Suicide by Cop

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Suicide by Cop

In this type of suicide, a person intentionally engages in life-threatening behavior to induce a police officer to shoot that person. His/her goal is to provoke the law enforcement officer to a lethal response. This is distinguished from other police shootings by three elements: the person should show an intention to die, the person understands the finality of the act, confronts law-enforcement official with such extreme behavior that the officer is compelled to act with deadly force.

This term is primarily used in the United States media. It is also referred to as death by cop, suicide by cop, suicide-by-police, blue suicide and victim-precipitated homicide. (

Suicide by Cop occurs when people want to die, but do not want to kill themselves, so the put themselves in a position where a police officer is forced to shoot them. These incidents are extremely dangerous to police officers because they never know if the individual will try to kill them also. Some suicidal individuals will point an unloaded gun at the police because they know the police will respond by shooting back in self-defense.

Researchers have determines that 98 percent of these individuals were male, 39 percent had a history of domestic violence, many abused alcohol or drugs, many had a prior history of suicide attempts, 50 percent of the weapons used were loaded, and 17 percent used a toy or replica gun. (Annals of Emergency Medicine, 1987-1997)

Most police officers who are involved in suicide by cop incidents suffer emotional difficulties afterwards, and sometimes suffer from post traumatic stress disorder. This can cause the police officer to have thoughts of suicide. Treatment is available for police officers.

Law enforcement agencies may be able to develop strategies for early recognition and handling suicide by cop. Health care providers involved in the evaluation of potentially suicidal individuals...
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