Broken Blue Line: Fixing the stigma and ‘calling for backup’

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An NYPD officer sat down with News 12 as part of the Broken Blue Line investigation into the rash of suicides to hit the department this year.

There have been 18 NYPD suicides in the last three years – nine of them coming in 2019.

"We don't get treated like humans. We get treated like numbers," said the officer, who wished to remain anonymous.

The officer says the stigma has always been there as has the pressure to meet “goals.”

"The NYPD does have a performance goal system. Meeting that performance goal system every month does wear and tear on you."

Part 1: Broken Blue Line: Searching for answers in the wake of NYPD suicides 
Part 2: Broken Blue Line: Families of fallen officers remember loved ones 

But in more recent years, another issue has pushed its way into the forefront.

"Cops feel like there's no support for us…whether it comes from City Hall, 1 Police Plaza, or the media itself. Everything is very divisive," says the officer.

Chief of Department Terrence Monahan says this is not the first time the department has seen an uptick in suicides. He says the NYPD lost 26 officers over a span of two years in the 1990s. It prompted the creation of POPPA, or Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance, in 1996. All interactions are confidential.

"There's no other department in the country that has taken that stance,” says Monahan.

John Petrullo, the current POPPA director and a former officer, says traumatic events that are not properly processed can stay with an officer.

“We just want to get them to take it out of that 'pack it down' mode…If we get them to start talking, they go on their own time, nobody needs to know."

It's not just the NYPD seeing this struggle. Blue Help, an organization created in 2015, says it’s the only organization to collect law enforcement suicide data. As of Aug. 15, it says 125 police officers, including retired officers, took their own lives just this year. New York has lost 17 officers. Other states with high numbers include Texas with 13, California with 12 and Illinois with 10.

The NYPD says it has been looking to see how other departments like Los Angeles and Chicago are working to combat what it’s calling a crisis.

"They never hesitate to ask for backup on the radio when they're on the job, well they need backup now," says Monahan. "It's courage for you to pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey I need help.’ That's such a sign of strength.”

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