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Friday, December 2, 2022

The suicide of a police officer during a riot on January 6 has been ruled a line-of-duty death

Officer Jeffrey Smith’s death on January 6, 2021, nine days after facing a crowd at the United States Capitol, was determined to be the direct consequence of an injury he acquired during the riot, according to a retirement board. Officer Smith committed himself nine days after his death.

According to the verdict, a suicide has been categorised as a line-of-duty death for the first time in the history of the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C. – and for just the second time in the history of the whole United States.

The current moment may mark a watershed moment in the campaign to break down long-standing barriers to open discussion of depression, addiction, and suicide in law enforcement, with several organisations advocating for officers to have greater access to confidential counselling and other emotional support services.

Their argument was strengthened by the events of January 6, when the whole country stood by and watched as cops were subjected to attacks, racial insults, and taunting. On the same day, the names of Officer Smith and Officer Howard Liebengood, both of whom committed suicide, were mentioned alongside those of Officer Brian Sicknick, who died after clashing with rioters, and the name of Officer Eugene Goodman, who was instrumental in driving the mob away from the Senate chamber.

However, most police agencies do not consider suicide to be a work-related death. It is prohibited by law to pay a $390,000 federal compensation provided to the families of dead police officers and firemen for any death “caused by the officer’s purpose,” a limitation that is repeated in numerous local codes, including Washington’s, and is restated in federal law.

The doctrine contrasts sharply with that of the United States military, which today considers around 90 percent of suicides to be line-of-duty fatalities caused by post-traumatic stress disorder, brain injuries, and other deployment dangers.

Police and Firefighters Retirement and Relief Board in Washington determined this week that the head injury Officer Smith sustained during the riot, which his widow claimed caused him to fall into a deep depression, was the “sole and direct cause” of his death, according to a statement released this week. He shot himself in the head with his service firearm on the day he was forced back to work. He was 29 years old.

Her husband’s widow, Erin Smith, will be entitled to collect the full amount of her husband’s pay, rather than the 33 percent she would have earned otherwise. She may still be banned from getting the government compensation in the form of a lump amount.

According to the family of Officer Liebengood, who committed himself on January 9 after working three lengthy hours after the riot, the Labor Department’s Federal Employees’ Compensation Program has not yet granted them a designation for a death in the line of duty. Their application for the lump-sum compensation from the Justice Department has also been submitted.

The Capitol Police supplied documents to the family last month in order to aid them with their application, which included details regarding his actions in the 24 hours leading up to his death.

After months of effort, Ms. Smith and her attorney, David P. Weber, were successful in obtaining film from Officer Smith’s body-worn camera, which seems to show him being attacked twice, once within the Capitol building and once outside, when a metal rod was hurled at him from behind.

A sergeant took him to the Police and Fire Clinic, which specialises in work-related injuries. He was given ibuprofen and sent home after being treated there. After a follow-up appointment about a week later, he was told that he may resume his job duties. He committed himself while he was driving to his shift at the time.

After consulting with medical specialists, Ms. Smith determined that her husband had no prior history of depression or mental health concerns before to his death on Jan. 6, and that his death was caused by “post-concussion syndrome,” which may induce cognitive impairments, sadness and suicidal thoughts.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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