(Received 21 January 1999; accepted 12 July 1999)
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This paper reviews the literature pertaining to the phenomenon of ‘suicide by cop”—any incident in which a suicidal individual attempts to get law enforcement to kill him. This article defines the term “suicide by cop,” discusses the various motivations of individuals who engage in this type of behavior, presents the risk factors and indicators for suicide and violence, and describes specific indicators for suicide by cop. Proper recognition of these events, prior and subsequent to their occurrence, has important implications for prevention, officer safety, equivocal death analysis and psychological autopsy, civil litigation, criminal justice proceedings, and community stability. This paper presents seven case studies which demonstrate the clinical and forensic indicators of this phenomenon.
Associate clinical professor of psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, CA
Police psychologist, Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles, CA
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