ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A Tampa Bay law enforcement agency is once again mourning the loss of one of its own.
Authorities say Pinellas County Deputy Kevin Levi, 42, died while he was off-duty Tuesday evening from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He spent nearly 16 years working in the Patrol Operations Bureau for the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
It’s no surprise that the weight of being a first responder takes a mental toll on law enforcement, firefighters and emergency dispatchers. According to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, nearly one in four police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, making the suicide rate of law enforcement officers four times higher than that of firefighters.
Over the last three years, the number of law enforcement suicides has exceeded those killed in the line of duty. That’s presumably because of the intensity of what first law enforcement officers see on a daily basis.
Lakeland firefighters, along with first responders from Polk Fire Rescue, Winter Haven Fire Department and the Plant City Fire Department recently underwent training to learn the warning signs to look for and find out when and where to get help.
Law enforcement deaths
Here’s a look at the national number of suicides compared to deaths in the line of duty among law enforcement officers. Hover over the bar to see the exact number.Source: Blue H.E.L.P., Officer Down Memorial Page
The Centers for Disease Control is reporting that suicide rates in the United States are at the highest since World War II. Law enforcement officers are at greater risk than most people.
Last summer, President Donald Trump approved $7.5 million annually for the next five years in federal grants to expand officer suicide prevention efforts, including mental health screenings. and additional training.