Today the United States Senate unanimously passed U.S. Senator Josh Hawley’s bipartisan police suicide prevention legislation. Introduced with U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), the Supporting and Treating Officers in Crisis Act of 2019 aims to address a major crisis within the law enforcement community: officer suicide.
This is the first bill sponsored by Senator Hawley to clear the full U.S. Senate. A matching companion bill is currently being considered by the House Judiciary Committee.
“This bill provides much-needed support for the men and women of law enforcement who keep us safe every day,” said Senator Hawley. “I am thrilled to see the overwhelming, bipartisan support for this legislation and hope the House will take action.”
“The things that first responders experience at accidents and crime scenes can be horrifying, and they often face terrible danger,” said Whitehouse. “Helping police officers and firefighters deal with what they must bear to keep the rest of us safe is an important duty we owe.”
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 4 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.
Original co-sponsors of the bill include Senators Tillis (R-N.C.), Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Durbin (D-Ill.), Leahy (D-Vt.), Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cotton (R-Ark.), Cornyn (R-Texas), Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Scott (R-Fla.).
The bill has been endorsed by numerous law enforcement and mental health advocacy groups: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, National Sheriffs’ Association, Major County Sheriffs of America, National Association of Police Organizations, National Fraternal Order of Police, Sergeants Benevolent Association of the New York City Police Department, National District Attorneys Association, and International Association of Chiefs of Police.