CPD officials and police union disagree over canceled furlough days after recent officer suicides | Chicago News

Video: Several city council members are calling for a hearing into mental health issues facing Chicago police after a fourth police officer died by suicide this year alone. Robert Sobo, director of the Chicago Police Department Employee Assistance Program; Matt Richards, Deputy Commissioner for Behavioral Health for the City of Chicago; Alexa James, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Chicago; and Kimberly Marshall, a former Chicago police officer, join “Chicago Tonight” to discuss these challenges and the resources available. (Produced by Jennifer Cotto)

After three Chicago Police Department employees take their own lives in recent weeks, the city’s top cop defends his decision to cancel days off during the historically violent summer months. But Chicago’s largest police union says the department needs to change course to improve officer welfare.

Police Superintendent David Brown said his department has for years canceled days off at specific times throughout the summer to ensure there were enough officers working each shift to to protect each other in the event of a dangerous situation.

“Do you prefer officers to come and help you when you get shot?” Or not enough officers on the job and no one coming to help you,” he said at a press conference Monday morning. over the past 30 years, and they’ve all made decisions similar to the ones I made.

Brown said his officers get 104 regular days off each year, with an average of 20 days off, including eight days between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when there has always been an increase in violent crime in all the city. He also claimed that the department does not cancel vacations or personal days for officers.

But Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7 accused Brown of being dishonest, saying the policy is “brand new” for officers, who they say cannot take personal days because Brown “has restricted ALL days off, including personal days”.

“This has NOT happened for years, as he has repeatedly said,” FOP said. said in a tweet Monday. “The superintendent is lying to the media and the people of Chicago.”

FOP said it had filed several complaints unfair labor practices and breach of contract against the police department arising from canceled days off.

Alexa James, CEO of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago, who previously worked as CPD’s senior wellness advisor, also reportedly criticized the canceled days off, telling the Chicago Sun-Times over the weekend that she thinks ‘what is happening is inhuman’. .”

The comments come after a third CPD employee died by suicide in July. Two officers have died in recent weeks and a sergeant is also believed to have died over the weekend. Without going into specifics, Brown said canceled days off were “not a common theme” for those employees.

Brown has repeatedly said he thinks the past two years have been the toughest time to be a police officer. So far this year, 34 Chicago police officers have been shot or killed in the line of duty. Seven of these officers were shot.

On Monday, department officials highlighted what they are doing to improve officer wellbeing, pointing to both faith-based counseling programs and the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), which offers clinical therapists and advisors to all active and retired members.

The CPD is currently in the process of hiring a chief medical officer, Brown said, who will be able to provide additional oversight.

According to EAP Director Dr. Robert Sobo, all CPD employees undergo training to help them recognize the signs and symptoms of distress, anxiety and depression, and to help these individuals connect with resources. available to help them.

The police department currently has 11 licensed clinicians, according to Sobo, and three more are expected to begin work in the coming weeks. The goal, he said, is to have a clinician hired for each of the CPD’s 25 police districts so that person can be part of each district’s unique culture.

“It’s not just a face they know they can contact, but it’s someone they know, someone they trust,” Sobo said. “Someone they know they can go to because we want to make sure that barriers to receiving services are removed with confidence, familiarity and having someone they can rely on and know (is) available to them.”

Note: This story was originally published on July 18. It’s been updated to include our “Chicago Tonight” discussion.

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson | [email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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