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Bill that would track law enforcement suicides garners local support

Posted at 10:27 PM, Nov 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-04 23:27:30-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Local lawmakers in the nation's capitol recently introduced legislation to save the lives of the men and women who protect and serve our communities.

"It's not so much that the job is stressful," Sgt. Jacob Becchina, a spokesperson for the Kansas City, Missouri, Police Department, said. "Human beings are not designed to see and to process traumatic events day in and day out."

In some cases, officers commit suicide. According to the organization Blue H.E.L.P., 192 officers have died by suicide so far in 2019, compared to 169 at this point last year.

In February, KCPD lost an officer to suicide. The officer's family is supporting a new piece of legislation introduced by Missouri Senators Josh Hawley and Roy Blunt.

The Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act would require the FBI to track suicides and attempted suicides within law enforcement.

Sylvia, the mother of the KCPD officer, said in a statement to 41 Action News that she would “fully support” such a data-collection system.

“As an educator, I understand the importance of data collection to identify trends and the effect of intervention on evaluating outcomes,” she wrote. “As a mother who has lost her son, why would I not support legislation that could possibly save another family the heartache we have had to endure and saved Christopher's from his own mental anguish?"

Locally, in addition to offering yoga, KCPD Chief Rick Smith is advocating for the department to have an in-house psychologist to help officers — something he's pushed for since taking the helm two years ago.

A recent U.S. Department of Justice study found that 9 out of 11 cities of similar size to Kansas City had at least one psychologist on staff.

"You can have that established relationship already so don't feel like you're talking to somebody on the other end of a phone line," Becchina said.

Last year, Missouri lawmakers passed legislation to establish a peer-support program within KCPD.

Several officers are currently undergoing training. They hope to have that program running by the end of the year.