Law enforcement suicides growing concern
BOWLING GREEN, Ky.- When a there’s a car theft, home invasion or a murder cops are often called to the scene. Around the country law enforcement officers are experiencing a crisis of their own, and Warren County’s Sheriff is now speaking out about it.
According to study by the non-profit Blue H.E.L.P, in 2018 more officers died by suicide than in the line of duty. It’s an issue that Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower takes very seriously.
Law enforcement answers the call for help, but who is helping them in their time of need? Hightower said a growing negative public attitude toward the police has made their jobs more difficult.
“I think it’s a lot of the community’s view of law enforcement now. Somehow, we at times seem to be public enemy number one. With that a lot of times people are out and attacking and verbally saying thing,” said Hightower.
While deployed in Afghanistan, Hightower encountered suicide firsthand.
“I was deployed with another soldier who was also a lieutenant with the New York Police Department. He committed suicide on July 4, 2008 while we were in country, not 25 feet from me outside of the tent. So, I have definitely seen the effects of stress, pressure and directly suicide,” said Hightower.
There have been two officer suicide deaths in Kentucky since 2016. While the region doesn’t suffer from a high officer suicide rate, mental health issues are still a concern.
“There’s an increased pressure on a lot of different officers. The call for service, the shortage of law enforcement deputies and police officers throughout the United States. You’re working longer hours, and more complex cases themselves,” said Hightower.
Understaffing and increased responsibilities have plagued law enforcement agencies across the community. Hightower said it’s time to take a closer look at the expectations we have of those tasked with protecting and serving.
“We need to come up with other solutions in utilizing our mental health folks, our law enforcement folks, our community leaders,” said Hightower.
Later this month the Warren County Sheriff’s Department is planning a bonding event in hopes of creating more support and unity within their ranks.