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NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 41 Issue: 7 Dated: (July 1993) Pages: 105-109
V Geberth
Date Published
5 pages
Suicide-by-cop is the term used by police officers for incidents in which an individual, bent on killing himself, forces the police to use deadly force.
Although there is little systematic evidence of this phenomenon, there is anecdotal data of a growing number of justifiable homicides in which police officers have shot an apparently armed individual, only to find out later that the circumstances were victim-precipitated. Psychologists believe people who commit suicide-by-cop are psychiatrically ill and choose this method in order to avoid the blame and stigma of causing their own death. Many suicide-by-cop incidents involve hostage-takings; police should be wary when the suspect sets a deadline for his own death, names people who are dead and talks about them as if they were still alive, makes statements regarding the disposition of his worldly goods, creates a confrontational negotiating posture, announces his intention to die, or makes biblical references, particularly to the Book of Revelations and resurrection. Officers involved in these incidents often suffer from psychological symptoms similar to those of posttraumatic stress disorder. Suicide-by-cop events should always be investigated both as homicides and as suicides in order to answer all civil liability issues.