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Grim police statistics explained

Tuesday, October 9, 2018 by Jessi Devenyns

APD Senior Chaplain Rick Randall shared some noteworthy statistics with the Public Safety Commission at its Oct. 1 meeting. According to Randall, if the low morale at the Austin Police Department continues, in 20 years, officer divorce rates will hover around 80 percent, alcohol abuse will be 300 percent more likely, and suicide rates for those in the profession will rest between the second and third spot for frequency nationwide. “Most significantly they will have a life expectancy that is 15 years less than the average person walking on the street,” said Randall. “That’s just the wear and tear of this job.” In a conversation with the Austin Monitor, Officer Randall explained that these statistics are “pretty broadly known.” According to him, “there’s a number of studies that have shown these same outcomes.” He indicated that much of the research he cited had come from Kevin Gilmartin, a national law enforcement expert who wrote Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement, and from the United States Department of Justice COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) program.

When asked why the suicide statistics he gave differed from what the CDC reports, he explained that “the suicide rate is confusing” and that there are “creative ways of reporting” findings. Some of these creative methodologies involve labeling death as an “unknown cause because it would be a difference in benefits for the family” as well as only documenting suicides of active officers. In reality, Randall explained, a third of all police suicides occur after retirement. He noted that his information came from a suicide prevention nonprofit called the Badge of Life. Randall said that although the statistics were well-documented and grim, the city of Austin has a good chance of not fulfilling the prophecy with its next generation of law enforcement if it continues to invest in the mental and emotional health of the officers that they are recruiting and training. “Agencies like Austin are putting more energies into employee wellness. Not only is it caring for our people but it is also a cost-effective measure, because if police officers aren’t able to have longevity in their career, that can be … pretty expensive … because you’re constantly having to recruit and train for new people to replace the people who didn’t make it,” he explained.

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