Suicide is not uncommon in the law enforcement profession but I don’t think the department I worked for had experienced a currently employed officer committing suicide. The job is stressful, depression is common, as is alcoholism.
He left behind a wife and two children. I kept thinking how awful, that the holidays would forever be ruined for his family, a terrible reminder every year of what he had done.
The news got decidedly worse. It turns out his reasons for killing himself were not because of stress, depression or alcoholism although I am certain he suffered from all three. He killed himself because he had been found out. He had committed a crime, a terrible crime. He hurt a child.
It leaves his co-workers confused. Sad? Angry? Betrayed? All of those. I can’t even imagine the emotions that his wife is dealing with.
So it was a bad weekend. I care very much about many of the people I used to work with, I care about their emotional health as well as their physical health and this kind of thing wears on their emotional health.
I find myself angry as well. I’m angry at him. Yes he had problems. He obviously had much deeper emotional problems than anyone imagined that he could commit the crimes he did. I worked in the Crimes Against Persons unit in detectives at my agency. I know about people who commit those kinds of crimes.
What makes this deputy different than those other criminals that I dealt with? He was intelligent enough and had the training to know what he was doing was wrong on every level. He had the ability and the resources to ask for and to get help. He had the audacity to wear the same uniform I did and pretend that he was one of the good guys. He brought shame to everyone in law enforcement and in our department. And he may have ruined the lives of two children.
Then to add insult to injury he committed the most cowardly of all acts. He committed suicide. When I learned of his crimes I initially thought, maybe he did the best thing by killing himself, sparing a child any more hurt to have to go through any kind of court process. He may have deserved to die.
But he didn’t spare anyone anything. Now the child will have no one to ask why. His suicide let him avoid taking responsibility, openly and honestly for the sake of the children, for his cruelty. And his suicide may have left a wife and children with no life insurance money. There are supposed to be consequences for bad behavior and the only one facing consequences for his are the people he left behind.
My heart goes out to the deputy’s wife and children, may they begin to heal, and to find peace. I ache for my friends and former co-workers. I hope their healing can also begin soon.
Unfortunately this tragedy is one of several incidents of bad behavior, criminal acts, bad choices in a relatively short period of time by some employees of my former department. And it begins to beg the question, is there a point where a number of events in a short time span show a failure of ethical leadership? There are mostly good, intelligent, hard-working, honest, ethical people working at the Sheriff’s Department. The others give the entire agency a bad name.
I believe the moral compass of some of the leadership at the department is askew. And I believe that contributes to the indiscretions of some staff. But, that’s another blog post and a memoir for another day.
For now, it is about the good people left behind to continue to do the important work of ethical law enforcement. You are truly heroes. Please take care of the wife and children of the deputy, they remain part of the family and need you now more than ever.
Upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.
~ Alexander the Great