Jan. 26 began as a normal day for the average student; attending classes and silently hoping for the best on a weekly quiz. At 4 p.m., in the Rexburg Police Department, the silence was broken by a scruffy, middle-aged man who was busted on a drug-based DUI charge.
Sgt. Brian Allen’s first call was a minor car accident in the parking lot of the Madison Library District. On the commute to the scene, A-Ha’s “Take on Me” played faintly on the radio.
At the parking lot, the damages were minimal to both vehicles. The driver of a Salt Lake Express bus attempted to turn left in a narrow parking lot but ended up scraping the left side of the bus with the rear end of a small SUV. After 15 minutes, the problem was resolved. He resumed patrolling the streets of Rexburg.
Allen served 21 years in the U.S. Army and has a daughter serving a mission in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Allen said the top calls for a police officer in Rexburg are for DUI’s.
“The number one arrest in Rexburg is for drugs,” Allen said. “We also get frequent calls regarding suicide attempts every day.”
Allen said there are two principal drugs used in Rexburg: Ambien and Oxycontin. He also said the prime victims of attempted suicide are college students.
“The pressures of life, school and dating all adds up over time inside of a person,” Allen said.
He said getting a call to investigate a possible suicide attempt is the hardest thing to respond to as a police officer.
“I would prefer having to fight a drunk than respond to calls regarding suicide attempts,” Allen said. “Suicide attempts are difficult because it is hard to tell if a person is OK or not, it can go either way.”
According to NPR, someone dies by suicide once every 13 minutes in the U.S. A study published on Feb. 7 by Columbia University found that suicides went up rose 10 percent in the four months after actor and comedian Robin Williams died in 2014.
Allen recalled a situation where he had left a person who seemed convinced not to commit suicide, only to go through with the attempt when the officers had left.
There is training available for officers to confront suicide attempts, however, each case is unique and presents a new circumstance.
The car was silent for a while. That silence was broken by a call of a possible attempted suicide.
Allen arrived at the Pines apartments to investigate. After 30 minutes, Allen and the victim came out of the building. The victim came out with a long sleeve shirt, shaking with an expressionless face. The victim went into a vehicle with friends and drove towards the hospital as Allen followed close behind.
“He had a razor blade and had slightly cut his wrist,” Allen said. “Fortunately, his friends came over to calm him down 15 minutes into our contact with him. He then handed me the blade and was willing to cooperate. If he had not cooperated, we would of had to take him to the hospital by force because he showed visible signs of self-harm and intent.”
When we arrived at the location, Allen left his vehicle to accompany the victim and his friend into the hospital.
“He will receive the medical attention he needs here and will most likely be transferred to another hospital,” Allen said.
Allen said the victim would have to go to another hospital because of the limited space in Rexburg and for a more personal treatment not available here.