The deaths of four current and former LA Sheriff’s Department employees by suicide within 24 hours have prompted a plea for police staff to check on the wellbeing of colleagues.
Veteran commander Darren Harris was found dead in his home in Santa Clarita at 10:30am on Monday. Anonymous sources told the LA Times Mr Harris died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The Department did not confirm the reports.
Authorities then reportedly found the body of retired Sergeant Greg Hovland at his Quartz Hill home at 12:53pm, and an unnamed jail official known as a custody assistant was found at a residence in Stevenson Ranch at 5:40pm.
The death of a deputy who worked in a jail was reported at 7:30am on Tuesday. The unnamed employee was found unresponsive at home and pronounced dead at a hospital in Pomona, CA.
Sheriff Robert Luna said in a statement on Tuesday the department was ‘beyond saddened to learn of the deaths’.
‘It has sent shock waves of emotions throughout the department as we try and cope with the loss of not just one, but four beloved active and retired members of our department family.
‘During trying times like these it’s important for personnel regardless of rank or position to check on the well-being of other colleagues and friends,’ he said.
Pictured: Robert Luna speaks at a press conference in October. Sheriff Luna said on Tuesday the department was ‘beyond saddened’ to learn of the deaths of four past and present staff
In Tuesday’s statement, Sheriff Luna said the Department’s Psychological Services Bureau and the Injury and Health Support Unit were working to provide counseling and other resources to the families of the officers.
‘Additionally, the department has a Peer Support Program that members can use for additional assistance,’ he said.
The tragedy has brought attention to the high rates of suicide among authorities.
Within the LA Sheriff’s Department, four other employees have died by suicide this year alone, an agency spokesperson said.
‘I have the deepest concern for our employees’ well-being, and we are urgently exploring avenues to reduce work stress factors to support our employees’ work and personal lives,’ Sheriff Luna said in his statement.
Studies have shown law enforcement teams with fewer staff are more at risk of employee death by suicide – a finding some have put down to the effectiveness of mental health and peer support programs found in larger teams.
All four deaths are being investigated as deaths by suicide, but the causes of death have not been established by the Los Angeles County medical examiner’s office, law enforcement sources said, as reported by NBC.
In 2020, 116 police officers died by suicide while 113 died in the line of duty, a figure increasing to 150 by 2021.
Law enforcement officers have a 54 per cent increase in suicide risk compared to the civilian population, a 2022 study found. Illustrative image shows LA County Sheriff members at a graduation ceremony in 2019
Law enforcement officers have a 54 per cent increase in suicide risk compared to the civilian population, a 2022 study found.
While national suicide rates fell three per cent from 2019 to 2020, according to CDC data, the rates among first responders showed little to no decrease between 2017 and 2020, the study found.
For confidential support call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255