Police Suicide: Epidemic in Blue.


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Violanti, John M., Police Suicide: Epidemic in Blue. Spring-field, IL: Charles C Thomas, 1996. xviii+113 pp. $33.95.This is an impressive work. Bringing together the massive and diverse amount of information and misinformation in this crucial area was no small task. Further, the importance of such a compilation cannot be overstated. As concerns continue to rise, not only in the community at large, but also within the police service, current information, significant research, and possible action plans are most important to those of us who work face-to-face in this field everyday.Violanti begins with case studies in police suicide and discusses risk factors such as psychological problems, alcohol abuse, stress and trauma, and relationship problems. The recent research in the area of police suicide is presented in a direct and understandable way. A discussion of the efficacy of suicide rates among police officers and within the police service is examined and realistically portrayed. The theoretical bases for police suicides are discussed in chapter 6 beginning with Freud and are brought forward to Bonafacio's model in 1991.Chapter 4 reviews the precipitants of suicide in terms of exposure to trauma and stress, while chapter 5 reviews the impact of firearms availability, alcohol misuse, and retirement. Chapter 7 addresses police suicide in terms of the constricted role identity of police officers.Police Suicide concludes with a very practical discussion of suicide prevention schemes in the police service. This writer wishes that Violanti had spent more time here despite the enormous importance of the previous theoretical underpinnings. For those of us who labor here daily, an even greater discussion of crisis intervention and peer counseling would have been appreciated greatly. The issues of developing psychological services that are available to officers on a confidential basis, programs aimed at suicide prevention, and training for supervisory and executive staff personnel in suicide awareness are presented and encouraged. Perhaps more practical information will be forthcoming in future works by Violanti. His mention of the psychological autopsy was helpful.The last chapter is devoted to survivors of police suicide and the difficulties encountered by those left behind. Guilt, abandonment by the police system, communications problems, and mourning are all discussed. These areas concerning survivors of suicide are often overlooked as we struggle to understand this emotionally wrenching epidemic in blue.Thanks should be extended by all of us to Violanti for his continuing and sensitive work in this vital area and for this particular contribution.James L. Greenstone, Ed.D., J.D., A.B.E.C.I.Diplomate in Police Psychology, Society for Police and Criminal Psychology; Director, Psychological Services Unit.

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