Investigating Suicide – An Overview

Suicides account for over 40,000 deaths in the United States annually, ranked the 10th leading cause of deaths in America. This number has been on a steady increase since the turn of the 21st century. By far the most significant manner of death a patrol or investigating officer will be involved in

The definition of suicide is; the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally especially by a person of years of discretion and a sound mind.

Accidents are not suicides regardless of the level of danger or risk involved in the act.

The need for continued advanced training in the area of suicide is the risk of becoming complacent in these investigations. Suicide deaths must be worked as a sudden, suspicious death until the facts and evidence available tell the investigator differently. 

 Your investigation and case report must support a ruling of suicide.  You should NEVER rule a death suicide unless your investigation proves it.

Suicide is a ruling of exclusion of all other manners of death, and the ruling should be a joint conclusion of all investigators, coroner, and medical examiner.

Implications in suicide rulings

  • Family Denial
  • Stigma of Suicide
  • Insurance Issues

As an investigator, you will need to understand these implications and why they exist.  Your investigation will be scrutinized based on these implications.  It is your responsibility to have completed a thorough investigation with the collaboration of all investigation parties. 

Implications may exist, but your report should identify how your ruling was determined. If others do not agree with the ruling, they must understand how you arrived at it.

Here more about this topic on the podcast.

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