The phenomenon of suicide by cop has increased in frequency in recent years, creating great concern in the law enforcement community. In suicide by cop, an individual behaves so as to provoke police officers into attempting to disarm him, sometimes killing him in the process. For example, an individual may hold a gun and advance toward police officers, refusing to stop or drop the weapon. It has proven difficult to distinguish these acts from those in which there is no justification for police officers’ killing an individual, and from those in which a person is killed during a confrontation with the police, but had no suicidal motivation. Criminal penalties for the police officers involved and civil lawsuits by the relatives of the deceased person depend critically on these distinctions.
This book examines what we know about the phenomenon of suicide by cop and places this behavior in a broader context. For example, some murder victims (perhaps as many as a quarter) provoke the murderer, to some extent, into killing them – so called victim precipitated homicide. In some cases, it has been suspected that the murderers kill and act thereafter in a way as to provoke the state into executing them. The authors then examine some of the issues specific to suicide by cop, such as whether there is a racial bias in these acts and what the legal implications are. Finally, they discuss the process of hostage negotiation (since those involved in suicide by cop often take hostages during the confrontation with police), the need to provide counseling for police officers involved in suicide by cop incidents, and how we might reduce the incidence of this behavior.