Police officers often respond to calls involving EDPs: Emotionally Disturbed Persons. Some of these EDPs are high on drugs, mentally ill, or severely depressed about some event in their life. Suicidal subjects are one of the types of EDP that we have to deal with.
Often times a suicidal subject does not have any real intent to harm themselves; they are just looking for help and don’t know how to ask. However, there are some EDPs who have the intent and will to die by their own hand. One method they may use is jumping from a tall structure.
Someone who is standing on a rooftop, a bridge railing, or a window ledge is a heartbeat from falling to their death. Even the most hardened cop is unwilling to let this person fall without making an attempt to save them.
Start thinking about where in your zone, beat, or jurisdiction are you likely to encounter a situation of a suicide jumper. Even if you don’t have skyscrapers, you probably have a bridge overpass, multi-story commercial building, or radio tower.
Once you have identified where you may encounter the EDP, think about:
- How will you approach the subject?
- Can you approach the subject from cover?
- Will the location allow for more than one officer to approach?
- Will there be a lot of ambient noise that will interfere with talking to the subject?
- Can you safely talk to the person at the location? If not, can you do anything to make it safer?
- Is there any special equipment that you may need access to?
Bridge overpasses seem to be a frequent location for suicidal subjects. This probably is because of ease of access. Anyone can walk across a bridge, whereas accessing a building roof is generally a bit harder.
Ohio troopers encountered a suicidal subject on a bridge last year. The subject was on the railing, and appeared to be ready to jump.
Watch the trooper as he talks to the woman, and works his way around to (about) her 5-o’clock position. From this position, he gives himself a fraction of a second more time to get to the EDP and pull her to safety. A job well done!
Keep in mind, however, not all suicidal subject will want your help. You must be prepared for witnessing a tragic incident.
A friend of mine with a neighboring department saw a woman parked in the break down lane of a bridge over an Interstate highway. Thinking that the woman was broken down, my friend pulled her patrol car around and parked behind the woman’s car. As the officer was getting out, the woman glanced at my friend, and then jumped right off of the bridge, hitting the pavement 20+ feet below. The woman did not survive.
Pay attention to what’s out there, and plan ahead for everything you can imagine. By thinking things through before you encounter them, you increase your likelihood of doing the right thing when the feces hits the windmaker.