Another New York police officer killed himself Tuesday morning, continuing a rash of suicides that has claimed eight lives this year, rattled the nation’s largest police force and prompted commanders to issue urgent pleas for despondent officers to seek counseling.
More police officers commit suicide every year than are killed in the line of duty; since 2014, in New York City, an average of five officers have died each year by suicide.
But the apparent suicide of a 35-year-old off-duty officer in Yonkers put the city on track to have one of the worst years for police suicides in the last decade, and once again underscored the Police Department’s ongoing struggles to persuade officers that they should seek treatment if they are experiencing problems with mental health.
The police in Yonkers said they responded at 3 a.m. to a report of a suicide in a home in Shoreview Drive and found an New York City officer dead from a self-inflicted wound.
The officer, Johnny Rios, worked in the 50th Precinct and had been temporarily assigned to a detail at Yankee Stadium. He had been with the department for seven years and had no blemishes on his record, the police said.
Gerard Rios, 60, an older brother, said that his younger brother had been melancholic in the last few months after losing his father, Evaristo Rios, 80, in April and after the recent suicide of a fellow officer, Kevin Preiss.
“When my father passed away, all of the police officers came to the funeral,” Mr. Rios said. “My other brother knew he had been sad. But we were not expecting this.”
“He was a wonderful person,” his sister, Dolly Rios, said. “He was always funny, upbeat. Just a great guy.”
New York’s police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, declared a mental-health crisis in June and told officers that they could get confidential help from department chaplains, peer support groups and phone- and text-message hotlines.
Chief Terence A. Monahan, the department’s highest-ranking uniformed officer, echoed Mr. O’Neill’s plea during an interview on Tuesday.
“We want a person, when they are in a real dark period — low point of their life — to realize they can come, they can talk to someone,” Chief Monahan said. “That it is O.K. to ask for help.”
He said he wanted to increase the number of clinicians and peer volunteers available to counsel police officers in crisis and to make it easier for officers to connect with therapists who accept their health insurance.
“This isn’t something that we can speak of in hushed tones anymore,” Chief Monahan said. “We need to talk openly about it. Every precinct, every office in the department. This is like any other disease. You get treated. You get well. You get back to work.”
The push to heighten awareness about mental health comes as the department grapples with its sixth suicide in two months.
Four officers killed themselves in June alone. On June 5, Deputy Chief Steven J. Silks, a highly respected veteran who was facing mandatory retirement, shot himself in his police vehicle. The next day, another veteran officer, Detective Joseph Calabrese, took his own life in a marsh in southern Brooklyn. Officer Michael Caddy fatally shot himself near his Staten Island precinct station house on June 14, and on June 26, Officer Preiss was found dead at his home in Long Island.
Researchers have found police officers are at a higher risk of suicide than people in other jobs, because of the high stress of the work, peer pressure to keep emotions in check and constant access to firearms.
When word came Tuesday of the officer’s death in Yonkers, Chief Monahan said he felt a mix of pain and frustration. “What are we doing?” he said. “What are we missing? What more can we do to keep our members safe?”
He said he has lost not only colleagues, but friends, to suicide over the years, including Chief Silks.
“This is something that has touched me throughout my entire career,” Chief Monahan said. “This has been a very bad year. It’s been a very bad two months. These are more than numbers. These are fellow police officers.”
Alain Delaquérière contributed research.