Minnesota now recognizing certain officer suicides as ‘line-of-duty’ deaths

Minnesota now recognizing certain officer suicides as ‘line-of-duty’ deaths

Minnesota now recognizing certain officer suicides as 'line-of-duty' deaths

For the first time in state history, deaths by suicides were recognized during the Peace Officer Memorial ceremony as “line-of-duty” deaths.

This year, two people were recognized in a significant step for state leaders trying to shed light on the issue with the hopes of preventing future suicides in the law enforcement profession.

“I think it’s important for us to recognize that the trauma and the stress that we have on our law enforcement officers should be recognized as line of duty deaths,” Minnesota Department of Public Safety Commissioner Bob Jacobson said. “I felt very honored to be a part of that first ever ceremony to recognize them.”

For the commissioner, this is important work not only because of his leadership role but also because he knows the weight such a death brings. Jacobson said his wife of more than 30 years died by suicide in the fall of 2013.

“If we don’t talk about it, and don’t treat it as an issue, it’s never going to get any better,” Jacobson added.

While he couldn’t share specifics, Jacobson says very recently, he was informed of two more law enforcement suicides in the state. 

He says as he tours the state, and meets with law enforcement leaders, he stresses the importance of establishing wellness programs for officers – Jacobson says he leans on programs established by the Minnesota State Patrol and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension as examples. 

Statistics surrounding suicide has historically been tough to track, but a collaboration by CNA and First H.E.L.P. claims to be one of the most thorough scopes of the issue. 

The report shows between 2016 and 2022 an average of just shy of 184 current and law enforcement officers died by suicide nationwide. The report adding depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are leading “life challenges” connected to the deaths. 

Happening right now, fundraising efforts are underway not only honor an officer who died by suicide, but also create a space for community to gather, reflect, and remind law enforcement they’re not alone. 

The Zumbrota Police Department (ZPD) wants to build the ‘Gary Schroeder Jr. Memorial’ garden outside the department and their goal is to raise more than $50,000 to make it happen. 

“He was here to serve. He did that humbly. He did that faithfully. And unfortunately, he suffered for it, and succumbed to it,” ZPD chief Pat Callahan said of Officer Schroeder’s death in April 2023.

For more than 18 years, Schroeder served the community, the ZPD says he “fought a difficult yet courageous battle against PTSD attained in the line of duty.”

“This is a way that we can honor Gary. We can honor his life and what he meant to the community,” Chief Callahan said. 

Simply put, Schroeder’s wife Kim says the last year has been tough – still, Kim says she’s not shying away from the topic and wants to help others going through similar struggles. It’s something she says her husband was doing himself after medically retiring from law enforcement. 

“It was Gary’s mission all along, to help other people and to keep moving and so if I just walked away from it, I [wouldn’t be] following what we were doing as a family,” Kim added. 

As a reminder, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is available 24/7. 

Also, Heroes Helping Heroes and the Invisible Wounds Project (IWP) are two Minnesota organizations that put a focus on peer-to-peer support for first responders. In fact, Schroeder was a fierce advocate for the IWP and one of their first clients.