NJ to track police deaths by suicide and offer prevention training to all officers

A new law requires police departments to report deaths by suicide to the attorney general and creates a required suicide prevention training program for officers

Blake Nelson
NJ Advance Media Group

TRENTON — New Jersey will soon track police suicides across the state and establish a training program to help prevent other officers from taking their own lives.

It’s one part of three bills Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law Monday designed to protect the Garden State’s cops.

The second measure authorizes a “Blue Alert System” to rapidly send out information across the state in an effort to arrest those suspected of killing or seriously injuring a police officer.

The third measure assesses motor vehicle points for certain violations of state law requiring you to move over for stopped emergency vehicles.

“New Jersey’s law enforcement officers are the finest in the nation and we will take every step necessary to ensure their safety both in the line of duty and off-duty,” Murphy, a Democrat, said in a statement. "I am proud to sign legislation that will support the officers who dedicate every day to us.”

The first law Murphy signed — which will take effect July 1 — requires police departments in the Garden State to report cop suicides to state attorney general.

New Jersey currently doesn’t track how often those suicides happen. But under this law, departments must notify the state attorney general’s office, and include the officer’s race, gender, seniority and veteran status, among other information, although the name would be omitted. The date will then be public.

The Massachusetts-based Blue H.E.L.P reported 37 law enforcement suicides in New Jersey from the beginning of 2016 through June 30 of last year, although the nonprofit said that number may be an undercount.

More officers died by suicide than in the line of duty over a similar period in the state.

The new law also creates a training program available to every cop in the state to flag “causes, behaviors, warning signs, and risk factors” related to suicide. Officers would be required to take the course every five years.

The cost of creating and implementing the programs will be “marginal,” according to a fiscal report.

“We must do all we can to prevent these tragedies, beginning with ensuring the right people are trained to address troubling situations,” said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, D-Bergen, a sponsor of the measure.

The law dovetails with another statewide program, announced in October, that’s training some cops to be “Resiliency Officers” who will help other cops in crisis.

Under the second law Murphy signed Tuesday, the “Blue Alert System” will be a voluntary effort between state and local law enforcement agencies and the media to spread information in the wake of a fallen or injured officer. It takes effect July 1.

The third law — which takes effect Aug. 1 — strengthens the state’s “Move Over Law."

Currently, those who violate that law face fines of between $100 and $500. Now, offenders will receive two points on your license they're convicted of failing to move over for a stopped emergency vehicle in New Jersey three times or more time in one year — as long as the vehicle has flashing lights at the time of your third or subsequent violation.

It also will establish a public awareness campaign.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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