, hold tight, and have compassion for.
I teach a block in our state approved Detention Officers Training Academy on a regular basis. My class is an effort to introduce them to the stresses that they will be facing as a law enforcement officer and to give them tools on how to handle the stresses that they face. I enjoy getting to pass on this information at the beginning stages of their careers. I always see bright, excited, eager faces…and I know what they will soon be facing.
The lack of respect, the false narrative from the media, the lack of appreciation, the low pay, and all the quick judgements made on the basis of misinformation….this has gotta stop!
If not…some local media outlet will be sending out more bad news about another law enforcement suicide once again.
IT'S GOT TO STOP!