Proposed law: Suicide prevention training every 10 years for NJ cops
A proposed law creates a permanent structure for training that aims to reduce the number of New Jersey law enforcement officers who take their own lives.
Advanced by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee on Monday, the bipartisan legislation mandates the establishment of a training curriculum addressing the causes, behaviors, warning signs, and risk factors associated with officer suicide.
The in-service training would need to be administered to each officer every 10 years.
"Just as the public often needs the help of the police, our brave police officers need our help, too," said state Sen. Steven Oroho, R-Sussex, a primary sponsor of the measure. "Our nation's law enforcement run to confront danger as others flee, often being put in physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging situations."
A similar bill advanced by an Assembly committee earlier this year would mandate the training every five years instead of 10, and establishes reporting requirements for every cop suicide.
The state lost 17 officers to suicide in 2018, and 37 since 2016 as of this August.
The National Association on Mental Illness notes more police officers die by suicide than in the line of duty.
Research conducted in part by the National Police Suicide Foundation found four officer suicides for every one line-of-duty death in 2018.
Robert Douglas, executive director and founder of the foundation, said New Jersey has been more proactive than other states in addressing this issue, but training is a necessity not only for the officers, but their families as well. Many officers, he said, struggle to make the transition from their job to the home.
"The number-one reason why officers commit suicide, and has been for over 50 years, is the issue of relationship breakups, relationship breakdowns," Douglas told New Jersey 101.5. "I would make it mandatory that the families are also brought in, and they are taught the signs and symptoms."
This summer, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced the launch of the New Jersey Resiliency Program for Law Enforcement, which requires a two-day training program for officers at some point by the end of 2021. Grewal said first-of-its-kind directive aims to teach officers how to better handle the day-to-day pressures of their jobs.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.