Lt. D.G. Schoeppner is Tucker’s liaison to the DeKalb County Police Department and can be followed at facebook.com/dgschoeppner or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.The last several months have been a pretty turbulent time to be a police officer in the local area. It started in October of last year when Gwinnett County Police Officer Antwan Toney was killed by a suspect during a suspicious vehicle investigation. In December, our own Officer Edgar Flores was killed by a suspect during a routine traffic stop. Now, just two weeks ago, the grim reaper has visited us again. This time, on April 30, Lt. John Germano took his own life. This is especially significant to me because I have been a coworker and friend of John’s for over a decade.
John Germano was born in Hackensack, New Jersey and graduated Pascack High School in Montvale, New Jersey. He was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a graduate of Georgia State University with a degree in criminal justice. John joined the DeKalb County Police Department in 1995. He held various positions in uniform and criminal investigations as an officer, detective, sergeant, and lieutenant. His last assignment was as the commander of the South Precinct Investigation Unit. He had enough service that he could have retired at any time. John leaves behind his two children, his parents, a sister and extended family.
I first met John in 2006. He was my supervisor when I was a brand-new detective in the major felony unit. That year was the first of three record setting years for homicides in DeKalb County. He wasn’t my supervisor this entire time, but his influence laid the foundation for the eight years that I would be both a detective and supervisor in CID after that.
John was physically fit, self-confident and never seemed to let aspects of the job get to him. This made it especially hard to imagine that he would ever contemplate suicide. He also didn’t leave a note. So, we will likely never know what sort of pain he carried that set him down this path.
Unfortunately, John’s situation is not an isolated one. Nationwide in the last three years, there have been nearly as many officers across the country lost to suicide as those killed in the line of duty. In 2018, there were 159 suicides vs. 163 line of duty deaths. In 2017, it was 159 vs. 174. In 2016, it was 140 vs. 174. It is almost universally accepted that being exposed to the worst society has to offer is a major factor. What is less agreed upon is the best way to go about dealing with it.
Personally, I can’t help but wonder if there wasn’t something more that we, his brothers and sisters in blue, could have done to help John deal with his demons. I am truly sorry that he felt that he needed to fight whatever battle he was having all by himself. I hope you have finally found peace my friend.