(TRENTON) – Aiming to reduce incidents of suicide by law enforcement officers in New Jersey, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Nancy Pinkin and Pamela Lampitt to establish a suicide prevention training program focused on law enforcement was approved Thursday by the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.
“For the third straight year in 2018, officer deaths by suicide outnumbered those who died in the line of duty in our country,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “An estimated 159 officers took their own lives last year, compared to the 145 who died in the line of duty. Those numbers are staggering and heartbreaking. We must do all we can to prevent these tragedies, beginning with ensuring the right people are trained to address troubling situations.”
The bill (A-1028) would require the Department of Law and Public Safety (DLPS), in consultation with the Department of Human Services, to establish a training curriculum designed to prevent suicide by law enforcement officers. The curriculum would include the causes, behaviors, warning signs, and risk factors associated with officer suicide.
The curriculum would also:
• Identify appropriate intervention strategies to be used by law enforcement departments to effectively prevent officer suicide; and
• Provide information concerning programs that offer crisis intervention and counseling services to law enforcement officers.
“An entire community grieves the loss of an officer. When that loss may have been preventable, it’s all the more tragic,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “Our brave officers and their families deserve our utmost respect and support, particularly if they are going through difficult times. With the program created under this bill, we can hopefully get these officers the help they need and potentially save lives.”
“Sadly, New Jersey has one of the highest rates of officer suicide in the nation; our state lost eight officers to suicide last year,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “But we cannot forget that suicide is preventable. The first step towards combating this crisis is to develop a comprehensive training program for our law enforcement agencies, and ensure they have the resources they need to identify and respond when someone needs help.”
Additionally, DLPS would be required to make the curriculum available to each State, county, municipal and college campus law enforcement department to be used as part of in-service training for officers. The training would be required to be administered to each officer every five years following the officer’s date of initial appointment.
The measure now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.