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Law enforcement worker suicide: an updated national assessment

John M. Violanti (Eipdemiology and Environmental Health, State University of NY, Buffalo, New York, USA)
Andrea Steege (Division of Field Studies and Engineering, CDC, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Article publication date: 21 October 2020

Issue publication date: 25 January 2021

862

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to update the assessment of national data on law enforcement worker suicide based on the National Occupational Mortality Surveillance database (NOMS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Design/methodology/approach

Death certificate data for 4,441,814 decedents, age 18–90 who died in one of the 26 reporting states were the source of NOMS data. Utilizing proportionate mortality ratios (PMRs), the ratio of suicides in law enforcement occupations in those who are 18–90 years old with a designated usual occupation was calculated.

Findings

Findings indicate a significantly higher proportion of deaths from suicide for law enforcement officers (PMR = 154, 95% CI = 147–162), compared to all the US decedents in the study population who were employed during their lifetime. Law enforcement personnel are 54% more likely to die of suicide than all decedents with a usual occupation. PMRs were highest for African-Americans, Hispanic males and for females. PMRs were similar for detectives, corrections officers and all law enforcement jobs, when not stratified by race, ethnicity and sex.

Research limitations/implications

Bias may arise because a PMR can be affected by disproportionate increased or decreased mortality from causes of death other than suicide.

Practical implications

A better understanding of the scope of law enforcement suicide can inform policy focused on the planning and initiation of prevention programs.

Originality/value

The use of a national database to study law enforcement worker suicide adds to other information available on law enforcement worker suicide in specific geographic areas. The discussion on prevention in this paper presents ideas for policy.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Data were provided by the following: Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Vital Records Section, Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics, Georgia Department of Public Health, State Office of Vital Records, Hawaii Department of Health, Office of Health Status Monitoring, Idaho Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Indiana State Department of Health, Division of Vital Records, Kansas Department of Health and Environment, Office of Vital Statistics, Kentucky Department for Public Health, Office of Vital Statistics, Louisiana Department of Health, Office of the State Registrar, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, Office of Vital Records, Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public and Behavioral Health, Office of Vital Statistics, New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, New Jersey Department of Health, Center for Health Statistics, Trenton, NJ, New Mexico Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Records and Health Statistics, Epidemiology and Response Division, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health, North Dakota Department of Health, Division of Vital Records, Ohio Department of Health, Office of Vital Statistics, Rhode Island Department of Health, Office of Vital Records, South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, Office of Public Health Statistics and Information Services, Division of Vital Records, Texas Department of State Health Services, Vital Statistics Unit, Utah Department of Health, Center for Health Data and Informatics, Office of Vital Records and Statistics, Vermont Department of Health, Health Surveillance Division, Washington State Department of Health, Center for Health Statistics, West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Bureau for Public Health, Vital Registration Office, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Division of Public Health, Office of Health Informatics. The authors thank Sara Luckhaupt, Marie Haring Sweeney, Michael Andrew and John Vena for their valuable comments on drafts of this manuscript.

Citation

Violanti, J.M. and Steege, A. (2021), "Law enforcement worker suicide: an updated national assessment", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 44 No. 1, pp. 18-31. https://doi.org/10.1108/PIJPSM-09-2019-0157

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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