An off-duty New York Police Department sergeant has become the latest member of the force to take his or her own life. Police Commissioner James P. O'Neill said in a statement Wednesday: "Tragically, last night we lost another member of our NYPD family to suicide. We vow to keep fighting this fight, to do better on these and many other fronts, and to put a stop to this epidemic once and for all."
Police sources told CBS New York the sergeant, who was off-duty, was inside his home Tuesday night when he apparently shot himself in the head. First responders raced to the scene in the city's borough of Queens and rushed him to a nearby hospital, but the veteran cop couldn't be saved. Sources said the sergeant's wife was home at the time.
The sergeant would be the tenth current member of the force to die by suicide this year and 12th when retired officers are included.
Commissioner O'Neill recently told CBS New York his department is dealing with an epidemic. "It is a mental health crisis in the NYPD," he said, noting that there had been nine suicides at that point this year. "Prior to that, we average four to five per year for the last five years."
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Asked by CBS New York what his personal message would be to an officer who is struggling, O'Neill replied, "Take that step. Come forward. Confide in your partner. Confide in a friend. Confide in your family. Get help.
What New York City is experiencing is part of a nationwide trend in policing, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues. Since January, there have been at least 169 officers who have died by suicide, including retired officers, according to Blue H.E.L.P., a non-profit charitable organization.
One study shows cops are 30% more likely to die by suicide than the general public.
Police departments have been expanding the safety net by offering more counseling and avenues for officers to seek help anonymously.