Is the term police suicide accurate?

The suicide phenomenon. Causes and their impact on society with consideration of police aspects

Table of Contents

1. Introduction - The phenomenon of suicide in society

2. Basics and scientific knowledge about suicide
2.1 Definition of terms
2.1.1 Suicide and suicide as a delineation of related terms
2.1.2 Special manifestations of suicide
2.2 Suicide from a historical and cultural perspective
2.3 Constitutional and criminal law considerations of suicide
2.4 Demographic distribution and methods of suicidal behavior
2.5 Etiology of suicide
2.5.1 Biological theories
2.5.2 Sociological theories
2.5.3 Psychological theories
2.6 Suicide prevention and therapy
2.6.1 Suicide prevention
2.6.2 Therapy options for suicidality
2.7 Summary of suicidality

3. Suicide under consideration of police aspects
3.1 Suicide within the police force
3.2 Suicide in police operations
3.2.1 Procedure when negotiating with suicides
3.2.2 Handling and processing of the completed suicide from a police point of view
3.2.3 Shooting by police officers: "Suicide-by-Cop"

4. Conclusion - Suicide is a social phenomenon and its impact on society using the example of the police officer

5. Bibliography and list of figures

6. Appendix

1. Introduction - The phenomenon of suicide in society

In the following work, the phenomenon of suicide in today's competitive society is discussed. Looking at the history of suicide it becomes clear that there were and are still different attitudes and views towards suicide and suicides. These views range from understanding to complete disapproval, especially when innocent suicides come with their lives. History shows that there have been people who have chosen to die voluntarily in different ways and for different reasons. Often, acts of violence preceded them or other people were called in to carry out the suicide. The question therefore arises as to the circumstances and causes under which suicide occurs. For this purpose, the term suicide and the associated word-related synonyms, such as suicide or suicide, must first be explained.

There are also different methods of killing yourself. Some selected forms of suicide are discussed below. As already mentioned, options related to previous acts of violence are also taken into account. In the following, social and psychological aspects to explain the suicide phenomenon are presented and their relationship to one another is explained. Preventive measures and therapeutic options for people who are suicidal or at risk of suicide are just as important. This also raises the question of how high the suicide rate is in Germany and whether it can be reduced. Often times, a suicide attempt, regardless of how it was carried out, is not recorded publicly, in contrast to an accomplished suicide. Should this happen, society will be confronted with suicide in different areas. Because not only relatives and friends have to deal with the consequences of a suicide or attempted suicide. Such a case involves different people in society, depending on the public. These include, for example, first aiders, firefighters, doctors, involuntarily involved people or even police officers. Therefore, in the course of the work, the example of the police officer and his relation to suicide is presented in detail and is a focus of this work.

This not only raises the question of how the police deal with a suicidal person, but also what advantages arise from knowledge from scientific work for the officers deployed and whether these are taken into account in the training. Therefore, reports from experienced patrol officers and also from specially trained police negotiators should give an insight into this topic.

Since police officers are armed forces, this opens up a further reference to the subject at hand. Because of this fact, it can happen that not only police officers can judge themselves, but also that suicidal persons intentionally direct their actions against the police. This can mean that the deployed officers only have to shoot the person concerned in order to protect themselves. These possibilities will also be considered in the thesis and will be discussed briefly. Especially in the area of ​​the police service, field reports and literature should show what dangers and stresses can arise for all those involved in such an operation and what effects this can have on the future of the people.

A wide range of literature can be found for the processing of this work. You not only find a large number of specialist literature in libraries, but also a large number of sources in electronic form on the Internet. Furthermore, experience reports (interviews) in the area of ​​the police in dealing with suicides can exemplify a large focus and insight. At the end of the thesis, it must finally be shown that a suicide not only affects the suicide per se, but that many areas of society are involved in a suicidal act. A statement must also be made about the causes of suicides. It should also be stated whether people at risk of suicide and the general public in general can and must be better educated about suicide.

This work is divided into two basic areas. On the one hand the basic area with the scientific knowledge about suicide. The focus here is on the causes and prevention of suicide. And first of all the police aspect, which is supposed to show a relation of suicide to the everyday police service, as well as the benefit of scientific knowledge for the service. The handling and behavior within an operation with a suicide are more important here.

Because of my choice of profession, as a police officer, this topic was chosen. Because it is questionable how such a phenomenon can arise. One must also ask oneself whether the frequent confrontation with such situations in the course of the police service impairs professional behavior and in the further course leads to an inadequate dealings with the suicides or their relatives.

2. Basics and scientific knowledge about suicide

This part of the work is generally about the basics, such as definition, but also about scientific knowledge about suicide. Different facets from different social areas and also from different epochs on the subject of suicide are highlighted. At the end, a summary of the causes and options for preventing suicide should be discussed.

2.1 Definition of terms

The terms suicide and suicide are explained below. A distinction is also made from the synonym uses of suicide. Furthermore, special manifestations are named and presented in an overview.

2.1.1 Suicide and suicide as a delineation of related terms

In connection with the term suicide, related terms are often equated. The term “suicide”, on the other hand, is the neutral term in many specialist areas of society to its related words, such as “suicide” or “suicide”. The base of the root word "Suizid" comes from the Latin "sui caedes" and means "killing oneself" in German. Also known in Neo-Latin under the term “suicidium”, it has meanwhile passed from scientific language to everyday language.[1]

The act of suicide always has its own death as its goal. If this goal cannot be achieved, one speaks of a suicide attempt. If a fundamental change in life is sought through this act, one speaks of a parasuicidal act.[2]

Suicide is a branch of psychiatry that deals with research into and prevention of suicide.[3]However, this area of ​​science also approaches this topic from a medical, social-scientific and, as already mentioned, psychological point of view. Particular attention is paid to the suicide, i.e. the person who committed a suicidal act. In this area, however, people who are at risk of suicide or who are suicidal are also dealt with. These are people who are considering or already planning to commit suicidal behavior.[4]

As mentioned above, other terms are used in today's society for suicide. Although these terms are understandable synonyms for a suicide, they are not suitable for this work due to their technical nature and may only be used in verbatim quotations.

First of all, the term “suicide” is considered. This is incorrect from a legal point of view, since a suicide does not meet the legal criteria of a murder according to Section 211 of the Criminal Code (StGB). Therefore, the weakened term “suicide” is technically unsuitable as well.[5]

The form of suicide, which is also common, must also be examined. "The term 'suicide' implies the free choice between life and death."[6]Here, the term implies that the suicide has made his choice to commit suicide out of free conviction. This is true in a large number of cases. However, there are a variety of situations in which this is not the case. Therefore, this term is also technically unsuitable.[7]

2.1.2 Special manifestations of suicide

Suicides can come in many different and distinct forms. The handbook on psychotherapy, psychopathology and psychiatry of the TherMedius Institute, as well as KOLK, G. / WALKOWIAK, J. (2011), give a brief overview:[8]

Balance sheet suicide: The accounting suicide is a rational, well-considered and well-planned act that leads as a logical consequence of a hopeless situation.

Joint suicide: In the case of joint suicide, two or more people commit suicide by mutual consent.

Extended suicide: This form of suicide is also known as take-home suicide. In this case, the person concerned takes other people with him to death in the event of his own suicide. This happens against their will. This form of suicide is often represented in the media, especially in the area of ​​traffic accidents.

Extended suicide: This term refers to long-term self-harming behavior. This type of suicide is widespread in people with addictions or eating disorders, for example.

Child suicide: Child suicides are rare and difficult to differentiate from accidents. "Above all, parents often do not recognize the seriousness of the situation, but doctors also have to be very vigilant."[9]From the 6.-7. At the age of 13, children have developed a first understanding of death and could therefore find themselves in such a situation, for example out of fear that they will not be accepted by their parents.

Suicide of old age: This suicide is very common among people who give up on themselves in old age or are very afraid of or already have serious illnesses and want to redeem themselves early. Here, the ongoing public discussion of active euthanasia is a broad and interesting topic, which, however, cannot be dealt with in the present work.

Suicide as a political tool: These forms of suicide are associated with a high level of public interest, as they usually take the form of acts of terrorism or protest actions. Here, too, innocent people are cruelly dragged into their deaths against their will.

Chronic suicide: This is a constant, often suicidal crisis. This is reflected in at least two suicide attempts and continuous suicide announcements. It is often younger people who suffer from depression or personality disorders, such as borderline syndrome (emotionally unstable personality disorder), or addictions.

This list of the various forms of suicide clearly shows that there is not just one suicide, but many variants. Thus, the individual case must always be considered.

With regard to the various terms, such as “suicide”, “suicide” or “suicide”, it should be said that every person can get an idea of ​​the individual terms with personal experiences and feelings, but within this work the scientific term is To use suicide, as this reflects the neutral, technically correct term.

2.2 Suicide from a historical and cultural perspective

In the course of time there have always been different perspectives on the phenomenon of suicide. Therefore, in the following a small selected insight into the view of the different epochs and cultures on the subject of suicide is presented. Various literary sources were used to deal with this topic. Sources such as DAVISON, G. C. / NEALE, J. M. / HAUTZINGER, M. (2007); KOLK, G. / WALKOWIAK, J. (2011) and KÖRNER, T. (2012) were used.[10]

“It is not known whether the prehistoric people knew suicide. In the course of human history, however, no way of thinking and behavior has been judged as differently as suicidality. "[11]However, the course of history shows that there were cases of suicide even before ancient times. Some of these cases had a prominent cast, as can be seen from the ancient Greek and Roman stories. However, there are also a large number of unnamed people who have committed suicidal acts centuries ago, mostly because of their living conditions. Suicides were viewed very differently. They ranged from toleration, especially when they served the common good, to mortal sin and immoral social irresponsibility. The sacrifice for the state at that time was the true meaning of life, as opposed to the individual life of the individual itself.

In the Christian Middle Ages, suicide was a crime and a sin, although the Old and New Testaments do not forbid suicide. This prohibition was intended to demonstrate respect for life, but ironically, those who tried to commit suicide in any way were persecuted. Therefore, even in 1823, suicides were still buried in London with stakes in their hearts. Often these people were buried in unconsecrated areas next to cemeteries. It was only in 1961 that suicide ceased to be a criminal offense in the UK.

In other cultures there is also largely a denial of suicide. So also in Islam. “This is derived from two suras of the Koran. So it says in sura 2, 195: `... and do not throw yourselves into ruin with your own hand ... 'and in sura 4, 29:` ... and do not commit suicide ...'. According to Islamic tradition, a suicide (Arabic: Intihari) is punished with eternal damnation in hell. "[12]However, a distinction must be made here from martyrdom, which is interpreted as a testimony of faith. The exact delimitation is a topic that has been discussed again and again in the media, especially in connection with the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 in New York.

Buddhism assumes that everything you do in the present life will affect your next life and that you simply postpone your problems. If you also leave relatives behind, the suicide should expect an even harder fate in the life to come. "In Hinduism, the view prevailed that suicide was the wage of the ascetics in order to seal their piety."[13]There are also ritual suicides, for example in India and Japan. These are accepted in society.

In modern times, the perception of suicides was also very different. However, with the development of psychiatric thinking in the 17th century, suicides continued to be viewed as mentally ill people. Nowadays there is a consensus that, depending on individual culture, religious and ethical attitudes, there are different possible parallel views on the subject of suicidality. Roger Willemsen, for example, in his book “Der Sumord” (2002) also said that every time they cultivate their interest in suicide anew.[14]

2.3 Constitutional and criminal law considerations of suicide

Suicide as such was not included as a crime in the penal code by the German legislature and was not a problem for the courts for decades. The current impunity of suicidal behavior is based on the constitutional interpretation of the Basic Law. Articles 1 and 2 of the Basic Law should be mentioned in particular.According to Article 1 of the Basic Law, human dignity is inviolable and thus also includes a right to self-determination over one's own life and thus also over death. According to Article 2 of the Basic Law, everyone has "[...] the right to free development of their personality as long as they do not violate the rights of others and do not violate the constitutional order or the moral law."[15]Suicide can thus be seen as a development variant. Therefore it becomes clear that the Basic Law is not against a free decision to commit suicide. A violation of fundamental rights would only exist if the action was directed against another person and not against oneself.[16]

Since from a legal point of view the elements of the offense, as already mentioned above, are missing for § 211 StGB (murder), but also § 212 StGB (manslaughter), they cannot be applied. However, aiding and abetting and failure to provide assistance should also not be disregarded, which in the area of ​​suicides can lead to the fulfillment of criminal offenses.

In order to affirm the aid under Section 27 of the Criminal Code, an unlawful act must have been committed.[17]As just explained, suicide is not an illegal act. However, the helper can make himself punishable under other laws, for example under the Narcotics Act (BtmG). However, aiding and abetting suicide has been made a criminal offense by the Federal Council in special cases. This is the case when helping with suicides on a commercial basis.[18]

If a suicide is committed by another person, one is in the subject of active euthanasia, which is a criminal offense in Germany. Here one finds oneself very quickly in criminal offenses of § 216 StGB (killing on request) and, as mentioned above, in § 211 and § 212 StGB. Euthanasia is a wide-ranging, constantly topical topic of discussion in politics and other areas of society.[19]

There is also the criminal offense of failure to provide assistance (§ 323c StGB). This paragraph states that everyone must provide help in certain emergency situations, if this is necessary and can be expected of him under the circumstances. Especially if there is no significant risk to yourself.[20]This paragraph often occurs in connection with the regulation of the guarantee obligation.[21]"This means that people who are in a special relationship of trust with the suicidal person and thus have a special responsibility for the life and health of the person concerned (so-called" guarantors ": therapists, relatives, rescue personnel etc.) with an obvious and Imminent or ongoing suicide attempt also have the obligation to rescue the suicidal person and prevent the suicide. A breach of the guarantor's obligation amounts to an omission and thus corresponds to a criminal act. "[22]This is also the case with police officers, although the course of the work is discussed in more detail. Basically, it can be said that the suicide itself is not punishable, it only depends on the action or omission of the environment, i.e. the potential helpers, of the suicidal person.

2.4 Demographic distribution and methods of suicidal behavior

The phenomenon of suicide is present at all levels of society, from young to old, in the world population. Differences can only be made out in the seriousness of a completed or attempted suicide and the manner in which it was carried out. However, this topic can be traced back to the individual causes and motives of suicides, which will be explained in the further course of this work. “In Germany, the number of suicides is systematically recorded by the respective state statistical offices or the Federal Statistical Office [...]. The reporting of suicidal acts is the responsibility of the criminal police or the respective public prosecutor's office [...]. "[23]The cause of death must be divided into groups. This division is made into natural, unnatural and unclear causes of death. The exclusion of undiscovered suicides cannot be guaranteed. This means that there will always be an unreported number of suicides and, above all, suicide attempts that are not statistically recorded.[24]

In 2012, a total of 869,582 people died in Germany. These included 9,890 people who willfully harm themselves. So the meaning of self-harm here is that these people have committed suicide. This makes up a total percentage of 1.1%. Of the total number of suicides, 7,287 were men and 2,603 ​​were women. This means that the highest proportion of suicides, at 73.7%, is among males. In the case of women, however, only 26.3%.[25]

Looking at the period between 1980 and 2012, the number of suicides fell from 18,451 to 9,890. The peak was in 1981 with a suicide rate of 18,825. In contrast, the lowest level was in 2007 with 9,402 known suicides in Germany (see Fig. 1).[26]

Figure not included in this excerpt

Fig. 1 - Number of deaths from willful self-harm (suicides) in Germany from 1980 to 2012

In a country comparison, between the four largest federal states in terms of area and population, North Rhine-Westphalia has the highest suicide rate with 1,816 (2012), closely followed by Bavaria with 1,713 suicides (see Fig. 2).[27]

Figure not included in this excerpt

Fig. 2 - Number of suicides in Germany by the four largest federal states in the years 2010 to 2012

As mentioned above, suicide affects all social classes. However, the implementation is very different. Basically, all suicides are classified into two methods. A distinction is made between hard and soft suicide methods. The tough methods include: shooting yourself, hanging yourself, or falling from great heights. Furthermore, harsh suicide methods also include a fall in front of trains and motor vehicles, as well as severe self-poisoning with pesticides and the like. The soft or softer suicide methods include deliberate self-poisoning through gases or drugs. It should be noted that with the hard methods, death is very likely and immediate.[28]There are also combined suicides. The suicide uses more than one suicide method. The aim here is to ensure that the suicidal act is successful.[29]“With the soft suicide methods, on the other hand, there are different risks and time intervals, for example depending on the physical condition of the suicide, and thus times of the rescue possibility. Soft suicide methods are more likely to be attributed to the female sex, which is also used as an explanatory approach for the high proportion of surviving suicidal acts (suicide attempts) among women at a younger age. "[30]

In 2011, 10,114 people committed suicide. Of these, 4,664 people hanged themselves. This makes up a share of 45.9%. Far behind are methods such as falling into the depths with a number of people of 917. This is followed by taking drugs and other things with 898 people and being run over with 752 people in 2011 (see Fig. 3). The shooting by firearms, which is often celebrated in films, was chosen by suicides only 444 times in 2011.[31]

Thus the main method of suicide in Germany is hanging. This means that Germany differs from a European comparison, because in the rest of Europe poisoning, usually with drugs, is preferred.[32]

Figure not included in this excerpt

Fig. 3 - Number of deaths from suicide in Germany by type of the four most common methods in 2011


[1]Cf. KOLK, Guido / WALKOWIAK, Jens: Suizid - dealing with people at risk, (1st edition), Hilden, 2011. S.9 .; KÖRNER, Thomas: Suizid - an epidemiological-phenomenological analysis of personal, contextual-motivational and behavior-oriented aspects with special consideration of gender, Frankfurt, 2012. p.61.

[2]See TherMedius-Institut, Handbook of Psychotherapy, Psychopathology and Psychiatry, URL: Handbuch-psychotherapie-stand-23-10.pdf, as of April 9, 2014 [PDF ], P.71.

[3]See Duden / Bibliographisches Institut GmbH, URL:, status: April 9, 2014.

[4]See KÖRNER, T .: p.61.

[5]See KÖRNER, T .: p.68 .; BOSSE, Ulrich: Police dealing with people at risk of suicide. In: Police Info Report, May 31, 2011, 3rd edition, page 16.

[6]KOLK, G. / WALKOWIAK, J .: p.9.

[7]See KÖRNER, T .: p.68.

[8]Cf. KOLK, G. / WALKOWIAK, J .: p.9f .; TherMedius-Institut, Handbook of Psychotherapy, Psychopathology and Psychiatry, URL: Handbuch-psychotherapie-stand-23-10.pdf, Status: 04/09/2014 [PDF], P.71.

[9]KOLK, G. / WALKOWIAK, J .: p.10.

[10]Cf. DAVISON, G. C. / NEALE, J. M. / HAUTZINGER, M .: Clinical Psychology - A Textbook, Basel, 2007. [E-Book], pp. 349f ..; KOLK, G. / WALKOWIAK, J .: p. 11 ff ..; KÖRNER, T .: p. 40ff ..

[11]WOLFERSDORF, Manfred / ETZERSDORFER, Elmar: Suizid und Suizidprävention, Stuttgart, 2011, p.14.

[12]Federal Agency for Civic Education (bpb), URL:,%2027.08.2007, as of April 10, 2014.

[13]KOLK, G. / WALKOWIAK, J .: p.13.

[14]Cf. WILLEMSEN, Roger: The Suicide: Letters, Manifestos, Literary Texts, Cologne, 2002, p.13.

[15]Basic Law (GG) in the current version, Art. 2 GG.

[16]See KÖRNER, T .: p.52f .; SCHMIDTHÄUSER, Eberhard: Suicide and participation in suicide from a criminal law perspective. In: Festschrift for Hans Welzel, 1974, pp. 801f.

[17]See the current version of the Criminal Code (StGB), Section 27 of the StGB.

[18]Cf. Focus-Online, When is euthanasia punishable and what is allowed ?, URL: ist-allowed_aid_315208.html, as of 04/10/2014.

[19]See KÖRNER, T .: S.53f ..

[20]See the current version of the Criminal Code (StGB), Section 323c of the StGB.

[21]See BOSSE, U., May 31, 2011: p.16ff ..

[22]KÖRNER, T .: S.54f ..


[24]See ibid .: 38.

[25]See Federal Statistical Office, URL:, as of April 11, 2014.

[26]See Statista GmbH, URL:, as of April 11, 2014.

[27]See Statista GmbH, URL:, as of April 11, 2014.

[28]See WOLFERSDORF, M. / ETZERSDORFER, E .: pp.59f.

[29]Cf. BOHNERT, Michael / POLLAK, Stefan: Combined Suizide - a literature review. In: Pollak, S. (Ed.): Archive for Criminology, Volume 213, Freiburg, 2004, pp. 138ff ..


[31]See Statista GmbH, URL:ösungen-in-deutschland-2006/, as of April 11, 2014.

[32]See KÖRNER, T .: p.222.

End of the excerpt from 59 pages