TOWN OF MADISON, Wis. - The Town of Madison Police Department is grieving the death of one of their own. Early Friday morning, Sgt. Jessica Fischer, 43, died by suicide after calling the dispatch center she'd been working with for 13 years.
"It was a total shock to everybody. None of us knew the depression that she was obviously going through, and she hid it from us very well," said Chief Scott Gregory.
He said Fischer's death has been very difficult for the entire department.
Over the weekend, community members began leaving flowers on her patrol car outside the department.
"I'll be honest, I go out there and put my hands on the car and pray a couple times a day," said Gregory. "She's going to be very missed."
Law enforcement suicide is often not talked about, but Gregory knows now it's more important than ever to get his officers a form of release.
"More officers die by suicide than do by line-of-duty deaths," said Jean Papalia with Safe Communities Madison-Dane County.
She said suicides are on the rise, even though on-duty deaths have declined.
The organization Humanizing the Badge said the suicide rate among active-duty police officers is as much as 50 percent greater than that of the general public.
"It's a lot of bad things that we're seeing and quite honestly not really dealing with," said Gregory. "The resources are out there. We just have to be able to get law enforcement to be willing to reach out and ask for help."
Many police departments in Wisconsin, including the Town of Madison Police Department, have chaplain programs to provide officers with someone to talk to confidentially.
There are also resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ((800) 273-8255) and locally the Journey Mental Health crisis line ((608) 280-2600).
For those in law enforcement, reaching out is not easy.
"Police are inherently the helpers and sometimes the helpers aren't really good at taking care of themselves," said Papalia.
Gregory hopes to develop a program where spouses of officers can let someone at the department know to check on them if they're struggling. This is something he said he hasn't had to think about until now.
"The cops need to know that yes, we put on that face when we're out on the street and we have to do our job, but yet we can't let those emotions back up into us," said Gregory.
Fischer leaves behind a wife and a daughter. A funeral service will be held at noon on Wednesday, Aug. 15, at the Tuschen-Newcomer Funeral Home.
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