Chicago aldermen look to address police mental health

(NewsNation) — In Chicago, some city leaders want to give police officers more time off in an effort to improve their mental health.

Chicago Police Department members’ mental health, and officials’ actions to address it, have been under scrutiny after three officers died by suicide this month, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Some Chicago city aldermen say that they believe that Chicago police officers are being overworked.

The Sun-Times reported that Police Supt. David Brown has been routinely canceling officers’ days off, insisting the practice is tightly controlled and has been common for decades.

But several city council members are looking for that practice to end, saying that it is inhumane and contributes to officers’ declining mental health. Aldermen are now proposing a package of ordinances that would require the Chicago Police Department to give officers at least one day off per week, among other provisions. Officers would have the power to decline cancellations of their days off, though those who did accept more work hours would get paid double.

Another part of the ordinance package would eliminate the Civilian Office of Police Accountability, which is a police watchdog agency that investigates incidents where officers are accused of misconduct, according to local news outlet Block Club Chicago. It would be replaced by the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability, with Block Club noting that this agency is meant to work with, not replace, the police watchdog, so it is unclear who would be responsible for police oversight.

Julie Troglia, a widow of an officer who died by suicide, and other family members have called out city officials, including Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot, for not doing more for officers.

“She is not protecting them,” Troglia said at a news conference. “She has turned this city into chaos.”

Ryan Clancy, the brother of an officer who died by suicide, said he feels the city failed his sister.

“More importantly, I feel it is failing our officers who are still with us today,” he said.

But Lightfoot said time off and other police personnel decisions should not be made by the city council. Instead, she said, it should be up to the police department.

“Obviously, we’re very concerned about the mental health and well-being of our officers,” Lightfoot said during an unrelated news conference, according to Block Club Chicago. “What I don’t want to do is, for the sake of pandering to a crowd, do something that, frankly, undermines the flexibility that every single department needs to have to address emerging HR issues.”

If you or someone you know is thinking of harming themselves, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free support at 1-800-273-8255. Starting on July 16, 2022, U.S. residents can also be connected to the Lifeline by dialing 988. For more about risk factors and warning signs, visit the organization’s official website.