Today the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed U.S. Senator Josh Hawley’s (R-Mo.) bipartisan Supporting and Treating Officers in Crisis Act of 2019. Introduced with U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the legislation is aimed at addressing a major crisis within the law enforcement community: officer suicide.
Suicide is the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers—more than homicides and traffic accidents combined. According to the nonprofit Blue H.E.L.P., there were 165 confirmed officer suicides in 2018, including four in Missouri. Just three months ago, tragedy struck in Kansas City when a 10-year veteran of the Kansas City Police Department took his own life.
Senator Hawley’s legislation restores expired grant funding for law enforcement support services. The legislation also allows grant recipients to use funds to establish suicide-prevention programs and mental health services for law enforcement officers. The legislation now moves to the floor for the full Senate to consider the bill.
Ahead of the committee vote, Senator Hawley discussed the importance of the legislation. A video of his remarks and transcript are below:
This coming week is National Police Week, where we have the chance to honor the men and women who put on the uniform and serve our communities of law enforcement.
These are the heroes of our small towns and of our big cities. Every day they face emergencies and tragedies. And they sign up to confront the worst of humanity, and comfort the victims of unspeakable crimes.
These officers do their best to help everybody else, but for many, that means taking those burdens onto themselves, sometimes with tragic consequences.
Suicide is now the leading cause of death for law enforcement officers—more than homicides, more than traffic accidents, and more than those two things combined. According to the nonprofit Blue H.E.L.P., there were 165 confirmed officer suicides in 2018, including four in my home state of Missouri.
2019, I'm sorry to say, is on pace to be an even worse year.
This tragedy happened again in Missouri just three months ago, when a 10-year veteran of the Kansas City Police Department took his own life.
We must do more to stop this epidemic of law enforcement suicides.
So, working with Senator Whitehouse and with law enforcement groups, in April, we introduced the Supporting and Treating Officers in Crisis Act.
This bill will provide local police and sheriff departments with critical resources to prevent officer suicides and promote mental health.
It will help departments hire counselors for officers in distress, set up 24-hour crisis hotlines, assist families, and fund evidence-based programs to help officers get life-saving treatment before it's too late.
These resources will make an enormous difference in departments that face limited funding and budget shortfalls, often at the cost of our officers’ well-being.
And it's my belief that this legislation will save lives.
I want to thank Chairman Graham and Ranking Member Feinstein, as well as your staffs, for working with my office to bring this bill before the committee today.
And I want to say a special thanks to Senator Whitehouse and his staff for partnering with me and my office to introduce this legislation. Like me, the Senator was the was the chief law enforcement officer of his state of Rhode Island, and he understands the service that our law enforcement render.
I want to thank all the bill’s 18 other cosponsors, including a bipartisan majority of this committee: Senators Grassley, Feinstein, Cornyn, Leahy, Tillis, Durbin, Blackburn, Klobuchar, Coons, Blumenthal, and Hirono.
Finally, I’d like to thank the law enforcement and mental health advocacy groups who have endorsed the bill, and with permission, Mr. Chairman, I would like to enter into the record letters supporting this legislation from: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the Major County Sheriffs of America, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Fraternal Order of Police, the Sergeants Benevolent Association of the New York City Police Department, the National District Attorneys Association, and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
With this committee vote today, we are a step closer to passing this bill into law and giving the men and women of law enforcement the support and the treatment that they deserve.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.