Behavioral Emergencies – Law Enforcement – Suicide By Cop

Often these events evolve rapidly, not allowing for the deployment of special resources, equipment, or nonlethal means to defuse the situation. The outcome is often unavoidable, and the officer is trapped into using deadly force. It is important to note that in suicide-by-cop shootings, the officer is also a victim, and it is typical for the officer to exhibit classic victim symptoms such as anger and confusion.


  • Observable Behaviors
    • Does not comply with orders & directions
    • Forces a confrontation or engages in an act which escalates the situation
    • Makes no attempt to surrender, escape, or retreat
    • Appears to be under the influence of drugs &/or alcohol and continues to consume the intoxicant (chemical courage)
  • Verbal Behaviors
    • Makes verbal threats to kill or be killed
    • Statements reflecting the desire to die
    • Articulates feelings of hopelessness & helplessness
    • Refuses to negotiate with authorities
    • Indicates he/she will only surrender to a loved one
  • Personal History
    • Experienced a recent deterioration in a relationship
    • Has killed or severely injured a significant person in their life, or has killed a pet
    • Has recently disposed of money or property
    • Was recently diagnosed with a life threatening or terminal illness
    • Has suffered a significant , traumatic loss in his/her life
    • Has left a suicide note
  • Other Key Life Events
    • Has a criminal or mental health history including assaultive behavior or domestic violence
    • Had a family member who was killed in a shoot-out with law enforcement
    • Is seeking attention on a particular issue
    • Identifies with others who have been involved in a suicide by cop scenario
    • Maintains religious beliefs, convictions, or rationalizations that make it wrong to commit suicide, but makes it acceptable if someone else commits the act for him/her
  • Information retrieved from: California Commission on peace officer standards and training 2002: Field Manual: Police response to people with mental illness or developmental disability: a field guide.