High suicide rates in law enforcement prompts new data collection bill

Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto spoke with law enforcement officers Tuesday in Sparks to highlight a new bill she co-sponsored that aims to gather data about suicide rates among law enforcement.

The round table event, which was held in a training room at the Sparks Police Department, included police officers from Sparks and officials from the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. 

“For our purposes of law enforcement and the suicides that we see and attempted suicides, the numbers are increasing exponentially and more than double the general population,” Cortez Masto said in an interview after the event. “This bill has our attorney general and FBI working with our state, local, federal, and tribal communities to really just collect data on suicide and attempted suicides within our law enforcement community.”

The Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act, which was introduced in October and sponsored by members of both parties, is expected to go to a Senate vote next year. It will require the FBI to collect voluntary, anonymous data on all suicide attempts from local, state and federal law enforcement. 

The data will focus on the different factors that contribute to suicide and is intended to be used by states to pinpoint areas of concern.

“This is a nonpartisan issue,” Cortez Masto said. “Every single one of us in Congress, we’re dealing with this in our communities.”

During the event, officers with the Sparks Police Department explained that law enforcement agencies across the country lost at least 167 officers to suicide in 2018 whereas the number of officers killed on duty was 106

According to comments by those in attendance, older officers are more prone to suicide than younger ones. They also explained that the suicide rate among retired law enforcement officials was higher than both of the other two age groups.  

Officers in the room acknowledged that they have looked the other way in the face of this issue for too long and said they were hopeful that the bill would pass.