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Police suicide: a national comparison with fire‐fighter and military personnel

John M. Violanti (Department of Social & Preventive Medicine, School of Public Health & Health Professions, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 1 June 2010




The objectives of this paper are to examine national police suicide rates, to compare police suicides with fire‐fighters and military personnel, and to examine suicide in women and minority officers.


The National Occupational Mortality Surveillance (NOMS) (1984‐1998) was used as a data source. Descriptive statistics and proportionate mortality ratios (PMRs) were calculated.


Overall, the police suicide rate was four times that of fire‐fighters. Minority officers had 4.5 times and policewomen 12 times the number of suicides than did fire‐fighters. Police suicides outnumbered homicides by 2.36 times. Police had significantly higher than expected PMRs for suicide.

Research limitations/implications

NOMS data are presently available up to 1998, and data in the study are descriptive only. Although suggestive of risk, statistically significantly elevated PMRs cannot be interpreted directly as indicating a causal relationship between police work and suicide. Confounders are not recorded in NOMS and may lend considerable weight to suicide.

Practical implications

The paper reflects the need to look deeper into police suicides and their root causes. Police organizations are advised to initiate suicide awareness training and psychological assistance to officers.


The paper is among the first nationally to compare suicide among similar hazardous occupations, suggesting the need for prevention.



Violanti, J.M. (2010), "Police suicide: a national comparison with fire‐fighter and military personnel", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 33 No. 2, pp. 270-286.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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