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Officer suicides at all-time high in 2019, with 12 reported in Colorado

Posted at 7:32 AM, Jan 08, 2020

Law enforcement leaders say it's the biggest threat they face across the country — the increasing number of officer suicides.

In 2019, these deaths hit an all-time high with both current and former officers taking their own lives.

In 2019, these deaths hit an all-time high with both current and former officers taking their own lives.

Nonprofit organizations are tracking the numbers and nationwide, a record 228 current or former officers died by suicide last year and twelve of those were in Colorado.

With most officers now wearing body cameras, we see firsthand just how intense the job can be. While the job comes with dangers in the streets, research shows a record number of officers are losing their lives by suicide.

More took their own lives than officers killed in the line of duty in 2019.

Fountain Police Chief Christopher Heberer is passionate about reversing those numbers.

"You know, for a very long time we didn't talk about it because look it's a tough guy sport. It's a type A personality driven thing and so you have all the downfalls of that. You have the persona and the perception that no one can ask for help because it's weakness," he said.

In Fountain, the chief says it starts at the top and leading by example.

"I, Chief Heberer, 6-foot-5, consider myself a big tough dude, right? I've had to ask for help before. So, if I can do it, I'm like, it's OK for you to do it," he said.

State law that just went in to effect requires police departments to have programs and plans established to help officers in distress. It's something the Colorado Springs Police Department has spent years working on.

"As the officers get the support they need, they are better at delivering customer service. They can deal with their stress in a healthy way and then they are focused at work," Colorado Springs Police Department Sgt. Eric Frederic said.

Police leaders agree — the reality is major change has to happen or more lives will be lost.

"Unless everybody is engaged on this topic, which is a critical topic, and everyone is thinking outside the box, and everyone has an open mind, and everyone is willing to learn and grow then guess what? Next year is going to be the same as this year. We're going to set another record," Heberer said.

He said one of the top de-stressers for officers is knowing they are appreciated by the public. So, just thanking officers goes a long way for their mental health.