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“Why Police Die by Suicide and Unjustly Kill Unarmed Black Men, Women and Children”

Dr. Daniel L. Hollar addressing "Why Police Die by Suicide and Unjustly Kill Unarmed Black Men, Women and Children"

The number of police officers who died by suicide in 2019 was more than double the number killed in the line of duty, according to a study by Blue H.E.L.P. touted by Attorney General William Bar earlier this year. The study showed 228 officers died by suicide, while 132 officers died in the line of duty in 2019. Texas ranked third with 19 suicides in 2019, behind New York with 23 and California with 21. The organization has aimed to call attention to mental-health concerns among law enforcement, with H.E.L.P. standing for “Honor. Educate. Lead. Prevent.”


If police officers are more likely to die by suicide than in the line of duty, remind me again why they are shooting and killing unarmed Black men, women and children and trying to justify it by claiming to have been afraid? Afraid of what? Is it fear or is it the rampant untreated & hidden mental illness (PTSD, anxiety, alcohol abuse and hypervigilance) among police officers that is the root of problem? Mix that with society’s racist dehumanizing beliefs of Black men, women and children and you get a deadly combination - an officer with the delusional belief of being an angel of light warring against flesh and blood, instead of battling his own internal demons.


Suicide is often an outcome of untreated mental illness. I believe there is an interaction between the untreated mental health issues among police and police brutality. In my research (a 2019 study of 204 police officer Fitness-for-Duty Evaluations from a large metropolitan police department) I have found that police who die by suicide are also more likely to have vocalized homicidal threat (on the job or domestically in their own homes). I also believe that this prevalence of untreated PTSD among officers (a significant factor in suicide) leads to hypervigilance and decreases the ability for police to accurately perceive a threat. Instead, everything and everyone is misperceived as a threat. Given the Justice system's devaluing and dehumanizing of Black life, Black people become an easy target for mentally unfit police officers. Dehumanization is a cognitive distortion that allows us to harm other people. Police must be better screened by psychologists, retrained by the academy and restrained by the Judicial System. They must be held to account for their negative actions on the job and for their mental health issues. As Black man and father of 3 Black boys, finding a resolution to this problem is of dire concern. Given my particular expertise this is my contribution to finding a solution.

By

Dr. Daniel L. Hollar

PhD in Clinical Psychology

Clinical Researcher on Suicide, Acculturation and Psychopathology

Chair & Assistant Professor of Psychology

Department of Behavioral and Social Sciences Studies

Bethune-Cookman University

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