Lafayette, LA — For the last two decades, Deputy Clyde Kerr III has spent his life serving others in law enforcement and the military. He is not your run of the mill officer as Kerr obtained a degree in criminal justice before entering service and has received multiple commendations over the years. He also frequently spoke out about injustice, the drug war, and police accountability. He was one of the good ones. On Monday, Kerr's public service came to an end, and so did his life.
This story is particularly heavy for me as I personally knew Clyde Kerr. He was the resource officer at my daughter's school and a great guy all around. I felt it a prudent gesture to share with the world why Clyde walked out in front of the Lafayette Sheriff's Department on Monday and took his own life. It is what he wanted. Sadly, however, he left behind a hole in the community as he was a father and adored by so many children and a much needed voice of reason in so much turmoil.
Clyde Kerr was a good cop and, unfortunately, this system is set up in a way that it drives good cops from its ranks. Before going to work yesterday, Kerr recorded a video "suicide note" to let the world know why he did what he did.
“I can no longer serve a system that doesn't give a damn about me or people like me.”
With a calm yet deliberate tone, Clyde described the broken system he has been a part of for nearly two decades. He left nothing off the table. Mentioning Botham Jean, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Trayford Pellerin (who was killed in Lafayette), Clyde described how cops can kill and face very little consequences.
He then went on to call for an end to the drug war, lambasting the fact that police will kidnap, cage, and kill people "for a plant."
"The countless people who are doing time for [the war on drugs]... how do you make amends for that?" Clyde said rhetorically. "You can't. You can't."
"If this feels right to you as a person, then something is wrong with you," he said. "Y'all are radicalizing people and then when they get upset and end up going against the system, you come down on them with a hammer."
Clyde then goes on to describe how the job of policing needs to change — specifically in regards to mental health. His death is a chilling reminder of this dire need.
"You have one psychological eval as a cop, and that is when they hire you. That is not enough," he said. "We need at least an annual, every six months, or maybe even quarterly. The stigma on this needs to stop."
For the second half of the video, just hours before he would end his own life, Clyde lists a number of solutions that he says could fix so many of the problems. He started out by saying police need better training in regards to dealing with the public. Just because this job is difficult, he says, doesn't mean you get to be a monster.
He then calls for society to come together and put aside their political differences.
"So many people in this country are so caught up in whether they are a Republican or a Democrat that they forgot how to be a decent human being."
In a follow up video, Clyde assured people that he is not "crazy" or "on drugs" and that he feels like this act of self-immolation is necessary to change the paradigm within the system. He took his own life to attempt to change the system which drove him to this point.
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"I know what people will say but I am in my right state of mind. I need to do this to protest this broken system. If I don't do this, who will?" he said.
Hopefully, we make sure Clyde's death is not in vain and people heed his advice. While we certainly do not advocate for self harm, Clyde clearly felt like this was the only way he could force change. If people really care about cops, then it’s incumbent upon them to focus on the words Clyde says below.
The public must realize the dire situation, and extreme scope of the mental health epidemic currently facing law enforcement. There's an extremely high rate of suicide, a domestic violence crisis and much higher rates of addiction in policing than the general public. It’s clear that the mental health issues affecting law enforcement should be a top priority if we hope to stem the number of citizens and cops being killed by police in America.
In an interview with The Free Thought Project, former LAPD officer Alex Salazar pointed out why many of his friends ended their own lives:
People are tired of being killed by these cops. They operate with a gang-like mentality similar to the military, in that they are pawns in a larger game, but perceive themselves as warriors for a righteous cause. Cops often turn to suicide after they lose control of their personal lives. They are taught to be control freaks and to be always be in control and it often ends in tragedy.
When I was a LAPD officer I had at least 6 partners and supervisors included who "ate" their guns.
Salazar says that suicides are not the only problem caused by this mentality. On the TFTP podcast, Salazar pointed out that many cops have PTSD and symptoms from the stress causes them to act out violently against the citizens they are tasked with policing. This is exactly what Clyde was talking about.
Like Clyde, we want to purge this critical sickness from U.S. policing in an effort make the streets a safer place for citizens and police alike.
We need to start looking at this increasing rate of officer suicides and realize the underlying problems attributing to them. If we can begin to correct those problems, the cops shooting citizens rate may start to fall too.
According to other experts in the field, cumulative exposure to trauma, horrific accidents and shootings can lead to mental health struggles that too often go untreated. A report by Blue H.E.L.P. reveals the rate of PTSD and depression for police and firefighters is five times higher than the civilian population. Clyde wants this to change by getting mental health help to be a part of the police department.
Critics believe the lack of resources for mental health also adds to lives being lost. Clyde is a perfect example. Mental health experts have echoed the sentiment of Clyde in the videos below, saying the barrier that keeps officers from seeking help are shame, fear of being off the job and the stigma behind it. Perhaps if cops were better trained at dealing with their own mental health issues, they'd be less likely to kill those with similar problems and this pillar of the community would still be alive today — pushing for change with his life, rather than his death.
If you know a police officer who is experiencing this, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. Police officers can also text the word "blue" to 741741 or simply text "talk" to 741741.