The NYPD was stunned and in mourning again Tuesday as another police officer — the eighth this year — apparently took his own life at his home in Westchester.
The 35-year-old off-duty officer, who as of late Tuesday had not been officially identified, was assigned to the Bronx, said an NYPD spokesman. A law enforcement official identified him as Officer Johnny Rios.
According to officials with the Yonkers Police Department, members of that department responded around 3 a.m. to reports of a suicide at a home on Shoreview Drive in the Crestwood section on Yonkers' northeast border. The troubled cop, who reportedly shared the home with his fiancée and her children, left a note. Responding officers found an unresponsive and apparently deceased man, said a department spokesman.
“Preliminary investigation has yielded no indications of foul play, and the manner of death appears self-inflicted in an apparent suicide,” said the spokesman in a statement.
Speaking Tuesday morning on WNYC just hours after the latest apparent suicide, NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said cops experience a combination of stresses from their jobs and personal lives, pressures he said are compounded by the fact that they have guns. It was important for officers to seek help, Monahan stressed.
“Anyone in society can have that moment, that dark moment,” said Monahan. “So it is important that when you feel that moment, to ask for help, go to anybody.”
A spate of suicides of NYPD officers began in June, when Deputy Chief Steven Silks killed himself with his service weapon as he sat in his unmarked police car in Forest Hills. Silks’s death was followed within days by the loss of two other cops, including Det. Joseph Calabrese, a married father of four, who killed himself in a parking area off the Belt Parkway, police said. A few days later, a 29-year-old officer shot himself on a Staten Island Street, according to investigators.
As the suicide toll continued to mount, NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill called the situation a “mental-health crisis” in the department. NYPD officials announced plans to deal with the deadly trend. Right after Silks's death, O’Neill announced that the department had numerous resources available for cops for themselves or, confidentially, for someone else.
With the June death toll on the mind of commanders, NYPD officials reached out to other departments, including the Chicago Police Department, for guidance after it experienced a recent uptick in officers taking their own lives. One take-away from the Chicago experience was an initiative in New York to have cops counsel their peers who might be showing signs of mental health problems.
"There is no shame in seeking assistance from the many resources available, both inside and outside the department. Accepting help is never a sign of weakness — in fact, it’s a sign of great strength," O’Neill said.
Monahan noted that in recent years the NYPD had experienced four to five suicides a year, an average that has already been surpassed in 2019, with eight. Nationwide, there have been about 115 police suicides in 2019, he noted. For the city, the worst years were in the 1990s when over a two-year period some 26 cops took their lives, Monahan recalled.
The city is bringing in counselors and other mental health assets through the Thrive program, an initiative started by Chirlane McCray, the wife of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“We are bringing in what outside agencies we can to talk to our cops,” explained Monahan, adding that some officers are volunteering for the program.
Hitting his Twitter page later Tuesday, Monahan said, “The health & well-being of NY’s Finest is paramount to all members of the NYPD. As we mourn the tragic loss of another cop due to suicide, together we must send a message to every person who might be struggling. Please reach out for help — on the job or off. You’re never alone.”
The NYPD's resources to combat suicides are the Employee Assistance Unit at 646-610-6730, the Chaplains Unit at 212-473-2363 and Police Organization Providing Peer Assistance at 888-267-7267.
With Nicole Fuller