Suicide-by-cop (SbC) is not a new phenomenon. This term refers to the actions of those who choose to end their lives by confronting a police officer to the degree that the officer must react with deadly force. In the early 80s, Dr. Karl Harris, former Chief Medical Examiner for Los Angeles County, reviewed hundreds of officer-involved shooting cases and discovered that many of the decedents at the time of their deaths exhibited a suicidal state of mind. Since it appeared to him that the decedent purposely confronted the officer to elicit a deadly response, he concluded that it was a type of suicide - “suicide-by-cop.”
Around ten years later, New York Newsday staff writer, Alfred Lubrano addressed the upcoming trend of suicide-by-cop in a 24 November 1992 article. He wrote, “A distraught person aches for life to end, but can’t summon the nerve to pull the trigger. So that person goes out on the street, maybe takes a hostage, or directly threatens police with a gun and deliberately becomes a target. The bullets may bring peace to the person bent on dying, but the shooting victimizes the cop, who has been manipulated into the role of executioner.”
This book examines the perspectives of the officer involved in a suicide-by-cop shooting and those who endure what suicide leaves behind. A shared acknowledgement of perceptions can also help toward mutual understanding. Although agreement is not a necessary component to understanding, the ability to at least recognize mutual perspectives can help to move forward in the healing process.
Critical to examining suicide-by-cop is the need for those in the medicolegal arena to reach a universal agreement on what constitutes this type of suicide. Of equal importance is for a mandatory reporting system by law enforcement agencies nationwide in their reporting of officer-involved shootings. Through a collective agreement, this data could be utilized to direct the allocation of data-supported funding toward research for mental health services – namely suicide prevention.