Cop Talk Live

September 6, 2006 | Karin's Blog | 9 comments

Officer Friendly, I recently heard the term ‘suicide by cop.’ what does that mean?

“Suicide by cop” is a term used to describe a very specific type of death. This occurs when an individual wants to die but for various reasons cannot bring him/herself to commit suicide. They will engage themselves in an activity that is sure to get police attention and then put the officer in a life or death situation, where upon the officer will be compelled to shoot them. Hopefully, to death.

Example: John Doe wants to die because his girl just left him, he has an incurable disease, is out of work or just can’t stand to watch another episode of Jerry Springer. The problem is Joe lacks the balls to do the deed himself. But Joe has a great idea: “I’ll get a cop to do it for me.” So, Joe takes his own gun, gets in his car and drives around looking for a cop to kill him. Finding this poor civil servant doing his job in the community he’s sworn to protect, Joe gets the cops attention. Joe runs a red light or maybe rams the cops vehicle but he gets the officers attention and now the cop is trying to pull Joe over. After a short chase, Joe pulls over. As the officer walks up to Joe’s vehicle, Joe jumps out with gun in hand. Joe raises gun towards officer. The officer, in fear for his own life draws his gun, shouts a warning, because he is trained to do so, and then shoots Joe. If the officer is a good shot, Joe will be dead. On the seat of Joe’s vehicle will be a note explaining things and the officer will be mentally screwed for awhile or sometimes even permanently.

In some cases, Joe fouls things up and doesn’t get out of the car. He sits there waving the gun, letting the officer know he has it. Other units respond and the cops try to talk Joe out of the vehicle. Joe thinks he’s between a rock and a hard place now when in actuality, all he has to do is follow the officers instructions, be taken into custody, and then be sent to a psych-ward for observation and treatment. Not realizing this, Joe jumps out of the vehicle, points his gun and the good officers do nothing. Why? Because they realize what Joe is trying to provoke and no one wants to take a life. So, Joe fires a round at them and they are compelled to return fire. In other cases, Joe decides he now has the balls to go through with the deed and in front of everyone, puts the gun to his head and takes his own life.

No matter how you look at it, it’s going to be a shitty day for everyone involved.

Dear Officer Friendly, Do cops really use the word ‘perps’ either when dealing with A) other cops B) non-law enforcement people. I’ve heard that cops cringe when they read a book where the suspect is referred to as a perp…and I’ve read books written by law enforcement where the author freely and frequently use the word perp.

I personally never used the term “perp”, which is short for perpetrator, because it was always a bit too Hollywood for me. None of the cops I worked with or know from other departments use it either. I believe it is more commonly used on the East coast. For me it was either the suspect or the bad guy. Okay, sometimes I would refer to the suspect as “ass hole” as well. Once, after catching two of the stupidest auto burglars known to man, I advised dispatch that I was en-route to the jail with “dumb and dumber”. That got me written up by a sergeant because I said it over the air. In Texas I’ve heard law enforcement refer to the suspect as “actor”.

Thank you Officer Friendly!

Remember if you have a question for Officer Friendly, email


  1. Officer Friendly

    Raine – not having had the opportunity to ask that question of a memeber of Texas law enforcement, I would only be guessing. In training films that I’ve watched involving Texas law enforcement it was used frequently.

  2. raine

    I forgot to send mine in! 🙁
    I’m on it…

    Interesting, calling the suspect an ‘actor’. Any special reason for that particular term, Officer Friendly?

  3. raine

    Thanks for the info! 🙂

  4. Theresa

    Thanks Officer friendly,

    I always wondered how often perp was actually used. . .hmmm– I wonder if the FBI actually uses the word unsub.

  5. Karin

    I asked my friend Rae Monet, a former FBI agent to stop by and answer that for you, Theresa.
    Stand by.

  6. Theresa

    Thanks Karin.

  7. Rae Monet

    UNSUB in it’s common use is the title line of a case. I’ve never heard any FBI agent use it to address a suspect, although I have heard it used on Criminal Minds, so *shrug*, do they use it on other parts of the U.S? Maybe, but not that I’ve heard. I usually referred to the “bad guy” as bad guy or suspect, or by their names.

  8. Theresa

    Thanks Rae,

    I suspected as much. I’ve noticed it being used alot on Criminal Minds. And I’ve been curious how athentic it was.

  9. Tracey

    UNSUB sounded a bit contrived to me – it just doesn’t feel “natural” or “right”. I almost cring when I hear it. Perp sounds ok – subject would be ok too, even actor sounds ok. A law enforcement officer here in Australia calls the bad guy a “baddy” and some other words that probably shouldn’t be repeated…

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