Four hundred police officers die by suicide every year in the United States. Lt. Michael Piggot died by suicide following a Taser incident. Police Chief Thomas Moffatt was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot at the police station. This book, for the first time, investigates in evidence-based detail the probable epidemic, not approached since the great pandemic of the 1930s, of suicide and homicide-suicide among police. It sorts out the complexity. Yet, it also does more; it raises a question: On a continuum of violence, when does a discrete, individual suicide, such as that of Thomas Moffatt, become a relational one—considering the range from suicide pacts, such as that of Adolf Hitler and his wife, to unwilling victim(s) and a perpetrator, as in the homicides of the four Oakland, California, police officers in 2009 in "suicide by cop," to the homicide-suicide of Superintendent David Lucio and Inspector Kelly Johnson? Kelly Johnson pulled the trigger that killed her partner, David Lucio, and then herself.
The book answers many questions. Are the rates of suicide and homicide-suicide among police really high? Are suicide and homicide interwoven? What factors in a multidimensional array—such as emotional disorders, work-related trauma, domestic violence, and alcoholism—cause needless deaths? Many questions are answered, and the means of investigation, the "psychological autopsies," are outlined for the police officer and forensic researcher alike. The book examines more: Does the availability of a gun increase risk? What can be done to prevent the tragedies? What works? The whole book is, in fact, a treatise on prevention. Indeed, it is highly focused on intervention, but also on services for survivors, or "postvention." What help do fellow officers, family, and community need? Why are there barriers—"blue walls"—obstructing efforts at prevention? Why are investigations not allowed, or halted or dissembled? What policies and procedures have been proven, for about 100 years, to be effective, but rarely implemented?
This book answers many questions and raises new ones. Rich in individual case investigations and general forensic research, the book attempts to be mindful of the needs of officers on the street, mental health providers, administrators of police services, forensic investigators, officers and specialists alike, and traumatized survivors of the horror. With illustrations ranging from Shakespeare's Othello to the actual crime scene investigations, the book attempts to meet a challenge: Who was Michael Piggot, and why did he kill himself? Why did Kelly Johnson commit homicide-suicide? The officer and forensic specialist will understand better what they are investigating and what we can do to prevent further deaths. There are life-saving interventions. Not only does the book present effective predictions and controls to stop the epidemic, it also offers best practices. It ends with a final challenge: Will police services allow the epidemic to continue?
Intended Audience: Police officers and related law and security officers, and their administrators; forensic and criminal justice specialists; mental health providers (such as psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers); criminologists and sociologists; researchers and students in diverse fields; national and global police and health organizations; suicidal officers themselves; and the survivors of the tragedies.
"Working with Dr. Leenaars gave me valuable insight into the underlying causes of homicide and suicide. From the psychological autopsy to the clinical terms of reference, I believe that any police officer would benefit from reading this book."
—Detective David Gilmore, London Police Service
"This book is an important contribution to the history of suicide and police. Dr. Leenaars provides a thorough examination of a sensitive and often stigmatized phenomenon. His text is a required addition to the bookshelves of police administrators, police crisis negotiators, and mental health professionals who work with law enforcement."
—Peter Collins, M.D., F.R.C.P(C), Behavioural Sciences & Analysis Services, Investigation & Support Bureau, Ontario Provincial Police, Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto
"In the tradition of Gregory Zilboorg and Paul Friedman's pioneering study of the wave of police suicides in New York City in the 1930s, Antoon Leenaars's Suicide and Homicide Among Police establishes a new benchmark in this area of suicide study. By linking police suicides to homicide-suicides involving police, by making recommendations for addressing these problems at every stage in their history, and by grounding his clinical interpretations in theory, Leenaars advances both the clinical and theoretical areas of the field of suicidology. In consequence, this book is essential reading for suicidologists who do research on suicide and homicide-suicide, clinicians who work with suicidal patients, and professionals in psychological services departments and employee assistance programs in police departments around the world. It is, in an overused, but in this case supremely justified phrase, a major contribution to the field."
—Jack Kamerman, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Kean University
"Dr. Leenaars' book is an important and critical contribution to the literature on police suicide. The added discussion of violence directed outward reveals another important dimension to understanding suicide risk issues, particularly for a profession sanctioned to use deadly force. The case studies and, in particular, the coverage of the tragically historic New York Police Department suicide cluster from the late 1930s make this book a must read. This unfortunate history has already repeated itself in New York and elsewhere, and the extracted lessons have important implications for clinicians, policymakers, evaluators, fellow police officers, and others interested in this topic."
—Kris Mohandie, Ph.D., Police and Forensic Psychologist
"Dr. Antoon A. Leenaar's monumental work has just ushered onto the scene of police psychology a sorely needed work: Suicide and Homicide-Suicide Among Police. Cop Doc Leenaar's is a respected and prominent leader in the world of police psychology and medical experts, worldwide. He is perhaps the leading expert in Suicidology. This work is not just bound to become a classic on suicide/homicide for professional anthropologists, psychologists, psychiatrists: It is destined to become street wisdom that permeates the sweat glands of the street cop in need of understanding to police chiefs needing real solutions. The choice to close and constrict life is looked at in its raw form in a study that combines the artistic and medical model at its best. As a Cop Doc who has been a police officer and licensed psychologist I will recommend this ingenious book to students, officers in the field, and colleagues in need of understanding, empathy and innovation in the greatest challenge of both/and the police and mental health professional world—suicide/homicide. Professor Dr. Leenaar's has delivered—it is now time to get this book and read it!"
—Dr. Daniel Rudofossi, Retired Police Sgt./Uniform Psychologist, NYPD, Author of A Cop Doc's Guide to Complex PTSD Syndromes: Using Five Police Personality Styles and Chief Psychologist—Detective's Crime Clinic NY and NJ
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Antoon A. Leenaars., is a psychologist in private practice in mental health and public health, Windsor, ON, Canada. He is the first Past President of the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention (CASP), and a Past President of the American Association of Suicidology (AAS). He has published 11 books, including Psychotherapy with Suicidal People (2004), and was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Archives of Suicide Research, the official journal of the International Academy for Suicide Research (IASR). He has consulted for the World Health Organization (WHO), and has provided forensic services on cases of wrongful death, suicide, homicide, and homicide-suicide for police services and legal institutions.