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Police who died by suicide after facing combat at U.S. Capitol need to be memorialized

As the nation honors National Police Week, the 4 officers who took their lives after Jan. 6 have been deemed unworthy of having their names engraved on the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

Police officers driven to despair by the trauma of their work are no different than soldiers who suffer mental illness because of the rigors of combat. Whether their uniforms are Army green or police blue, the government owes these brave warriors the same gratitude of benefits.

Those words appeared in USA TODAY's Opinion section in August in highlighting the tragic disparity over how suicides are regarded among soldiers versus police officers.

Line-of-duty death benefits are almost always granted to families of anguished soldiers who take their own lives. But outdated views within law enforcement about job-related trauma have left police organizations denying the same support to survivors of police officers who die by suicide.

Benefits were withheld for families of four officers –  one from the U.S. Capitol Police and three from the Washington Metropolitan Police  – who took their lives following the turmoil of defending the Capitol from violent insurrectionists on Jan. 6.

He deserves recognition: My husband's suicide after Jan. 6 riots was a line-of-duty death.

As shameful as that was, USA TODAY reports that this week, as the nation honors the fallen among law enforcement during National Police Week, those same four officers were deemed unworthy of having their names engraved on the marbleized limestone of the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, D.C.

This is prejudice, plain and simple. It demeans the sacrifices made by these and hundreds of other officers who have suffered emotionally in their service only to lose their grip on life. And it also exacerbates the grieving their families endure.

While the names of those four officers won't be engraved on the memorial, we will honor their sacrifices here:

Capitol Police Officer Howard Liebengood.

Metropolitan Police Department Officer Jeffrey Smith.

Metropolitan Police Department Officer Kyle DeFreytag.

Metropolitan Police Department Officer Gunther Hashida.

USA TODAY's editorial opinions are decided by its Editorial Board, separate from the news staff and the USA TODAY Network. Most editorials are coupled with an Opposing View, a unique USA TODAY feature.

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