I knew one retired cop who unexpectedly killed himself– he was a regular at a local bar which had once been an “Irish bar” known mostly for its IRA politics and then was taken over by the cops as from the local precinct, much to the annoyance of a lot of the regulars-it became a “cop bar”- I couldn’t care less, when I went out for a couple of beers and wanted to be around people. I could never drink my beers alone, it made me sick and gave me headaches I had found.
The retired, feisty “Frank” — the suicide cop in question– looked pretty much like a certain kind of detective of the time– stocky, always neatly dressed in suit and tie but not expensive ones, bulldog face which glasses did not soften, and slicked back hair which looked really “old fashioned”.
I had met him one night when he was alone and kind of flying high–this surprised me, I had always known him as more dour than that– except when he first knew me and went out of his way to “bust my chops” while smashed, and said ” either you have no balls at all or you think I am really a dangerous crazy” in a puzzled way…
I was with a very “streetwise” lawyer acquaintance about a week after seeing him so ebullient and a young man came in and asked very quietly if anyone had seen Frank, ” he seems to have been really lying low lately.”
“Not from what I have seen,” I laughed. The young man then finished his drink and left, disconsolate.
My pal the lawyer upbraided me “: Why did you needle him like that? He is obviously very worried about Frank.”
This brought me up short because I had had a couple and was in my own world and hadn’t really thought of the effect my words would have on anyone.
Then word came that Frank had killed himself. The local cops were all extraordinarily upset and bereft.
” Larry,” one of them said to me in a very quiet and sad way, ” what makes anyone kill himself?” I had no real answer but simply said what I knew about suicide in general from my own observations and a bit of pop psychology.
Well, it seems the subject of cop suicide has gotten a lot more attention over the years. As it stands now, more cops kill themselves than get killed on the job.
A Dr. Donald Rufo has written a book about the topic I see,– a rather intensive study ( I haven’t read it but plan to sometime when I am in a mood where I can handle it).
The notes on the book say this:
Dr. Ron Rufo is a highly decorated Chicago police officer with over 20 years of service, which includes a Life Saving Award, Department Accommodation, and Unit Meritorious Award. He has 23 honorable mentions and over 100 letters of appreciation as a Chicago police officer. Dr. Rufo began his career in the 9th District, was assigned to the prestigious Ambassador program, and was eventually assigned to the Preventive Programs Unit where he has served as a crime prevention speaker for over 13 years.
For most of his career, Dr. Rufo has been actively involved as a peer support team leader for the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) section of the Chicago Police Department. He has had specialized training in suicide prevention and is a member of the Critical Incident Team. Ron has been on numerous calls responding to police officers in crisis and has been involved in the aftermath of police suicides. He is currently assigned to the 18th Police District.
We are all talk much more openly about stress and trauma and PTSD than we once did– in fact, here in NYC the aftermath of September 11 and the way it continues to haunt us and take lives and the hassle over getting the Zadroga act just EXTENDED, not even made permanent–has made us think more about a topic such as cops killing themselves. It is all to the good, as far as I am concerned, if the spotlight is put on an issue that is taking the lives of so many of the dedicated men and women who must face both inner and outer demons in their lives because of the work they do…