What is happening to police officers in New York City?
An off-duty police officer died of an apparent suicide, making him the fourth policeman to take his own life this month.
The Bronx cop, identified by sources as 53-year-old Kevin Preiss, was found dead at his home in Hicksville in Nassau County with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head around 9:50 p.m. Wednesday, police said.
Preiss, who was married with children, was pronounced dead at the scene, sources said.
He was just three days away from his 25th anniversary on the job, sources said.
The death marks the fourth NYPD suicide in June and the sixth department suicide so far this year.
This “cluster” of suicides may be entirely coincidental. No one doubts the job is incredibly stressful and the issues that police have to deal with besides law enforcement can take an enormous toll.
But is something else at work? Is there still a stigma attached to cops seeking mental health treatment?
Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, Chief of Department Terence Monahan urged officers not to shy away from seeking help if they feel they need it — and that the topic shouldn’t be a taboo.
“This is the fourth one that we’ve had recently, sixth one this year,” he said, adding: “We have to be willing to talk … and more importantly we have to be willing to listen.”
“Cops run in day in and day out and save people’s lives that they don’t know. We have to figure out a way how we can save our own lives,” he said.
Earlier this month NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill called the recent rash of officer suicides “a mental health crisis.” His remarks, made in a statement on June 14, came after a 29-year-old officer on Staten Island took his own life near the 121st Precinct.
That death was the third recorded suicide of an NYPD officer in June . On June 5, Assistant Chief Steven Silks of Queens North Borough Command took his own life in his department car. A day later, Brooklyn Det. Joseph Calabrese, a married father of four, killed himself in a parking area off the Belt Parkway, police said.
“This is a mental-health crisis,” O’Neill said at the time. “And we — the NYPD and the law enforcement profession as a whole — absolutely must take action. This cannot be allowed to continue.”
There is little to be done by the brass. This is an issue that can only be addressed by the officers themselves. Their friends and co-workers must be more mindful of the signs of depression and shouldn’t hesitate to urge someone in pain to seek immediate health.
It’s not easy being a cop. It’s even harder if you’re depressed and suicidal.