October 30, 2019

Cortez Masto, Hawley, Coons, Blunt Introduce New Bill to Help Reduce Police Officer Suicides

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) today introduced a bill to track law enforcement suicides. The Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act requires the FBI to collect voluntary, anonymous data on police suicides and attempted suicides from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Collecting this data will help inform policy solutions so that law enforcement suicides can be prevented.

“America’s law enforcement officers risk their own lives to protect others, and in the process they see some of the most traumatic scenes imaginable,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “These burdens can haunt them and lead to PTSD, depression and other mental health issues that put them at greater risk for suicidal thoughts. They deserve all the support we can give them, and the data this bill will make available is a crucial part of that support. I’ll keep fighting in the United States Senate to make sure that our first responders get the critical assistance they need to do their jobs protecting the public.”

Senator Hawley said, “Every day law enforcement officers walk into the line of fire to protect our communities. But the trauma they experience can take a heavy toll on those brave men and women who keep us safe. This bill takes positive steps toward getting our men and women in blue the support they deserve in order to heal and recover.”

“Tragically, according to the Department of Justice, more police officers have died by suicide recently than were fatally shot in the line of duty,” said Senator Coons. “We must do more to protect the officers who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe, and that includes providing them with the mental health care they deserve. I’m proud to work with a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce the Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act here in the Senate. This bill will provide valuable data that can help inform and target a suicide-prevention initiative within the law enforcement community.”

“Law enforcement officers face stressful and dangerous situations every day,” said Senator Blunt. “That can take a tremendous toll on their mental health and, in too many cases, lead them to take their own lives. The data collected by the FBI will play a vital role in developing policies to help prevent future tragedies. As a mental health advocate and co-chair of the Senate Law Enforcement Caucus, I hope my colleagues will join us in this effort to better support the brave men and women who keep our communities safe.”

“We are no longer able to hide from the stigma that is associated with suicides and attempted suicides within our law enforcement ranks,” said Richard McCann, Executive Director of the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers. “We need a full-scale national data collection effort to help us learn from and address this growing mental health problem. Therefore, NAPSO fully endorses Senator Cortez Masto’s proposed Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act as a measure that will support law enforcement officers throughout their careers and increase the availability of mental health resources for these heroes who serve our communities.”   

In addition to Senators Cortez Masto, Hawley, Coons and Blunt, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also cosponsored the Act. In the House of Representatives, companion legislation was introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.-5), Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.-17) and Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.-4).

BACKGROUND:

2018 was the third straight year in which police suicides outnumbered line-of-duty deaths. Law enforcement agencies across the country lost at least 167 officers to suicide in 2018. Currently, there is no comprehensive government effort to track suicides and attempted suicides in law enforcement like there is for line-of-duty deaths.

The Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act requires the FBI to open a voluntary data collection program to track suicides and attempted suicides within local, tribal, state and federal law enforcement. Information collected and maintained by the FBI will not include any personally identifiable information.

Participating law enforcement agencies will report information on suicides within their agency to the FBI, including:

  • Circumstances and events that occurred before each suicide or attempted suicide;
  • Location of each suicide or attempted suicide;
  • Demographic information of each law enforcement officer who dies by suicide or attempts suicide;
  • Occupational category for each law enforcement officer who dies by suicide or attempts suicide; and
  • Method used in each suicide or attempted suicide.

This bill also directs the FBI Director to submit an annual report on the data to Congress and publish the report on the FBI website.

This program would serve as the principal data collection tool on suicides and attempted suicides within law enforcement across the country. By providing accurate and detailed information on these suicides and attempted suicides, more effective prevention programs could be implemented to save lives.

The full text of the bill is here.

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