Suicide by cop (SBC) is a colloquial term used to describe
an incident whereby a suicidal subject acts in a consciously life-threatening
manner to the degree that it compels a police officer to respond with deadly
Once the death has taken place,
suicide becomes the manner of death; suicide by cop is the method. To put it bluntly, the way a person dies can
be by natural causes, homicide, or suicide.
In the latter, the method chosen by the deceased can vary according to
what is at hand. Succinctly, the means
of death refers to the physiological changes that occur that lead to the
individuals death, such as loss of oxygen to the brain. Method of death refers to the process that
caused the physiologic changes leading to death. In this case “hanging by the neck” would
cause the anoxic brain death. In its
most simplistic terms, it looks like this:
Manner of death:
Method of death:
suicide by cop
Means of death:
gunshot wound to chest
The characteristics for classifying a suicide by cop
incident become clearer when we look at four basic criteria:
The suicidal subject must demonstrate the intent
The suicidal subject must possess a clear
understanding of the finality of the act.
The suicidal subject must confront a law
enforcement official to the degree that it compels that officer to act with
The suicidal subject actually dies. (If the subject survives, this becomes an
attempted suicide by cop).
There is an ongoing debate whether a suicidal subject is capable of understanding the finality of the act since they are under extreme emotional distress. Being under the influence of drugs or alcohol can also challenge the level of a "knowing state of mind."