According to the National Law enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 128 Police officers died in the line of duty last year. Forty six Officers were fatally shot. According to a study from the "Ruderman Family Foundation" the number of police officers who died by suicide was more than triple that of officers who were fatally shot. These numbers are even more staggering in Chicago where chronic gun violence and a murder rate of hundreds per year means cops see an astonishing amount of trauma. Chicago's Cops are seeing the worst day of everybody's life everyday.
A Department of Justice report found that the suicide rate is 60% higher for Chicago cops than the National average. To make matters worse these numbers do not include retired officers who take their lives, a statistic thats even more difficult to track.The executive Director of the Alliance on mental illness Alexa James, has declared that Chicago is liken to a war zone. Indeed Law Enforcement is one of the most toxic, caustic career fields in the world. While PTSD related disorders are increasingly acknowledged within the military, the prevalence in civilian Police work goes virtually unnoticed.
Suicide is killing officers, alcohol is killing officers, at a rate far great then ever imagined, but there is not the sense of urgency around the issue says Christy Lopez, a former Department of Justice Official who led the Chicago Police investigation. Chicago's resources have been strained at best. Three Clinicians serve roughly 12,000 sworn officers and their families, providing over 7,500 consultations in 2015 according to the Department of Justice investigation. By contrast, or example, the Los Angeles police have 14 trained Phycologists and are planning to hire 2 more for a Department of less than 10,000. In the wake of a spate of suicides this year including 2 officers taking their own lives while on duty Chicago seems to be finally getting "it", so to speak. They are in the process of hiring another Psychologist and adding a drug and alcohol counselor.
Superintendent Eddie Johnson has said that in the past years the department was just not doing enough to get the help that was needed for officers showing symptoms of PTSD, burnout, or alcohol related disorders. Retired Chicago Police Officer Ron Rufo asks in his new book"Police Suicide" is police culture killing our officers? In talking to Cops and Psychologist's he found that the answer might be yes. Management needs to get on the same page that it's okay to seek help. They have to make it known that you're not going to lose your FOID card and you are not going to lose your job. A FOID card is what gives the officer the right to carry a gun.
Rufo is convinced that the prevailing macho culture that reigns in most Police Departments often dissuades officers from seeking the professional help they need Going forward Management and Supervisors have to step up and realize that there is a problem and the burden needs to shift from the individual officer and make it the departments responsibility. A department with a suicide rate that is 60% higher than the national average screams out and demands attention.
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