Suicide by Cop

Mon Feb 6 02:23:44 UTC 2006

        News reports of the death of Jacob Robida, the teenager who died
today in Arkansas after attacking men in a New Bedford, Massachusetts
gay bar Wednesday night, quote a New Bedford police captain discussing
"suicide by cop."  From Reuters:

        <<We had a feeling he would either commit suicide or try to
commit suicide by cop," New Bedford police captain Richard Spirlet said.
"Those who commit suicide by cop want to have a shootout with police and
know they are going to be killed.">>

        Despite its informality, the term seems to have secured broad
acceptance and is discussed, for example, in a number of legal opinions.
Here's the earliest example I saw on Westlaw, from the 9/6/1988 issue of
the St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Haug was a member of the St. Louis Police
Department's hostage response team:

        <<Haug was also worried about "suicide by cop" - the term used
when a person intent on suicide intentionally starts a shoot-out that he
knows he will lose.>>

        Two books, both published in 2004 (according to Amazon), are
entitled Suicide by Cop.

John Baker

The American Dialect Society -

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