We are not even through one month of 2020, and the state of New Jersey already has its first tragic police officer suicide.
Over the weekend, a 13-year veteran shot himself in the head as first responders tried to free him from a car wreck.
According to Fox News, Roselle Park Police officer Edward Nortrup, 39, was driving in Matawan Sunday afternoon when he reportedly lost control of his vehicle, crashing into two parked cars before partially rolling over in front of the Matawan Municipal Community Center.
He was trapped inside the vehicle, but was alive.
“As first responders left the vehicle to get equipment to help with the extraction, the driver located a firearm and fatally shot himself,” a spokesman for Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office told the New York Post in an email.
Police Chief Daniel McCaffery confirmed Nortrup’s manner of death, saying in a separate statement that he “removed a gun in his possession and fired one shot, tragically taking his own life.”
There were 17 police suicides in New Jersey last year and 37 since 2016, according to NJ.com. The New Jersey Resiliency Program for Law Enforcement was launched last summer and will require every officer by the end of 2022 to attend a two-day training session that addresses mental health and coping mechanisms.
According to Officer.com, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy this week signed three bills to protect his state’s cops.
The first measure requires police departments in the Garden State to report cop suicides to the state attorney general.
In an effort to quickly arrest those suspected of killing or seriously injuring a police officer, the second measure authorizes a “Blue Alert System” to rapidly send out information across the state
And finally, the third measure assesses motor vehicle points for certain violations of state law requiring you to move over for stopped emergency vehicles.
Sadly, New Jersey is not the only state to record officer suicides. The non-profit organization, Blue H.E.L.P. has already recorded seven suicides in the nation for 2020. There were 228 suicides in 2019.
However even the organization admits the data may be under reported.
According to their statistics, California, Texas and New York have had more officer suicides than New Jersey since Blue H.E.L.P.’s reports began in 2106. But those states also have larger populations overall.
What makes New Jersey’s numbers so heartbreaking is the number of deaths relative to its population. New Jersey is the eleventh most populous state, and yet it ranked fourth in officer suicides.
We can only pray New Jersey’s new laws will help in prevention.