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May 20, 2011

On average, there are 7.4 suicides per year among New Jersey law enforcement officers, according to the 2009 Governor’s Task Force Report on police suicides. But this year there have already been five suicides among three active and two retired officers, and one attempted suicide. Last year, Cop2Cop, a state-run peer-counseling program, prevented 20 suicides, and the state Police Benevolent Association (PBA) psychologist and other trained crisis managers say they intervened in 11 calls.

The state Assembly held a hearing on Thursday to see if more can be done to prevent these deaths, a rash of which recently occurred around the state. At the hearing it was revealed that an officer was three times more likely to die of suicide than in the line of duty.

The Governor’s Task Force Report noted that the increased number of suicides -- which is about 30 percent higher than the general male population of the same ages -- is due to job stress and trauma, isolation from family, odd working hours and access to firearms. Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee Chair Gordon M. Johnson (D-Bergen) said that this year the state has to be particularly vigilant in intervention and prevention, due to stresses of massive police layoffs around the state, as well as the "demonization of public workers and the looming 10-year anniversary of 9/11," which affected many officers.

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