PTSD and Suicide Prevention for Law Enforcement Officers - TribPapers

PTSD and Suicide Prevention for Law Enforcement Officers

Maddie and Kitty Webb lost a father and husband to officer suicide. Photo submitted by the SSPBA.

Asheville – On June 10th, the Behind the Badge Seminar was held at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, led by the Police Benevolent Foundation working with Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support (LEAPS). The seminar brought awareness about PTSD and Suicide Prevention for Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs), what to do when an officer is seen sliding down this slope, and how to manage the high stress of the job for a better life and relationships.

Lt. Donald Webb, Jr. took his own life after years on the Greensboro Police Department. Photo submitted.
Lt. Donald Webb, Jr. took his own life after years on the Greensboro Police Department. Photo submitted.

The day-long class discussed the horrors, the scares, the images, the threats, and the filthy things that officers see every day. This life has great rewards when officers see the good accomplished, but this life also has a rarely discussed cost—87% of officers endure the realities of PTSD. Thus far in 2024, there is a 224% greater chance of suicide than a line of duty death by gunfire.

Instructor Tim Rutledge

Timothy (Tim) Rutledge is a co-owner of LEAPS Training, LLC, created to train law enforcement officers in peer support, officer involved shootings, and other topics. LEAPS has trained more than 15,000 officers, chaplains, prosecutors, and dispatchers in peer support topics related to these complex issues. Tim was an agent of the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics from 1983 until his retirement in 2009. Director of Training for the Regional Counterdrug Training Academy, part of the National Guard Counterdrug Training System, from 2009 to 2020.

Rutledge said. “Studies show that suicide in law enforcement far outpaces the rate for the general population. The class provides law enforcement with valuable resources, like connections to therapy and peer support, and concludes with tips and tricks to reduce stress, such as reaching out to family and friends and living healthy.” According to Rutledge, officers, on average, can experience almost 190 traumatic events over the course of their careers.

Randy Byrd, Southern States Police Benevolent Association

Randy Byrd, a 29-year retired veteran from NC and Director of Foundation and Media Relations for Southern States Police Benevolent Association, coordinates these seminars. Byrd stated, “These seminars are critically important to officers’ health and well-being. We are now equipping them with the tools to recognize the dangers of trauma they experience in their jobs and providing them with coping mechanisms that could potentially prevent them from taking their own life.”

Family Survivors Speak Out

Kitty and Maddie Webb, family survivors of police suicide, spoke at the seminar, giving the attendees a different insight into how officer suicide affects families.

Lt. Donald Webb, a 26 year career officer with the Greensboro Police Department, took his own life while on the phone with his wife Kitty, leaving her and her daughter Maddie devastated. Kitty, Maddie, and Lt. Webb’s colleague, Sgt. Danielle Rasecke, who was first on the scene after Webb’s suicide, all shared their experience and its cost.
“The reason I’m here today is because of a letter Don left addressed to the police department,” Kitty Webb said. “In one of those letters, it said, ‘Please tell the nation that police suicide is a real problem.”

Local Departments Represented

According to Byrd, there were over 120 attendees representing 55 agencies throughout WNC and the state, including officers and deputies from the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office, the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office, and the Asheville Police Department.

Lynn Aly was one of the people in attendance from the Asheville Police Department. A forensic technician, Aly has been with APD for over 27 years. She felt that hearing the family and co-worker speak about Lt. Webb’s suicide really brought it home. Aly said, “Listening to the daughter and how she’s had to go through the big milestones of life without her dad there was one of the best parts of the presentation. It wasn’t just looking at charts and graphs and reading things. It was real life. I thought the presentation was great. It’s just really good that this topic is coming to the forefront. Now we can identify it and know how to help

Help Is Available

Byrd and Rutledge have seen some of the horrors these officers are enduring on a daily basis. “I want to help those officers survive and thrive. They are hurting, and most citizens have no idea what they have seen,” Rutledge said. Byrd said, “It’s our hope that the seminar saved lives. If it saved one life, it’s worth it.”
Rutledge finishes saying, “Our message is simple. We can help, free and confidentially. Thanks to this seminar, more officers in Western North Carolina know this.”