Suicide By Cop

By: Michael Conner, Psy.D,   Mentor Research Institute
Revised: May 21, 2014

Suicide by Cop is an act whereby a person presents a threat to a police officer in order to compel the officer or officers to use deadly force to stop that threat. The result is a suicide at the hands of a police officer. The following is an outline that I developed and used to train police officers and district attorneys in Portland Oregon.

I. Individual problems of people who attempted suicide by cop

A. Drug and alcohol use or history of abuse

B. Legal (civil or criminal)

C. Financial pressure

D. Unable to provide for basic needs

E. Conflicts (divorce, domestic violence, marital separation, social rejection)

F. Social and emotional support lacking

G. Mental illness or personality disorder

II. Previous suicidal thinking or behavior by the person

A. They want to die but they don't want to kill themselves

1. They fear of what will happen

2. They have difficulty doing anything that would make them responsible

3. They feel it is "just plain hard to pull the trigger"

B. They attempted suicide in the past; failed; things got better; and then got worse again

III. Negative view of their ability to get help. They feel

A. Hopeless or that it is all pointless

B. Helpless or "I can't do it myself"

C. "It will eventually get worse again, even if I try to get help"

D. "People don't care about me"

IV. Previous "police connections"

A. They plan or know they will come in contact with police

B. They see police as people who punish people

C. They have been "punished" by police in the past

D. The see police as an easy way to avoid responsibility and to end it quickly

E. They have thought about what would compel police to shoot them prior to the incident.

V. Four primary motivations for suicide.

A. To punish themselves

B. To punish others

C. It is a way out or escape from mental and emotional "pain"

D. It is a way to stay in control (example: To escape accountability for actions taken.)

VI. The immediate triggering influences

A. Drugs or alcohol

B. Presence or availability of weapons

C. Confrontive, aggressive or hostile behavior seen in others

D. Untreated or untreatable mental illness

E. Medical illness affecting mental and emotional status

F. Past history of dramatic, or aggressive, or violent responses when under pressure

VII. The immediate thought at the time of 7 people who forced an officer to shoot

A. "My life is over anyway so they might as well shoot me"

B. "I deserve to die"

C. "Now they'll (she, or family) see how much I hurt"

D. "This is my only way out"

E. 'I'm in control - not you or anybody else!"

F. "If you want to shoot, it doesn't matter."

G. "I'm better off dead."

VIII. The intent to harm others may or may not be thought out in advance

A. They do not intend to kill police or others ("It's like a suicide plan that kicked in")

B. They may not have decided what they will do (as in psychotic confusion)

C. They may have simply decided to kill the police or others in the process (psychopathic behavior)

D. They planned to kill another person and to use police as a means to escape accountability.

copyright 1999 -2002, Michael G. Conner