Elsmere police participate in federal project to prevent suicides in law enforcement

For every police officer killed by a criminal, research shows more than two others die by suicide.
Published: Nov. 22, 2022 at 11:04 PM EST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - The Elsmere Police Department is among jurisdictions participating in a national effort to collect accurate data about suicides and attempted suicides in first responders.

President Joe Biden signed the Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act earlier last year. It took effect Jan. 1, 2022.

The FBI says many agencies don’t know about or report data on suicide, likely leading to undercounts among first responders.

Elsmere Police Chief Joe Maier is a vocal advocate for mental health resources.

“When you have the mother hug you in court and say, ‘Thank you for saving my baby’ after giving first aid to somebody you just shot, you know, it tears you up,” Maier said.

The police chief has been in three officer-involved shootings across his career, all of which he says took a toll on his mental health.

“When I would go to calls for service, my blood pressure would go up, my heart beat would go up, I’d start sweating—my palms, you’d feel yourself start sweating,” he recalled. “A couple of those times I had to be hospitalized with panic attacks.”

Maier says he reached out for help and was lucky enough to receive it. But he has lost two fellow officers to suicide.

“Officers were committing suicide at two-and-a-half times more than actual assailants killing police officers,” Maier said. “It’s a very devastating number and a very shocking number.”

The LESDC requires the FBI to gather anonymous data on police suicides and attempted suicides, but FBI Section Chief Scott Schubert says from January to June 2021, only seven deaths by suicide were reported.

“This is important,” he said of the new law. “This is how it will help our profession, this will help the agencies, this will help their families, because we have to do everything we can to learn why it’s happening.”

Schubert says he himself suffered from depression having worked patrol duty for some of his 30 yeas in law enforcement. “We deal with stabbings, rapes, shootings, you name it. The most unimaginable things that people have to see, we have to see.”

He says more of the more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S., only 157 are sending in data. The FBI’s goal, he says, is to increase awareness of the data collection program.

The data will help create policies to help officers who witness or are involved in trauma.

“If I suffered back in 2015 after my shootings,” said Maier, “I know other officers are going through it too. So, it’s very important that they get the help that they need.”

Read the LESDC 2022 data report here. The next release of LESDC data will be in June 2023.

Find out more about mental health resources for police officers in Kentucky here.

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