San Antonio – Former police officer Preston Kinikin remembers the night sweats, night terrors with physically violent reactions, snap rage, high anxiety, suicidal ideations, avoidance, and isolation he was experiencing as an officer. After seeking help, he realized they were part of his PTSD and trauma from the job.
The founder of Warriors of Ramoth, a non-profit peer-to-peer anonymous support network, is worried about the increasing number of suicides at San Antonio Police.
As of Monday, the agency reports there have been six active duty officers who died by suicide in the last five years, four of them this year, and a retired officer.
“They’re not a statistic. They’re a person. They’re a huge part of their [family’s] life that’s now gone,” Kinikin said.
Kinikin said he hears from leadership that the department has an open-door policy for officers needing mental support, but what officers perceive is different.
“The members of your department should be 100% on board with knowing. If I go and talk to my superior, they’re going to back me up 100%. And I’m not going to get blackballed because they’re going to have my well-being at heart,” he said.
There’s fear and stigma among officers who perceive that they will be taken off the job or that others will find out and their careers will be in jeopardy. Kinikin said the SAPD leadership has to step in to change that perception and save the lives of their own officers.
“If an individual does not feel driven in his perception and emotions, that he has a supportive command staff to come forward with any type of mental health questions or issues he might be experiencing, then he’s going to keep it to himself,” Kinikin said. “And when that happens, because they’re afraid of the outcome or some type of adverse effect occurring after reaching out for some support. You have officers who just continue to go deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of the trauma they’re experiencing on an everyday basis, and then developing PTSD and that horrible symptoms that go along with that all because of the stigma.”
Kinikin said while many departments offer peer-to-peer and mental health counseling, he says more needs to be done to spread the word about other outlets and services that officers can turn to outside of the agency.
He’s also rallying up other officers to support their fellow first responders, to be there for one another when their departments aren’t.
Warriors of Ramoth, meets on the second, third, and fourth Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the River City Community Church, The Cantina Building.
Copline is a 24/7 confidential lifeline for first responders in crisis, 1-800-267-5463.
The Texas Law Enforcement Peer Network is a statewide program that gives law enforcement access to a trained peer to address stress, trauma, or fatigue. It uses an app to connect peers in the city or area.
KSAT also reached out to the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, and they said BCSO has not had any active-duty deputies commit suicide but do provide information from the agency psychologist and a list of resources available to deputies.
“In order to address this topic, we have to look at the main contributors to suicide in law enforcement and these are financial issues, relationship problems, isolation which also leads to problems with substance abuse. We also know that those with prior mental health diagnosis are at an increased risk.
- Financial planning and advice resources
- Referrals for individual and couples counseling
- Referrals for crisis services
- Liaison with peer support and the BCSO Mental Health Unit
- Yearly in-service training on officer readiness and resilience
- 8 hours dedicated to teaching resilience and resources to cadets since 2020
- Fully staffed and active of volunteer peer support team that respond to critical incidents and are proactive to other deputy issues
- Critical Incident Peer Support Policy that integrates the Texas Senate Bill to provide mental health leave for officers after critical incidents
We all know the unfortunate realities of suicide in law enforcement. It is important that we recognize this and be open and honest with one another about this topic. The many risk factors associated with officer suicide is legal or financial issues and relationship problems. When these occur, they lead to substance misuse and social isolation (International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2018). One suicide is too many and the way we can prevent these suicides from occurring is not only being there for our brothers and sisters, but also having real talks with one another and linking deputies to the resources that are available to them.
Financial Planning and Assistance
· Deer Oaks EAP website provides financial counseling
o Scroll through the multitude of financial resources
· Primerica provides free financial consulting and education
· Financial Cop
Individual and Relationship Counseling
· Deer Oaks EAP First Responder Line
o They can schedule you a couples counseling appointment two weeks
· The Ecumenical Center
· San Antonio Counseling and Behavioral Center
Substance Abuse Counseling
· The Right Step
· New Day Recovery Services
· National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
o 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
o Text 988
· Responder Rel8 App
o Free app to connect with first responder peers across country
· Mobile Crisis Outreach
· BCSO Mental Health Unit
o Contact BCSO Dispatch at 210-335-6000
BCSO Peer Support Services
o Peers can help link you to services and provide support services to deputies”