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CPD suicide rate far higher than elsewhere

Tuesday, Jan 31, 2017

* Sun-Times

Buried among the facts and figures in the Justice Department’s recent book-length report on the failings of the Chicago Police Department was a telling statistic: The rate of suicide among CPD officers is 60 percent higher than other departments across the U.S.

Among the ranks of the nearly 10,000 patrol officers of the CPD, an average of three officers will take their own lives each year, according to life insurance claims information from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, the union representing the bulk of the department’s sworn officers.

In the past decade, 13 officers have been killed in the line of duty. Nearly twice as many officers died by their own hand during the same span.

Ron Rufo was a peer support counselor for most of his 21 years as a patrolman in the 9th District, volunteering to talk to his fellow officers at any scene where an officer was killed or injured. Rufo, who retired a little more than a year ago, estimates the number of his former peers who kill themselves each year could be double the FOP figure.

“There is a problem, and nobody’s doing anything about it,” Rufo said. “Supervisors don’t talk about it. The rank-and-file don’t talk about it. And it’s like the administration does not want to admit it’s a problem.”

Go read the whole thing before commenting, please. Massively depressing.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Precinct Captain - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:18 am:

    Read this last night and something that stuck out was that whenever the city moved toward the union, for example time off after shootings, the union whined and complained about getting what they wanted. I understand that the genesis from the union perspective was protection of existing assignments, not actually promoting sound health and welfare of officers, but that just shows the disconnect between the FOP and reality.

  2. - Anon - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:25 am:

    I wonder if an organizational culture that didn’t involve covering up or being complicit in murders committed by your colleagues has contributed to the slight increase.

    Either that, or maybe that’s how they deal with people that are uncomfortable covering up crimes committed by their colleagues.

  3. - Amalia - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:28 am:

    lots of factors go into suicide. it is also true that many suicides are completely not predictable, not related to an immediate incident, not visible to those who know the person. I know an officer who committed suicide and it was not remotely related to a shooting.
    the topic needs discussion. and not from an adversarial union did this City this that perspective. real serious discussion by all parties, including residents. there should also be discussion of addiction. alcohol and abuse of other substances is typically mentioned with dark humor for police and government attorneys almost as a given. also marriages falling apart. these government workers deal with death and injury every day. it’s not just a topic of stress for residents.

  4. - Mama - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:29 am:

    “The rate of suicide among CPD officers is 60 percent higher than other departments across the U.S.”

    Why is the national news outlets not picking up on this sad statistic?

  5. - so... - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:31 am:

    I can see where it’s a stressful job.

    You’re the first line of defense in a city with over 700 murders a year.

    You’ve got citizens, who you’ve sworn to protect, taunting you and sticking a camera in your face while you’re trying to do your job.

    You have have everyone from the Attorney General on down denouncing you and your co-workers as racist thugs.

    You’re afraid if you admit you need some help that you’ll lose your job.

    It’s a real shame.

  6. - Earnest - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:33 am:

    >I wonder if an organizational culture that didn’t involve covering up or being complicit in murders committed by your colleagues has contributed to the slight increase.

    I must say I had the same thought. And that’s not to paint the vast majority of police officers as anything but good people doing a very hard job. An organizational culture that is responsive to the concerns of its employees without penalizing them and that places a priority on its employees by providing ongoing training Could help address this issue. That’s not to dismiss the challenging nature of work itself either.

  7. - In 630 - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:50 am:

    It’s encouraging that the FOP at least supports that little bit that would be good. They so often seem aligned against anything that would actually make the police better out of pure resistance to change.

  8. - crazybleedingheart - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:53 am:


  9. - crazybleedingheart - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:53 am:

    My comment was blocked. Again.

  10. - walker - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 11:57 am:

    Before we start speculating about recent causes, remember this is a ten-year statistic. This is a deep problem, and will require well-designed solutions.

  11. - Because I said so..... - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 12:44 pm:

    I’m not certain but I recall seeing a news report recently on the high rate of suicides for fire fighters as well. These people see and deal with a lot.

  12. - Cheryl44 - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 12:56 pm:

    This ~You’re afraid if you admit you need some help that you’ll lose your job~

    is both true and completely reprehensible. It seems to me being able to get help would make the CPD better able to do its job and less likely to randomly shoot unarmed black guys.

  13. - Anon - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 1:14 pm:

    ===Why is the national news outlets not picking up on this sad statistic?===

    The article suggest that the rate is 3 out of 10,000 a year. While the statistic his high for that statistic, it’s still only 3 out of 10,000.

    If you try to decide what “nearly” means, it’s maybe an average of 2 to 2.5 out of 10,000 a year.

    Nationally suicide is something like 1.3 out of 10,000 a year and when it comes to statistics, the actual difference may not be statistically significant.

  14. - The problem - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 1:21 pm:

    Correct me if I am wrong but, if you seek help, you will lose your FOID card.
    No FOID = No Job

  15. - Ted - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 1:39 pm:

    A state law was passed a year or two ago to stop the practice of stripping officers of their right to carry if they check themselves into a mental health or substance abuse program. Based on this story, it looks like that fact is unknown to the rank and file. C’mon, CPD. What kind of Human Resources program are you running?

  16. - NoGifts - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 1:42 pm:

    Inpatient treatment for stress and depression is exceedingly rare and reserved for very ill people. It might be correct that the card is lost in these cases - police work may be an unsuitable career. The department should make an effort to find other work within the department for these individuals. Also, health insurance covers mental health issues, so the number of EAP counselors isn’t the issue IMO.

  17. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 2:03 pm:

    I am a disabled police officer and the human resources with the CPD is a disater. The job in itself is difficult and we see many things that cause problems in other aspects of life and once a person goes for help then the tables turn against officers. The department needs to make major changes in Human Resources because officers deserve some dignity and not discipline when it comes to depression. The job has two fronts. Survival on the street and survival of the politics. At he end it always is politics over safety. To this day I struggle and the job has isloated me from my family and friends. Sometimes no where to go and time becomes another enemy.i did the job because it is a vocation and I knew I had the god gifts to serve. Today I have no pay no insurance and no family. God Bless Chicago and all the officers who serve the public.

  18. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 2:13 pm:

    –The CPD’s Employee Assistance Program, which provides mental health services to 13,500 police officers and staff, has only three full-time counselors. The Los Angeles PD, the next-largest department in the U.S., has a staff of 11 clinicians for less than 10,000 sworn officers.–

    The DOJ report also knocked the city for “severely deficient training” of officers that led to a pattern of excessive force.

    See a common thread? No training. No mental health support. It’s a brutally tough job; you have to give officers the right tools to do it.

    But to Daley/Emanuel, if it’s not good for a photo-op, it might as well not exist. Just muddle through on the cheap and spin like crazy — or cover up — when it goes bad.

    You’re not “backing the Blue” by slamming Black Lives Matter or day-dreaming about unconstitutional stop-and-frisk.

    You can back them by insisting they have the right tools to do their jobs. And that means training and support.

  19. - Payback - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 2:26 pm:

    I had extensive course work in police selection, organization, psychology, etc. and got to see the actual test results for police recruits on the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory.) At the time the MMPI was the most comprehensive pysch test out there, and almost every police recruit in America would take the MMPI before hire.

    The results,(which never seem to be widely reported) are shocking. Police as a subset of the American public showed much higher rates of suicide, divorce, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and depression. As a group police recruits in general show vastly higher indicators of deviancy than the average in every category tested.

    Re. C.P.D. not recognizing and treating officers that need help, a couple of things:

    1) A macho, male-dominated culture that frowns on showing “feelings” as weakness is not conducive to helping those that need and/or want help.

    2) The vast majority of psychological testing and review is conducted pre-hiring, and never done again.

    Do what the military does for those in high-stress assignments such as Navy Seals, Delta Force, etc.: require regular psychological testing and review for all officers, at least every five years. Make it mandatory for those involved in shooting incidents, whether they want it or not.

    Professional psychologists or psychiatrists who conduct these officer reviews should be brought in from outside the police dept. so they are not subject to coercion from supervisory staff to rule on fitness one way or another. If the cops aren’t fit, take away their gun and give them another job within the department if possible.

    Those who have pain on the inside are likely to be those who externalize their pain and lash out at others. As taxpayers we should all be involved in these discussions since cops can at times kill people on the spot without trial. This is one area where I would be willing to pay more taxes if those resources could be put into the right areas to help those officers who need help.

  20. - Anonymous - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 2:31 pm:

    I posted earlier and this should of been a part of the posting for reference. Not only when you do the job correctly they then throw you in the mud and discount your character and creditability in a attempt to make you come off as a bad person. It breaks my heart because I did my job and believed in the work and mission to serve. With the job I lost my family , my health, money, and creditability. When I tell people my pain and the things I can no longer do, they dont want to hear or acknowledge because if they acknowledge then they can no longer claim they did not know.
    At my last pension board hearing they ripped me to shreds and grilled me on what my father did for work. They make you feel like total scum and like a bad person. I would be more then willing to also give people the transcript.

  21. - Menard County - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 2:37 pm:

    God bless the police officers of Chicago and elsewhere. And to Anon: this is obviously an issue beyond your understanding. You should look at the rate of criminal activity among police officers in this country compared to lawyers, professors, legislators, reporters, or any other profession. You’ll be surprised…

  22. - Last Bull Moose - Tuesday, Jan 31, 17 @ 3:56 pm:

    Clearly CPD needs change. I cannot tell from the narrative and the discussion here just how bad the suicide problem is.

    For reference, my son’s 800 man Marine battalion lost 20 men during their deployment to Afghanistan. Word on the battalion grapevine is that twice that number have committed suicide in the 8 years since they returned.

    CPD should reach out to the military as well as other police departments to help develop action plans. Then they need to act. For the $5 million they paid to try to hush up the Laquon McDonald video, they could buy lots of support services.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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