- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Attorney General William P. Barr Wednesday announced a new commission to confront the burdens carried by law enforcement officers, including decreasing morale and a rash of suicides.

The 18-member commission comes after a turbulent year for law enforcement officers. A record number of officers died by suicide in 2019, according to Blue HELP, a nonprofit that works to address mental health issues for those in law enforcement.

In 2019, 228 current or former officers died by suicide, compared to 172 in 2018.

On Wednesday, Mr. Barr suggested the mental health issues experienced by officers is the result of a public increasingly showing contempt for police.

“There has been, especially of late, a disturbing pattern of cynicism and disrespect shown towards law enforcement,” Mr. Barr said in remarks at the Justice Department “All Americans should agree that nobody wins when trust breaks down between police and the community they serve. We need to address the divide.”

Dubbed the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice, the panel also will look at other issues affecting law enforcement.

Other topics include how social ills such as substance abuse and homelessness affect law enforcement, how police can improve community relations and retain more officers, and how to deal with issues such as cybercrime and the opioid epidemic.

However, the commission will focus mainly on the mental and physical toll of police work.

New York Police Department First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker urged the panel to find solutions to the epidemic of officer suicides.

He said the stigma of depression prevents officers from coming forward in a profession where discussing such issues is viewed as taboo.

“The fact that there is some emotional attachment to the need to solve this is hope that we can really get to a point to learn about what’s happening and take some steps to address it,” Mr. Tucker told the commission.

The commission was created in October through an executive order signed by President Trump.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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