Article photograph was sourced from Richland County Sheriff's Department's Facebook
by Ian D Scofield
Our hearts go out to Richland County Sheriff’s Department this week. Three days ago Senior Deputy Derek Fish pulled his patrol vehicle behind the Region 3 Headquarters of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department. Sometime between 1830 hours and 2000 hours, Deputy Fish shot himself with his service weapon.
The person who found the deputy was one of his co-workers. Unfortunately for the deputy that found Fish, he will probably never forget that moment.
According to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Fish had not recently been involved in any traumatic calls. So far there has been no reason found for Deputy Fish’s suicide. Other deputies describe Fish as an energetic person who was happy. His nickname since joining the agency was “Nemo”.
There have been two other deputies that have committed suicide from the Richland Sheriff’s Department in the last three years.
Unlike in past incidents of officer suicides, the Sheriff wants people to talk about what happened. Sheriff Lott was quoted as saying “In law enforcement, it’s almost like the biggest taboo, I think that’s wrong. I think that contributes to suicide rates.”
It’s time we talk about suicide in law enforcement. Sheriff Lott is correct in the fact that by making it taboo to talk about suicide, it is increasing suicide rates. By not talking about past suicides it makes it hard for officers to talk about depressive feelings.
Police officers and other law enforcement officials are at higher risk for suicide. There are a variety of factors that place them in that higher risk level.
With all of these factors, we should be doing all we can to prevent suicide in law enforcement. Mandatory counseling after traumatic incidents is one way that this should be done. This will give officers someone to speak with after the incident.
Another important thing is that all departments should provide insurance that covers private therapy, from outside of the department. This way, officers can set up appointments with professionals that can help them cope with the high stress environment that they deal with every day.
It is also important to remove stigmatization around having feelings. Most of us know at least one person who believes that those who are in law enforcement or military shouldn’t be affected by the things they see. In the hospital setting I have had experience with everything from transporting bodies to life saving codes. Many of these things you see on the street. Everyone I know, even the most experienced, strong people, have been affected by the things that happen in the hospital. There is no reason we should give people a hard time for having feelings.
Watching out for our fellow officers is something that we are really good at. Knowing those you work with and checking in when something appears wrong, can save someone’s life. If you notice that someone in your department needs help, don’t be quiet.
We can each do our own part in reducing our own stress from the job. That includes finding a relaxing hobby that we can use to reduce our stress. Also, knowing when to seek help is important.
Need resources for suicide prevention? We have a blog article here about suicide prevention and resources that are available to you. I have also included two options for those who need resources for depression or suicidal prevention.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available to anyone who needs someone to talk at any time of the day.
Anyone can go to an emergency department and request help with suicidal ideation, depression, or anxiety. Emergency facilities are not dedicated to preventing suicide and treating mental health but they do have social workers and resources to get you the help you need. Alternatively, you can go to your primary care doctor if you do not need immediate help.
Suicide is not the happiest topic but Senior Deputy Fish’s recent death is only a reminder that those in law enforcement are at higher risk. Let’s make a commitment to each other to help more than just the public. Help other officers who need it and to help ourselves when we need it.
About the author:
Ian graduated Seattle University with a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice. He has held positions as an Auxiliary Public Safety Officer, a Security Patrol Supervisor, and as an in-house security officer for a major medical center. Through all of this he has picked up a wealth of experience, training, and education that he is happy to pass on to others. Ian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Did you just get a job as a law enforcement officer or are you trying to get one?
Law enforcement is a very rewarding career, one that can enhance your life and benefit you greatly. Preparing for a job in law enforcement shares some similarities to other careers. At the same time it has unique challenges to overcome.
Let’s take a moment to examine how you can prepare for a job as a law enforcement officer.