If the Democrats and the media want to make the suicides of four police officers who were on duty during the Capitol incursion a political issue, a 29-year law enforcement veteran says they might not like what they end up with.
On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported, Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department announced Officer Gunther Hashida and Officer Kyle DeFreytag, who had responded to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, had both died during the month of July.
Hashida was found on July 29 and DeFreytag was found on July 10, according to the department. Howard Liebengood and Jeffrey Smith, two other officers present that day, killed themselves earlier this year.
“We are unable to determine if the officers’ deaths are linked to January 6 events,” department spokeswoman Kristen Metzger said.
But don’t let that stop the media. In reporting on the suicides, multiple outlets appended the testimony of Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn, who appeared before the Democrat-run House subcommittee on the Capitol incursion.
“More than six months later, Jan. 6 still isn’t over for me,” Dunn said, according to CNN. “I know so many other officers continue to hurt, both physically and emotionally.”
Dunn said he’d received counseling “for the persistent emotional trauma of that day” and urged other officers to seek it out, too.
The juxtaposition of Dunn’s testimony with news of the deaths of Hashida, DeFreytag and two other officers who responded on Jan. 6 implies causality, of course. For Sgt. Betsy Brantner Smith — a 29-year veteran of a suburban Chicago police force and the spokeswoman for the National Police Association — she wants to know where these media outlets were when police officers were being “vilified” for an entire year.
In an interview with the U.K.’s Daily Mail, Smith argued we’ll “never know” why the officers took their lives, even if the media and the left are willing to politicize these tragedies. And, while two of the officers’ widows have blamed the incursion for their husbands’ deaths — Serena Liebengood and Erin Smith, widows of Howard Liebengood and Jeffrey Smith — none of the officers left behind any explicit explanation blaming their mental health woes on the events of that day.
This is important since, as Smith noted, suicide is tragically common among law enforcement officers, even at the best of times.
“We don’t know why these officers committed suicide. Police officers see horrible things every day from the minute they get out of the police academy. We don’t know why any police officer kills themselves unless they leave a detailed accounting of why they killed themselves and most do not,” she told the Daily Mail.
“To my knowledge, none of [these four] officers left any kind of detailed accounting of why. That’s why it’s important that we don’t assume, and we don’t politicize. We will never know.”
Smith added that police are turned off by the fact that Democrats are suddenly concerned about police suicide.
“That’s what law enforcement around the country is finding so distasteful about this … that one riot in one area, and suddenly police suicide is a big deal,” she said.
“No one is talking about all the other cops who are killing themselves. The politicization of this topic is abhorrent.”
The outlet reported the suicide rate among American police officers stands at 17 out of every 100,000 people — higher than the general population average of 13 per 100,000 people. As Smith pointed out, officers also die more often at their own hands than they do at the hands of criminals.
“Police officers in the U.S. commit suicide about twice as often or sometimes a little more as we are killed by felonious assault,” Smith said. “In other words, we kill ourselves at least twice as often as the bad guys kill us.
“It’s been a problem for the last 20 years, it’s just now getting some additional attention.”
It’s a particular problem now that police officers have become targets of cultural invective.
In Chicago, WBBM-TV found that 367 officers retired early in the first six months of the year, some of them without a pension. In all of 2018 there were 339 retirements; in 2019, 475.
In 2020, there were 560. This year is on pace to break that number, with 367 through June already.
Furthermore, 68 officers left without a pension. That number was 37 in all of 2017.
“People see us as the enemy and we’re not. All we’re trying to do is help the people of the community, the city of Chicago,” one recently retired officer told WBBM.
“We get spit on. We get things thrown at us, you know, you, they’re fighting with us. People are protesting, calling us names and not just the protestors,” the retired officer added. “But you’ve got the people who are supposed to have our back in government.”
They don’t, at least not usually.
“If someone had our back, we could do our jobs. But again, threatened with lawsuits, indictments, officers getting fired, that is actually, again, stifling us.”
This is an ongoing trend throughout the country, too — and likely for the same reasons. For these officers — including the other 18 who have died by suicide so far in 2021 — you’re not going to see much sympathy in the pages of Slate and The Daily Beast, or from elected Democrats.
If you’re a law enforcement officer who’s experienced trauma over the past year that didn’t specifically happen at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, they don’t care. In fact, you’re more likely to see those publications and politicians praising or excusing those who inflicted that trauma.
That’s why police officers are leaving — and you’re not going to see new ones taking their place, not when the only time the Democrats and the media are willing to back away from demonizing police is when their deaths can be used to score cheap points against Donald Trump.