We at Starfish Assignment send our deepest condolences to the City of Upper Arlington Police Division and to the friends and family of Officer Brian Brown, who died at his home on Friday night. In addition to his police work, Ofc Brown was a beloved trainer at Title Boxing Club for eight years.
According to news reports, Ofc Brown’s death has been ruled a suicide, which is the leading cause of police deaths in this country. In 2019, according to Blue Help, 228 officers died at their own hands. The second highest cause was gunfire, which accounted for 47 deaths. In the 54 days of 2020, there have already been 29 verified suicides reported to Blue Help, more than one every other day.
It might be incredibly hard for someone to wrap their heads around these statistics at first. But remember, every story you see on the news or read about and think, “Oh that’s so sad [horrible/scary/awful],” has police officers and other first responders handling it. As you turn away and resume your life, they have taken that on as part of their lives. And don’t forget that the vast majority of what they encounter does not make the news.
Sgt Jason Ratcliff of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office Therapy K9 program posted this series of tweets in October 2019 and permitted us to reprint it on our social media pages:
"In 23 years, I have been on dead baby calls and subsequently watched as Coroners performed autopsies on their lifeless bodies to determine cause of death. I have seen a father decapitated as he ran his car underneath a semi and had to advise his family.
"I have held a young homicide victim in my arms as he took his last breaths. I have picked up body parts of a man that threw himself in front of a semi to end his life. I once pulled a suicidal man off a bridge to save his life while fighting with him risking my own life.
"I have sat and listened to numerous children recount their abuse at the hands of trusted adults. I have seen women battered so badly but said it's their fault. And guess what? There's another 3/4 of a million men and women out there who experience these same things every day.
"We wonder why more officers are killed by their own hands than in the line of duty... this is why. Some things cannot be unseen and not all wounds are visible. It's time we step up and provide better mental health care for our law enforcement officers."
Couple these workday challenges with the onslaught of negativity that officers face at every turn, and one can begin to understand why in 2019 the suicide rate was so much higher than line of duty deaths.
We don’t like to present challenges without solutions here at Starfish, so what can you do?
1. Don’t ever ask officers (or other first responders) to tell you what the worst thing they’ve ever seen was. Yes, people do that. If you hear someone else doing that, interrupt them and call them out. Think about the worst day of your life. Do you want to recount that at a party? Instead, ask them to tell you about a funny call they’ve been on or what their favorite part of the job is.
2. When you thank an officer for their service, acknowledge the emotional burdens they bear. “I know you have to see a lot of horrible things in your job. Thank you for taking that on for us.” The emotional side of policing is far more common than the "dodging bullets" side and far less recognized.
3. Give credit where it’s due. Columbus Division of Police has established a Wellness Bureau that is working on this very issue. Let the mayor’s office and city council know you’re happy with how your tax dollars are being spent. CPD is a trailblazer for the country, and we should be very proud that our police and politicians are supporting these efforts.
4. If you live in Ohio, contact your state senators to encourage them to pass comprehensive PTSD funding for first responders. It recently passed the Ohio House and needs a date to go to the Senate. If you don't live in Ohio, make sure your state is doing all it can for its first responders.
As a charity, we would not exist without the caring hearts of police officers, since we only take referrals from them. Every single day we bear witness to and hear stories of the kind things that officers do. It’s why they’re drawn to law enforcement—they want to help people. Let’s do our part to help them as well.