Suicide by cop in film and society: dangerousness, depression, and justice.
Stack, S.~~Bowman, B.~~Lester, D.
Provoking police officers to kill oneself or Òsuicide by copÓ (SBC) has received scholarly as well as public attention. The extent to which film representations of SBC reflect SBC in society in relation to danger, depression, and other features was assessed in this study. Data on cinematic portrayals of SBC are from 16 American films; corresponding data on SBC in the real world are taken from 19 empirical studies. While the demographic features of SBC in the real world are largely reflected in film, major differences exist on motivations and incident characteristics. Motives for cinematic SBC were unlike SBC in society, wherein, respectively, 0% vs. 35% had attempted suicide in the past, 6% vs. 47% were chronically depressed, and 77% vs. 7% had recently killed someone. Cinematic SBC events disproportionately involve murderous, dangerous persons who are not depressed, and their deaths convey a sense of justice. While such media distortions can be profitable and entertain the audience, they also contribute to public misunderstandings of the nature of deviance and hinder the development of effective suicide and violence prevention programs.