McKayla Nolan


Suicide by cop (SBC) has recently become a known phenomenon in the United States, Canada, Australia and parts on the United Kingdom as another way to complete suicide (Patton & Fremouw,2015). SBC refers to when an individual creates a scenario in which law enforcement agencies are called and have to use deadly force in order to protect themselves and the people around the individual who is attempting to take their life (Mohandie, Meloy, & Collins, 2009). The term suicide by cop was originally coined by a police officer and psychologist Karl Harris in 1983 and is the term that is most commonly used today (The untold motives behind suicide-by-cop, 2015). But before that was brought to the attention many researchers used either Victim precipitated homicide, law enforcement assisted suicide, and legal intervention deaths (Patton & Fremouw, 2016). Just like there are varying ways to refer to SBC, there are also varying definitions that researchers have used to classify SBC. Geberth (1993) suggested that “officers confront an individual who has a death wish and intends to force the police into a situation where the only alternative is for them to kill him. The motivation of people bent on self-destruction ranges from the clinical to bizarre” (Geberth, 1993: p. 105). Another example of varying definitions of SBC comes from Hutson et al. (1998) in which they describe SBC as “a term used by law enforcement officer to describe an incident in which a suicidal individual intentionally engages in life-threatening and criminal behavior with a lethal weapon or what appears to be lethal weapon toward law enforcement officers or civilians to specifically provoke officers to shoot the suicidal individual in self-defense or to protect civilians” (Hutson et al., 1998: p. 665). The combination of lethal and non-lethal use of force and the presence of weapons or not will be used in the definition for this project in order to have a wider range of understanding SBC and collecting news stories that mention the above qualifications of SBC.

Publication Date


Document Type

Master's Project

Student Type


Degree Name

Criminal Justice (MS)

Department, Program, or Center

Department of Criminal Justice (CLA)


Jason Scott


RIT – Main Campus