Suicide by Cop

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"Suicide-by-cop" or "Police Assisted Suicide" are terms that have been the topic of conversation a little more than warranted these days. It seems that "suicide-by-cop" has been an ever growing phenomenon. The term "suicide-by-cop" is used to describe a suicidal person who consciously provokes police and engages in life-threatening behavior that will invoke or force a police officer to react with deadly force. This type of suicidal person relies on the decision of the police whether or not they live or die. The suicidal person may want to die or even have the intention to kill themselves, but cannot seem to bring themselves to take their own life. Some are afraid of the pain and others are just plain confused. So, they use the police as their scapegoat to end their life. Each suicide-by-cop incident bears its' own unique style. Some suicidal persons give dramatic performances before they draw their weapon. They want the attention of another person, perhaps someone they are angry with to witness this performance because they think they are getting revenge on them. Like an "I'm gonna show you" attitude. It makes me question whether these people are actually in their right frame of mind as the researchers so insist. Any rational person would realize that by causing such a tragedy, they are not hurting anyone but themselves. Also, some suicidal persons may intentionally disobey the law to provoke the police into a confrontation or stand-off. Most of these people do not have ill feelings towards police and may even view the police as providing one final service for them. The terms "suicide-by-cop", "police-assisted suicide", and "victim-precipitated suicide" pretty much share the same meaning. They are just defined in different ways. There are four classifications for these terms: 1) the suicidal subject must demonstrate the

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intent to die, 2) the suicidal subject must have a clear understanding on the finality of the act, 3) the suicidal subject must confront a law enforcement official to the degree that it compels the officer to act with deadly force, and 4) the suicidal subject actually dies - otherwise it is an attempted suicide by cop (Stincelli, 2001). The one thing that most of these people have in common is that the person who commits suicide-by-cop by definition has gone from being a victim to being a perpetrator (Brown, 1998). Obviously, a person who decides to commit suicide by the taking of their own life is a victim. When that line is crossed and they force a police office to take deadly action in a "kill or be killed situation", the victim is now a "perpetrator of suicide-by-cop" (Brown, 1998).

A new study performed by Deirdre Anglin, associate professor at the School of Medicine, H. Range Hutson, of Harvard, and Sgt. John Yarbrough, LASD, was published in the December Annuals of Emergency Medicine (Dingsdale, 1998). This study examined 437 officer-involved shootings investigated by LASD over an eleven year period from 1987-97 and found that suicide-by-cop accounted for 11% of the total shootings (Dingsdale, 1998). They found that the vast majority, 98% were male and 39% had a history of domestic violence (Dingsdale, 1998). It was also discovered there was a wide range in age, approximately eighteen to fifty-four years of age committed suicide-by-cop, but they did discover some similarities in behavior patterns such as, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and depression. Approximately 50% of the weapons used to threaten officers were firearms, with the overwhelming majority being operative and loaded (Dingsdale, 1998). Only 17% of suicidal individuals used replica firearms to provoke officers (Dingsdale, 1998).

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Frequently, police officers whom are involved in "suicide-by-cop" situations have serious emotional and psychological scars. Officers may start second guessing their decisions, blaming them selves for the person's death, and chastising every decision thereafter. The...
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