By Jim Kouri
A study in the Journal of Forensic Sciences examined the prevalence of the phenomenon of “Suicide by Cop” (SBC) among a large sample of officer-involved shootings. Results show that SBC occurs at extremely high rates, with 36 percent of all police shootings of suspects being categorized as SBC.
Suicide by Cop is an act whereby a person presents a deadly threat to a police officer in order to compel the officer or officers to use deadly force against the person.
Police officers reacting to the aftermath of “suicide by cop” will often display symptoms of post-traumatic stress which can potentially affect their ability to perform their duties.
Police officers are also victims in these cases. Among the many symptoms reported are hyper vigilance, fear, anger, sleeplessness, recurrent nightmares and depression. In many instances, the timing, speed at which the encounter escalated and officer’s perception of immediate danger to self or others left him or her with no choice but to use deadly force.
Dr. Barry Perrou, a noted psychologist and founder of the Public Safety Research Institute, is a leading expert on the suicide by cop phenomenon. Recently, Dr. Perrou provided a list of SBC indicators to PoliceOne’s Scott Buhrmaster.
Dr. Perrou’s 15 indicators are:
- The subject is barricaded and refuses to negotiate.
- The subject has just killed someone, particularly a close relative, his mother, wife or child.
- The subject says that he has a life-threatening illness.
- The subject’s demands of police do not include negotiations for escape or freedom.
- The subject has undergone one or more traumatic life changes (death of a loved one, divorce, financial devastation, etc.)
- Prior to the encounter, the subject has given away all of his money or possessions.
- The subject has a record of assaults.
- Subject says he will only surrender to the person in charge.
- Subject indicates that he has thought about planning his death.
- Has expressed an interest in wanting to die in a “macho” way.
- Has expressed interest in “going out in a big way.”
- Subject expresses feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.
- Subject dictates his will to negotiators.
- Subject demands to be killed.
- Subject sets a deadline to be killed.