Missouri’s US Senators Hawley, Blunt back plan to track police suicides nationally

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WASHINGTON -- Suicide is the leading cause of death for police officers in the U.S. for the third year in a row.

The Kansas City Police Department lost four officers to suicide in the past four years. Nationally, 167 officers took their lives in 2018.

Now Missouri's U.S. Senators Josh Hawley and Roy Blunt are taking action.

Hawley introduced a bill requiring the FBI to create the first national, anonymous database to track the issue. The freshman Republican said it will help identify patterns and provide new information to help officers before it's too late.

"We need to be there for these men and woman who put their lives on the line," Hawley said. "They face trauma. They're in tough situations, and then they don't have anywhere to go."

Hawley said he believes the government needs to do more to prevent police officers from reaching crisis levels.

Fellow Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt agrees. He also believes if the FBI tracks certain information, the agency will be able to develop a suicide prevention plan.

"They need to know what kind of problems to look for," Blunt said. "These are problems we have to solve these are people who stand between us and danger."

If passed, agencies will be asked to send a variety of information to the FBI following an officer's suicide. The information includes the location where the suicide happened as well as the role the officer had at the agency.

Departments won't be required to comply with the request. Submitting the information to the database will be voluntary.

An identical bill was also introduced in the House. It has bipartisan support.

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto (D), the co-sponsor of the bill, said it's the first step to finding real solutions.

"If were going to bring in resources, we need to know the scope of the problem," Cortez-Masto said. "Focus on mental health or behavioral health or whatever it is that we have an understanding of what's causing this."

Several law enforcement agencies and leaders, including Kansas City Police Chief Rick Smith, also back the plan. They said it will help shed new light on the trauma police officers experience almost daily.

Earlier this week, FOX4 told you Smith is advocating to have a psychiatrist on staff to work only with police officers.

"If there’s something that is predictable, then it can be preventable," Sgt. Jacob Becchina said. "We have a national database for patterns, trends, numbers, all of those things associated with police officer suicide. Then we can begin the process of predicting it and then we can hopefully end on a good, high-quality prevention."

Prevention is something Hawley said is necessary. First responders are five times more likely to experience post traumatic stress and depression.

​​​​​​​If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 or click on this link for online chat.

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