Jeffrey Smith was one of hundreds of Metropolitan Police Department officers deployed during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. The 12-year MPD veteran died by suicide days later, becoming the second officer to take his own life in the wake of the violent protest. His wife, Erin, in an opinion piece for USA Today published Monday, called for the Police and Firefighters’ Retirement and Relief Board to designate his suicide as a death in the line of duty, a designation that comes with greater financial benefits.
"My husband is gone, and the District of Columbia government, so far, has taken the position that for some reason, because my husband’s injuries were emotional, invisible, he didn’t die in the line of duty," Smith wrote.
"It’s time for the mayor, the Metropolitan Police Department, the D.C. government, and other departments and governments around the country to recognize that silent injuries, these deaths, even when at a police officer’s own hand, are a direct result of the job they have been doing," she continued.
Four officers have taken their lives following the incidents at the Capitol. Gunther Hashida, an 18-year veteran on the force, was found dead at his residence last week. Officer Howie Liebengood, a 17-year veteran of the U.S. Capitol Police, died by suicide days after Jan. 6. MPD Officer Kyle DeFreytag was found dead on July 10th.
Erin Smith, in the opinion piece, said the fallout from her husband’s death has been swift.
"These officers need to be recognized for the horrors they have seen and protected us from. Their service needs to be respected," Smith wrote.
"Instead, we have been stigmatized, had our health insurance taken, denied even the courtesy of an official burial," she wrote.
She said it was time for the mayor and the Metropolitan Police Department to "acknowledge what’s obvious and treat him the same as any other officer who pins on that badge and goes to work to ‘serve and protect."
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