SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The California Highway Patrol is mourning the loss of one of its officers.
On Tuesday night, Officer Sean Poore took his life inside of his patrol vehicle. His death has sparked a conversation about alarming suicide rates among law enforcement officers.
“Stigma is wrong, bias is wrong and it’s not shameful to have mental illness, and it’s not shameful to seek out help,” said Mindi Russell, Senior Chaplain with the Law Enforcement Chaplaincy of Sacramento.
It’s a tough job full of danger and uncertainty. But when the cuffs are on the table and the badge is in the drawer, there’s a part of the uniform that officers can’t get out of their heads.
“It is, in essence, a 24-hour career,” said Randy Sutton, a retired police Lieutenant who served for 34 years. “They are unaware of the dangers that affect them, not just physically but emotionally and mentally.”
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 officers shows signs of Post-Traumatic Stress. And in 2016, 1 officer took his or her own life every 3 days, according to Badge of Life.
“There’s more that are killed by their own gun, than by some kind of line of duty death,” Russell said.
“This is a very frightening statistic and it’s going up, not down,” Sutton said.
Sutton told CBS13 he believes the increase is connected to how police have been perceived in recent years.
“When you are being portrayed as the enemy of the people, who are out there as racist and trigger happy, it has a profound effect of the morale,” he said.
Russell says it’s imperative that officers and first responders have somewhere to turn for support.
“There has just always been a stigma that I believe we have to stop,” she told CBS13.
And Sutton agrees: too many officers are reluctant to speak up.
“There are many police departments, sheriff’s departments in this country, that if you go and ask for help, they will fire you!” he said.
So what’s the solution?
“You need to talk to them and you need to contact someone who cares,” Sutton said.
“Every 40 seconds, someone dies by suicide in the world,” Russell added. “And every 41 seconds, there’s someone left to ask the question why.”
For an officer, it’s not just immediate family affected; it’s an entire department. A community that needs to give itself time to process an unexpected loss.
“The bottom line is, give yourself permission just to grieve,” Russell said.
Officer Poore was a CHP officer for 9 years. The circumstances of his death are still under investigation.