Suicide is a fact of life for us constables. If you are a constable long enough you will have some association with a suicide, or at a minimum an attempted suicide.

Two stories stand out in my mind that happened to two different constables I know well.

In one case, the constable served an eviction order in the morning, with the understanding that he would return that very same afternoon at 4 p.m. When he returned the defendant was lying on his bed, dead, of a self-inflicted shot from a rifle.

In the second case, the constable was standing at the door with a locksmith who was in the process of picking the lock. I believe there had been a previous history with this defendant which caused the constable to have PD with him at the time.

The locksmith mentioned that the lock was not operating normally. As a safety precaution, they decided to take a Sawzall and cut a hole in the door, to look through, rather than kick the door down.

The defendant was lying motionless, hung from the doorknob with a noose, and a makeshift incendiary device set to go off when the door was opened.

I had heard this story from that constable originally, and then many years later actually met the locksmith who was at the scene. Both accurately corroborated each other’s stories about what had happened.

If you were to get a group of constables around a table for lunch or dinner, and they started talking on this subject, each would have their own story! So briefly, here are some of my stories.

I spoke in another blog post on “bodies” about the one woman who had taken her life in a prescription drug overdose, and about how I found her body.

Suicide is a very personal thing for me! I’ve had three people close to me commit suicide. One was a co-worker, one was a friend, and the other was my former spouse. I’m sure that many of you have experienced similar losses. There simply is just no “getting over it”. It never seems to go away.

I tend to be particularly aware of people’s emotions while I am evicting them. I believe, and in fact know, that I have thwarted a few suicides. Here are some of those stories.

Early on in my career, I encountered a woman who attempted to overdose on prescription meds in front of me during an eviction. I was inside her apartment at the time with the maintenance man. She grabbed a kitchen-sized trash bag full of meds, verbally indicating that she was going to take her life.

This will sound rather unglamorous of me, but I literally pushed her down on the couch and (safely) “sat” on her while calling 911. Mesa PD responded so quickly as to not be believed!

In another instance, I was evicting an armed services veteran who had just been released from multiple weeks’ stay in a psychiatric ward where he had been treated for suicidal ideation. The owner, and manager, of this property, were very concerned about him and had thoroughly briefed me before my arrival.

Upon meeting this gentleman it was clear to me that he could not be left alone. After some thought, I asked him if I could drive him to the Veteran’s Center near 16th Street and Thomas in Phoenix. He agreed. I asked him if he was hungry and he was. We stopped at a nearby Burger King and I bought him lunch. We then met with an intake worker where, with his permission, I explained the circumstances. I then left, and here’s the hard part, never heard back from anyone as to how he was doing!

The owner was so grateful for how I’d handled the situation! When I campaigned for Justice of the Peace in 2019 she wrote a lovely letter on my behalf, as did her manager.

I mentioned earlier that my former spouse had taken her life in 2016. There had been a number of attempts starting in 2003.

Once I remember doing an eviction with a woman who was presenting suicidal ideations. That’s where a person is talking about committing suicide. This was right around the time of one of my former spouse’s attempts. I called 911 and was so upset by the circumstances that I actually started tearing up on the phone, and had to apologize to the dispatcher. I explained to her that this particular situation was bringing up sadness over my own personal experiences.

I really pay attention to people, especially when they are in crisis. Oftentimes when I serve an eviction order I have to formulate a plan on the spot; to decide how the eviction is going to proceed. It’s not unusual that an owner or manager is willing to let the defendant continue moving out, as long as I monitor the situation throughout the day.

There are a NUMBER of times that I have assessed an individual and thought to myself, this person should not be left alone! I feel like I have saved lives because of my sensitivity to, and perception of people.

I have often felt these attributes would serve me well as your Justice of the Peace.

— Ed Malles