Police Psychology | Suicide by Criminal
by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
We have all heard of suicide by cop when a person takes a gun and points it toward a police officer hoping the officer shoots him. Very clearly diagnosed in most situations and multiple cases seem to occur each year. The suicidal person generally doesn’t have the ability to pull the trigger himself, but can put themselves in a position to die. So, he brings a police officer into the situation as a method of suicide.
Well last week, I became aware of a new method of suicide that I had never seen before, and I am afraid of it for police officers. You see there was this story about a female cop that told of an officer’s attempt to save her family by allowing herself to be killed, if necessary. In psychologist circles, that is called an altruistic suicide, because they are killing themselves to let others live better. But in this case, I call it “Suicide- By-Criminal.”
A 43-year old female officer stops a car in Chicago and a 28-year old man emerges, grabs her and begins slamming her head into the concrete. She considers shooting him, but doesn’t want to put her family and the department through the scrutiny that would follows for weeks later. She lets the man slam her into the payment while she believes she is going to die from the beating. She goes unconscious and wakes up in a hospital. The assailant was on PCP and she was saved by officers who had to work very hard to pull the man off her. The key here is she thought she was going to die, but didn’t shoot because of the problems her family would face. That is an altruistic suicide by definition caused by the fear of excessive scrutiny. She never meant to be hurt, by she didn’t do what she could to stop it. This is “suicide by criminal” and if we don’t stop, this is going to happen more often.
First, altruistic suicide is when a person either takes their own life or allows it to be taken to improve the lives of others. Often times it is a man or woman killing themselves because of wanting their family to get the insurance money that would be left to them after their death. I have even had situations where cops, who were extremely desperate and perhaps in financial crisis from gambling or other debt, arrange their death in the line of duty so their family could get the insurance money and the federal funds. It is not that common, but it does happen. Altruistic suicide is even more common (and more acceptable) in people who have been given a terminal medical diagnosis and they don’t want their families to go through the process of seeing them die. I would argue that law enforcement is being given a terminal diagnosis now if the trend continues. “Death-by-criminal” is just a notice, a warning sign, that worse is on the way if we don’t make a change.
At the University of Virginia, a professor expressed an opinion on Facebook that the Black Lives Matter unit was as racist as the Klu Klux Klan (KKK). People said he was ignorant, misinformed and his opinion was appalling. He was suspended from his job as a professor. His restaurant is being boycotted. He was forced to take the statement down from Facebook. He was expressing an opinion – an opinion. He made national news for stating what many people have said to me. When I feel they are ignorant I educate them. When I feel they are misinformed I inform them. When I feel they are appalling, I tell them I have a different opinion. What does it have to do with losing a career?!
Extreme conservatism and radical liberalism both lead to the same thing– excessive control, a hierarchical society and resistance to opinion. Our balance is off right now and whether our dictator is a person who wants to control everyone regardless of method, or political correctness that gets people fired for an opinion, we are in trouble. Anarchy is the precursor to extremeness of either extreme political view. When people refuse to stand for the national anthem, but will fire someone for an opposite opinion, we are in trouble. When all that matters is not right or wrong but the“spin” put on it, we are in trouble. When our law enforcers are having “Suicide-by-Criminal” incidents and we are in the first stages of creating anarchy. We are in trouble!
I feel we need to review with the politicians and newspapers the policies on the use of deadly force, and how an officer should make the decision in a split second. I feel our chiefs should meet with politicians and the press, and we need to make these people more a part of the actual team to stop crime. We need to get both groups more information on police training and the bad things that happen in deadly force encounters in a split second. I know some departments are doing that already by having press go through FATS training and scenarios, but that still needs to be done with all news people and every politician, not just the law enforcement news. I feel there is a need for more of us out there spreading the word from chiefs, to officers, to public information bureaus, to police psychologists. Significant money needs to be put into this right now, or we are in risk of losing a lot. We have a PR crisis in law enforcement and we need to make advances before the next shooting.
I have lived through the 60’s when there was stronger prejudice than we have now. I can remember a time when you brought home a black friend and your parent’s had a “talk” with you. I can remember when taking a black girl to a formal in college made everyone uncomfortable. I have seen huge strides in our tolerance levels, and I have seen skin-color blindness when people are acting more similar. It is when people are dissimilar that prejudice comes to light, as cultural tolerance historically comes after skin tolerance. The dissimilarity is expressed strongest in non-compliant behavior. It is when non-compliance comes to rest, that unrest begins. Unrest is the Petri dish of anarchy, and we have seen that over and over as businesses get looted, people get hurt, and the media has a heyday reporting all types of drama.
A civil rights lawyer, whose name won’t be mentioned, said the officer being slammed into the pavement was brought on by law enforcement’s decades of abuse. Sure seemed like PCP was involved. Sure seemed like maternal instinct to protect her family was involved. It seems that fear of a reaction to a shooting was involved. The lawyer is entitled to his opinion, whatever that costs someone, but the officer has civil rights too, and haven’t we learned something from a blaming- the-victim philosophy with rape? Our police officers are mentally being raped right now, and we have to do something about it. Hopefully better exposure to law enforcement will help. Statements like above by attorneys do not help right now.
I pray that the officer involved can get past the trauma she withstood at the hands of a drugged-out civilian and I am so glad that her “suicide-by-criminal” was not successful. Hopefully, we will heed the warning.
Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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