As we mark the close to National Police Week---an opportunity to pause and reflect upon the ultimate sacrifice made by officers in the course of performing their duties, we ought to also consider a dark and sobering fact that is plaguing my profession. For the third year in a row, the number of police officers who committed suicide outnumbered those killed in the line of duty. According to statistics obtained through non-profit Blue H.E.L.P. (Honor, Educate, Lead, Prevent), the trajectory of verified suicides is mind boggling:
- 2016: 142
- 2017: 164
- 2018: 165
- 2019: 79 . . . so far.
If this rate of suicide continues, 2019 would see a 26% jump in law enforcement suicides over last year.
Historically, the law enforcement "family" has been reticent in talking openly and honestly about the mental health issues that affect our own. When I first began my career in 1983, it was the norm that you would handle a call that could have tragic implications and then "suck it up" and go back into service and take another call. "Tough" cops were not expected to feel the pain or to ask for help. No "pause" button was hit, no taking someone out of the rotation and no immediate peer support was made available. Thankfully, in my professional lifetime, I have witnessed a complete paradigm shift on how we understand, process, treat and prevent emotional trauma for first responders. Our Department has worked hand-in-glove with our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) (who has a passionate and committed leader, Tresa Martinez) in developing programs and infrastructure support mechanisms for first responders (both Police and Fire). It has made a world of difference but no one is resting on any laurels. We have a long way to go in expanding our approach to health and wellness issues in our workplace and there is a sense of urgency in continuing to explore "best practices;" to help our cops and firefighters better adjust to the ever-changing new "normal" that occurs after each and every exposure to difficult sights/sounds/smells/experiences.
As progressive as this Department has been and strives to be, there is much to be done in making health and wellness a fixture of our operations. For example, around the State of Wisconsin, there are many agencies who schedule mandatory mental health wellness checks for their officers; later this year, we hope to "pilot" a small scaled model using the detectives and investigators assigned to cases involving crimes against children (i.e., abuse, sexual assault, child pornography, etc.) as our opportunity to work with practitioners versed in occupational mental health exposures that can lead to a host of ills including depression, PTSD, anxiety, drug dependency, and suicide.
It is said that the first step to recovering from a "problem" is to acknowledge that there IS a problem. We are not in denial and I have stated publicly that this is an ongoing concern I have for our guardians. We will also have to be more affirmative in securing and committing resources in establishing options for taking care of the emotional needs of our most precious resource---our employees.
The information contained in my blog is derived from notes provided by MPD Officers-In-Charge (OIC) at the end of their shifts. Most narratives represent early and preliminary information that was gathered by an OIC from those in the field who were actively working cases. The OIC is sharing what they were being told, in the moment. In many instances, facts and circumstances, even the type of crime listed, can change as officers, detectives and investigators continue their work.
From 6:00 a.m. on 5/16/2019 through 6:00 a. m. on 5/17/2019, MPD received 485 calls for service. This number does not include parking complaints or 911 misdials. For purposes of clarification, the following abbreviations are short-hand for race designations: W=White, AA=African American, NA=Native American, H=Hispanic, ME=Middle Eastern, A=Asian, MR=Mixed Race, U=Unknown. MPD shifts are staggered as follows: 1st detail=7 a.m. to 3 p.m., 2nd detail=12 p.m. to 8 p.m., 3rd detail=3 p.m. to 11 p.m., 4th detail=8 p.m. to 4 a.m., 5th detail=11 p.m. to 7 a.m.
To further break down the 485 calls for service for the past 24-hours, this is how the calls came in per district: Central (94), East (88), Midtown (62), North (84), South (66), West (64), and Other (27). Other=these are calls for service that either do not have a sector listed or the sector is not in the City. For example, if one of our officers assists another law enforcement agency, their sector is not listed in our districts so therefore it is listed under "other".
1) SOUTH: Stolen Auto – 6:39 a.m. Officers responded to a residence on the south side to take a report of a stolen auto. The victim (40-year-old HF) had her vehicle parked in the parking lot near her residence and it was stolen overnight. Investigation continuing.
2) SOUTH: Stolen Auto – 6:42 a.m. Officers responded to a residence on the south side to take a report of a stolen auto. The victim (45-year-old HM) had his vehicle parked near his residence and it was stolen overnight. Investigation continuing.
Incident report as published on MPD's website:
Officers are taking multiple reports of thefts this morning from the Highland Manor Mobile Home Park, including several addresses on Bel-Aire Dr. At least two vehicles, a van and a SUV, have been reported stolen, and victims say other items were taken from cars, storage sheds and other places outside of their homes. One witness reported seeing three young teens getting out of a red Ford Explorer sometime after 5:30 a.m. MPD is exploring the potential nexus.
3) WEST: Domestic Disturbance – 9:47 a.m. Officers responded to a local hospital to take a report of a domestic disturbance. The victim (40-year-old AAF) came to the hospital to receive treatment for injuries sustained during a physical altercation with her husband/suspect (58-year-old AAM) two days prior. The victim reported the suspect slapped her, pushed her against a chair causing pain to her ribs, and choked her. Probable cause exists for the suspect on domestic-related charges of Strangulation, Battery, and Disorderly Conduct. Investigation continuing.
4) WEST: Information/Sexual Assault of a Child – 10:55 a.m. A victim (15-year-old UF) disclosed to a School Resource Officer (SRO) that a family member has been pressuring her to engage in inappropriate sexual conduct. CPS was notified and a safety plan was coordinated with the victim's mother. Investigation continuing.
5) EAST: Fight Call – 11:41 a.m. Officers responded to the area of Douglas Trl/Groveland Ter after multiple calls came in regarding a physical fight between 3-4 females. Before contact could be made with the individuals, the suspects made their way back into La Follette High School. School staff identified/intervened and the students/suspects were sent home for the day. Investigation continuing.
6) MIDTOWN: Death Investigation – 12:49 p.m. Officers responded to a residence on Whitney Way after a man called to report he went to his father's (90-year-old AM) residence and found him deceased. The subject was under hospice care and the death was not unexpected.
7) EAST: Assist Outside Agency/Adult Arrested Person – 12:59 p.m. The U.S. Marshals Service called requesting MPD's assistance in executing an arrest warrant for a suspect (AAM) with a Department of Corrections (DOC) parole warrant. The suspect was taken into custody without incident. Investigation continuing.
8) WEST: Mental Health Conveyance – 3:03 p.m. Officers responded to Raymond Rd to assist in an emergency detention of a juvenile subject (11-year-old UM). Arrangements are being made for transport to Winnebago. Investigation continuing.
9) NORTH: Domestic Disturbance – 3:34 p.m. Officers responded to Kennedy Heights to take a report of a domestic disturbance. The suspect (42-year-old AAF) got into an argument with her son/victim (18-year-old AAM) during which she armed herself with a kitchen knife and threatened him. The suspect was taken into custody on a domestic-related charge of Disorderly Conduct While Armed. Investigation continuing.
10) CENTRAL: Disturbance – 4:30 p.m. MPD received several calls of a suspect (34-year-old WM) trying to enter/stop moving cars on Doty St near King St. When officers arrived on scene and made contact with the suspect, the suspect admitted to having recently used Meth, K2 and Marijuana. The suspect was taken to a local hospital for medical treatment and given a citation for Disorderly Conduct. Investigation continuing.
11) EAST: Assist Police – 4:45 p.m. Officers were alerted to an individual (63-year-old WM) who was reported missing/endangered by the Sun Prairie Police Department. The individual had threatened self-harm and displayed other aggressive and erratic behavior. SPPD noted that the individual has many connections to the city of Madison for officer awareness. Investigation continuing.
12) CENTRAL: Death Investigation – 5:00 p.m. Officers responded to State St for a subject (82-year-old WM) who passed away while sitting on a bench. Nothing suspicious noted at this time. Investigation continuing.
13) EAST: Traffic Crash with Injuries – 9:39 p.m. Officers were called to an injury crash at outbound East Washington Avenue and Rethke Avenue. The victim (29-year-old MW) was on a motorcycle outbound on East Washington when the suspect (71-year-old MW) pulled out in front of him in a motor vehicle. The victim hit the side of the suspect's vehicle but luckily escaped serious injury. The victim was transported to hospital to receive treatment for his non-life-threatening injuries and the suspect was cited for Failure to Yield Right of Way and released from the scene. Investigation continuing.
14) SOUTH: Stolen Auto – 10:06 p.m. Officers were called to a suspicious vehicle on McDivitt Road. Witnesses stated the vehicle screeched to a halt and 4 people fled from the car. When officers responded, the vehicle was running with the keys inside. Investigation revealed this vehicle was reported stolen. Investigation continuing.
15) EAST: OMVWI Arrest/Intoxicated Driver – 12:24 a.m. Officers responded to potential injury crash involving a rollover at N Thompson and Jana Lane. A minivan struck multiple parked vehicles and rolled onto its side. The driver/suspect (24-year-old AAF) was not injured. The suspect was charged with 1st Offense OMVWI. Investigation continuing.