Police Suicide Is a Grave Problem
ROUND ROCK, Texas – In a sad revelation, authorities in Round Rock ruled the death of Sgt. Craig Hutchinson to be a suicide recently.
During the early morning hours of July 25, Travis County Sheriff’s Department dispatch received a call, reporting prowlers in Hutchinson’s backyard as he returned home from duty, in uniform.
He was never heard from again. His body was discovered 13 minutes later, dead from a gunshot wound through the palm of his hand and into the left side of his head.
Round Rock police found one shell casing, and no additional signs of a crime. According to Round Rock PD, the only drug found in toxicology reports was ibuprofen.
Investigators said Hutchinson had a history of depression and anxiety and was prescribed an anti-depressant in 2015, but the drug was not in his system at the time of death.
Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton thanked the Round Rock Police for their work and apologized to the citizens of Williamson County for using so many resources on the investigation. Sheriff Hamilton said he wishes he had known that Hutchinson was in the state of mind he was when he committed suicide.
“We are going to address that in Travis County,” Sheriff Hamilton said while tearing up during his comment. “I don’t know what we’re going to do, but we’re going to address that issue. … I’m going to do everything possible to let them know that life is precious and we can get through this together.”
The KVUE Defenders found 51 officers nationwide took their own lives between June and December 2015. The rate of suicide in the general population was 11 per 100,000 while it was 18 per 100,000 for officers. The Department of Justice launched an officer safety initiative to try to address the problem called Valor for Blue.
While Hutchinson’s suicide is a news story, it should also call us to attention. Why would a man who served the public for 31 years believe life was no longer worth living?
Peace officers taking their life are a real problem. These are usually exceptional people fighting inner demons created by the business.
Warning signs are typically present. Mark Bond, Faculty Member, Criminal Justice at American Military University provided critical warning signs that all officers should look for:
- The officer is talking about suicide or death, and even glorifying death.
- Officer is giving direct verbal cues such as “I wish I were dead” and “I am going to end it all.”
- Officer is giving less direct verbal cues, such as “What’s the point of living?”, “Soon you won’t have to worry about me,” and “Who cares if I’m dead, anyway?”
- The officer is now self-isolating from friends and family.
- The officer is expressing the belief that life is meaningless or hopeless.
- The officer starts giving away cherished possessions.
- The officer is exhibiting a sudden and unexplained improvement in mood after being depressed or withdrawn. This is a very dangerous sign because the officer has come to terms with his/her own death and is relieved the end is near.
- The officer is neglecting his or her appearance and hygiene.
- The officer is annoyed that they are going to do something that will ruin his/her career, but that they don’t care.
- Officer openly discusses that he/she feels out of control.
- The officer displays behavior changes that include appearing hostile, blaming, argumentative, and insubordinate or they appear passive, defeated, and hopeless.
- The officer develops a morbid interest in suicide or homicide.
- The officer indicates that he/she is overwhelmed and cannot find solutions to his/her problems.
- The officer asks another officer to keep his/her weapon.
- The officer is acting out of character by inappropriately using or displaying his/her weapon unnecessarily.
- The officer exhibits reckless behavior by taking unnecessary risks on the job and/or in his/her personal lives.
- The officer acts like he/she has a death wish.
- The officer carries weapons in a reckless, unsafe manner.
- The officer exhibits deteriorating job performance.
- The officer has recent issues with alcohol and/or drugs.
There are other Craig Hutchinson’s out there. They suffer in silence. The following is a partial list of resources available for those who need help. If you are familiar with other organizations, please leave a comment with the name and link to their website.
The title to this article is a double entendre. Police suicide is a grave (serious) problem since it leads to the grave (death). I do not believe friends or loved ones should stand graveside with guilt. But if we can avoid the memorial by recognizing red flags and take action leading to a positive outcome, what a cause for celebration that would be!