Today, we again discuss a matter we all prefer to avoid: officer suicide. I don’t have the numbers, however, sources within the agency and union alike confirm CDCR continues to suffer from a shocking number of losses. The predicate, of course, every suicide is shocking.
Discussions on the subject of Officer Suicide are regular fare on pacovilla and there is little which hasn’t been said. Even so, we need to talk about it.
More to the point, correctional officers, parole agents, along with a host of other CDCR staff need to talk about it–You need to be on the lookout for it.
And so, I once again offer a bit of linguistic history, an unfortunately archaic term and, hopefully, some new insight.
“Felo-de-se” is a Latin phrase meaning “evildoer upon himself,” or, simply, a suicide. In England before 1870 a distinction was made between a suicide, which was the name given to an act of self-destruction committed by a person of unsound mind, and a felo-de-se, which was committed somebody who was sane. If a self-destruction was judged a felo-de-se, the deceased’s estate was generally forfeited to the crown.
Word Origin: Anglo-Latin, from felō felon + Latin dē of + sē oneself
Paco says the Romans and their British successors were on to something–Suicide is not an act of a sane person. And yet, post mortem we ponder what signs s/he was “losing it” we must have missed.
Perhaps it is worth considering, instead, what led a keeper of felons to become a felon of himself. As it stands, absent the distinction, depression and suicidal ideation are seen as signs of mental illness–Mental illness is career death.
There is a HUGE difference between an insane person’s suicide and a law enforcement officer committing an act of violence upon himself/herself. Ignorance of the fact perpetuates the stigma…facilitates the silence.
Here’s the best advice you will ever get on the subject: Whether you feel depressed or not, see your M.D., remind the doctor of your profession and ask for an assessment. It is a brief written test coupled with your physician’s assessment of same. I underlined the doctor’s assessment because it is NOT the same thing to take the test online. Don’t cheat.
You don’t need to see a psychiatrist and you most certainly do not want to contact the Employee Assistance Program–Information shared with EAP is NOT confidential to the employer, unlike your private medical care provider. (Supervisors who belong to the union are the exception. They have an independent EAP which has HIPAA between your notes and CDCR.)
I once met a police officer who told me he had come within seconds of eating his gun when he remembered his partner and another cop joking about a gun suicide they had dealt with earlier in the week. He stopped because, he said, he thought his partner would feel guilty for the things he’d said about the victim being weak. He expressed no concern over others seeing his suicide as cowardly, only concern for his partner’s perceived guilty conscience.
Which is to say, cops should talk about felo-de-se even if they don’t know what they’re talking about. –