It’s the recent rash that is rocking the New York City Police Department.
So far this year alone, 10 officers have taken their own lives. When it happens the department has the grim duty to notify the family. A devastating visit that no one wants. Eileen Echeverria says the “visit” in sketched in her memory for ever, and that she begged the NYPD to take away her brother’s guns.
“They came here on a Wednesday night. I was sleeping. My mother woke me up and said Eileen there’s detectives here, did something happen? I said sit down ma. I looked right at the detective and I said my brother killed himself, didn’t he? He said yes. I said I knew that. I warned you, and within two days you gave his guns back. I warned you to get him help. I begged you. This is not the first time I begged them to get him help.” -Eileen Echeverria/Sister of Robert Echeverria
In August of 2019, Robert Echeverria killed himself inside his Queens home. His sister, has become an outspoken advocate and put the situation in a way everyone can relate too, and should relate too.
“I’m a type one diabetic. I take insulin every day. Do you blame me for that? No. So if you go through a depression, should I blame you? No! It happens.” -Eileen Echeverria/Sister of Robert Echeverria
Robert Echeverria problems came into sharp focus in 2012. His sister says he had a tumultuous relationship with his wife and had been driven into financial ruin. Eileen Echeverria who was near tears the entire interview told me she had warned the department about him and says his firearms were taken away — but returned a few days later when an NYPD psychologist determined Robert was not a risk to himself or others. Recently she says the top NYPD Internal Affairs Commander called her to apologize.
“This is not a mistake that you can erase with an eraser. This is somebody’s life. My nephew and my niece will never be the same. My mother will never be the same and nor will I.” -Eileen Echeverria/Sister of Robert Echeverria
Tom Coghlan career with the NYPD lasted 21 years. Starting as an officer and then as an NYPD psychologist from 2010–2014, actually doing psychological “fitness for duty evaluations.” He proudly points out his grandfather was on the job. Today Coghlan runs Blue Line psychological Services, and strongly believes it’s time for the NYPD to step aside and let Mental Health professionals come in, and completely operate outside the normal chain of command.
“You don’t put a band-aid on a bullet wound. It might cover the wound. It might make it look like your applying some kind of first aid but in fact what your doing is wholly ineffective. So things that are being done now are basically band-aid on bullet holes.” -Dr. Tom Coghlan/Blue Psychological Services
‘The NYPD is one of the most highly trained agencies in the entire country. If training were the answer, we’d have no suicides. You can not train your way out of suicide, training is not the answer. We have people in the NYPD making mental health and wellness decisions who are not mental health professionals. That makes no sense to me.” -Dr. Tom Coghlan/Blue Psychological Services
Eileen Echeverria feels contributing factors are the pressures of everyday life, adding that quotas don’t help. Officers being forced to maintain monthly arrests and ticket writing numbers or their punished by superiors. Overtime cut….time off requests denied.For the record,the NYPD says quotas do not exit. I looked Eileen in the face and asked her:
“Why are these suicides happening?” Journalist Dominic Carter
“I think that in today’s culture. There’s so much pressure on them. There’s a war on the police, an absolute war that Mayor de Blasio created whether he wants to admit it or not. Obviously the commissioner doesn’t have their back. Top brass doesn’t have their back.” -Eileen Echeverria/Sister of Robert Echeverria
“They put a phone number up. They tell me it’s working? Really. Did it work for my brother. No. It’s not working and you know it. Their putting a band-aid on open heart surgery and it’s not gonna work.”-Eileen Echeverria/Sister of Robert Echeverria
“The psychologist that saw my brother for a don’t know…five minutes cause two days later, he got his guns…They could have 50 cases, and they have one supervisor watching them….It’s not a textbook case. Police Officers are different. Any first responder…It’s a different kind of pressure.” -Eileen Echeverria/Sister of Robert Echeverria
So it begs the question of what gives in this situation?
“ What we do when we’re at work as a police officer that hasn’t changed. We’re still responding to traumatic calls, we’re still doing the same work we have been doing for the past 150–200 years.” -Dr. Tom Coghlan/Blue Psychological Services
“Then what has changed, why do we see this uptick… I think the sense of hopelessness has creeped into the nypd. I think there is a real feeling of hopelessness among the rank and file….We saw suicides certainly prior to the Pateleo ruling, but I think the Pateleo ruling is sort of illustrative of what we see in Police work in NYC today. This idea that if you take action, you will not be supported, and then we see that illustrated and acted act in the water dousing incidents. We’re created this culture. We’ve allowed this culture to be created in NYC.” -Dr. Tom Coghlan/Blue Psychological Services
Eileen Echeverria made this point to me, and from looking at the suicide issue, it’s clear Police officers need a real safe haven.
“ If your a cop and you call and say you need help, they stigitimize you. Next thing you know, you get no overtime. They’re figuring out a way to push you out. They’re figuring out a way to retire you. I know this for a fact because I have well over a hundred emails, text messages, calls, letters from other officers have asked me please stand up for us.” -Eileen Echeverria/Sister of Robert Echeverria
“When somebody is down and out, They need to embrace that and be able to say you know what…I need a few days off. Somebody else will be happy to take my overtime. I just need a few days. I need to regroup, and you know what…I’ll even talk to whoever you want me to talk to.” -Eileen Echeverria/Sister of Robert Echeverria
“ Because now officers know, that even if they have done nothing wrong, and behaviorally there are no indicators that there’s anything problematic, but they go out and ask for help and get put on some kind of psychiatric aide or pharmaceutical, and the job finds out about it, that they’re going to get sent to psychological for an evaluation and there’s a good chance, their going to get placed on restricted duty, and their going to lose their firearm, there going to lose their shield, so here is an officer who’s done nothing wrong, but gone out and sort voluntarily help. The department finds out about it, because he discloses it on a drug screening, whatever it may be….he gets sent to psychological evaluation….loses his gun, loses his shield and has all these real world implications…that’s a terrible policy.” -Dr. Tom Coghlan/Blue Psychological Services.
Here are the full AUDIO Interviews.