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Ashley Chagnovich
ENG 2010
Letter to a Public Official
November 22, 2014

November 10, 2014


Colonel Daniel Fuhr
Utah Highway Patrol
4501 South 2700 West
Salt Lake City, UT 84129

Dear Colonel Fuhr,


In Washington, D.C., we have a wall of heroes to honor our fallen officers. But
we lose a lot of officers each year whose names will never be placed on that wall. These
are officers who have died by their own hands. I am writing you this letter in hopes I can
shed a new light on the topic of law enforcement. The number of police suicides,
depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and stress is on the rise at an alarming
rate. There is not enough public support for the law enforcement officers in our
community and its taking a toll.
Its difficult to put your arms around the problem when so few people are willing
to talk about it. Police Officers are under the microscope 24/7. They work shift work,
miss out on important family events, work a demanding job for not enough pay and they
see a steady diet of the grim underside of life that most people rarely see. They are
usually first to see a battered woman, babies that have died, or when accidents have killed
citizens; and are expected to deal with it. In 2012 there were 127 police officers killed
in the line of duty and in the same year, there were 126 police suicides. The average age
of the victim: 42. The average years on the job: 16 (The Badge of Life) (National Law

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Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund). Police officers often take their own life because
of the negative public image they have, the inconsistencies in the criminal justice system,
alcohol and substance abuse. They may choose suicide to escape from a haunting
nightmare that they cannot overcome. Police officers also hold themselves to unrealistic
standards. They feel pressured to always be right, they need to always be in control and
they are forced with life or death situations at any given moment. Because law
enforcement officers develop skills in which they can mask weakness, failure, shame,
distress, or trouble they are less likely to display the common signs relating to a pending
suicide. Many police officers struggle with admitting they are hurting, after all, they
arent supposed to hurt or feel, right (Daniel W. Clark, Elizabeth K. White and and John
M. Violanti)?
Police suicide, depression, PTSD and stress are something I take very seriously
and hold dear to my heart. Our every day heros need saving too, yet we seem to be
failing miserably. For some reason our law enforcement officers are feeling isolated and
deserted. They feel they are abandoned in the emotions they are feeling and they dont
have the courage to break down and ask for help. Asking for help shows weakness, and
they dont feel like they need help even when they do. The mindset of Im okay, I can
handle this is the primary excuse they sell themselves and others around them. Officers
often dont talk to their significant others about the feelings they are having because they
dont want to upset them, make them worry, or they dont think their significant other
will understand. No police officer wants to admit they are on a slippery slope and this
mindset needs to change.

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Making a change in your department policy is the first step to changing this
problem. Incorporating training on police suicide bringing in police psychologists, crisis
counselors and family counselors would be a fantastic start. There may be many officers
needing help that do not know of the resources available. Having training on suicide,
depression, stress and PTSD and offering solutions could mean a life saved. I also believe
that early intervention is key, so teaching the cadets in the Police Academy about the
effects of the job: stress, depression, PTSD, and driving home the suicide rates is
essential. I also believe it would be highly constructive to involve the significant others of
these fellow men and women in uniform in these classes. There is nothing more
important to a police officer than his family; and his family must be a support system.
Many police spouses do not understand the job and cannot fully comprehend the scenes
their loved one has seen first hand. They also cannot grasp how to communicate with
someone who might shut them out. The key to a successful marriage is communication,
and lets face it in law enforcement communication is key on and off the streets. To see
these changes made will mean a possibility of more lives saved, more families saved and
one less police funeral. It could also mean a better work ethic and performance, less
turnover and a stronger camaraderie between those on the force.
The decision to incorporate better training in the Police Academy and follow up
training would change the lives of all law enforcement officers and their families. This
could be the answer we have all been looking for.
There are many police officer support groups and spousal support groups already
in place, so it would not be difficult to encompass any of them. Melissa Littles, a
published author, blogger and legislative advocate for law enforcement officers and their

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families, travels around the world speaking to law enforcement officers and their spouses,
her website The Police Wife Life has been a support group for many wives coping with
the loss of their hero, new police wives dealing with schedules, outburst, etc. and many
other antics. California has a peer support association that is dedicated to the
advancement, promotion, and enhancement of peer support. New Jersey has a
confidential telephone helpline, Cop2Cop. This helpline offers 24 hour/7 days week help
from fellow officers who understand what officers are experiencing. The service is
staffed by retired officers who are licensed Clinical Social Workers along with officers
who are trained as peer supporters (Kates).
I hope you will incorporate the suggestions I have offered and make resources
readily available to the officers in the field and the families holding down the fort at
home. I truly believe with early intervention and follow-up training we will see a
decrease in officer suicides in the state of Utah. Integrating these ideas into policies could
save a life.
If youre looking for help in any of these areas, I would be more than happy to be
your starting point. As a police wife myself, I know what these spouses are going
through. Having also worked closely with law enforcement as a police dispatcher, I know
what the officers might be going through as well. I would love to speak with new police
spouses and give them a little insight into the job, challenges they might face and how to
overcome them. As I stated before, communication is key on and off the field.

Sincerely,
Ashley Chagnovich

Works Cited
Daniel W. Clark, PhD, Dept. Psychologist, Wash. State Patrol, and Immediate Past
Chair, Police Psychological Services Section (PPSS), IACP, PhD, Law Enforcement
Psychologist, Riverside County, Calif., Human Resources, and Chair, PPSS, IACP
Elizabeth K. White and PhD, New York State Police (Retired), and Associate
Research Prof., Univ. at Buffalo, State Univ. of New York, School of Public Health
and Health Professions, Dept. of Social & Preventive Medicine and John M.
Violanti. The Police Chief. November 2014. 10 November 2014
<http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display
_arch&article_id=2669&issue_id=52012>.
Kates, Allen R. CopShock. November 2014 <http://www.copshock.com/peersupport-for-police-officers.php>.
National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund. December 2013. 10 November
2014 <http://www.nleomf.org/newsroom/news-releases/127-lawenforcement-officers.html>.
The Badge of LIfe. August 2013. 13 November 2014
<http://www.policesuicidestudy.com/>.