The California Highway Patrol has a higher average suicide rate than other police agencies, a newspaper reported.

Fifteen workers have taken their lives since September 2003, including 13 men and two women. The suicides ranged from the North Coast to the Inland Empire and included five in the Sacramento area, according to a report in The Sacramento Bee. Last month an officer was found dead in his Folsom home.

Experts say police suicides often are related to job pressures and the availability of guns.

The CHP operates a station in Crescent City, employing about 20 patrolmen.

andquot;We ask our people to work very odd and unusual shifts,andquot; CHP Commissioner Mike Brown said. andquot;We ask them to do very odd and unusual tasks. They see things in their careers that most people in the general public will never see.andquot;

But the CHP's suicide rate is much higher than the average, either for a police agency or the population at large.

andquot;I'm taken aback,andquot; said Robert Douglas, executive director of the National Police Suicide Foundation. andquot;I haven't seen a cluster like that.andquot;