• Erin Hegarty
    AUG 25, 2022

    Aldermen to prod CPD leaders on police officer mental health resources

    Ald. Silvana Tabares (23) speaks during a news conference in July. [Erin Hegarty/The Daily Line]

    Aldermen during a Thursday hearing will have the chance to ask leaders of the Chicago Police Department what they are doing to support police officers and the mental health challenges they face.

    The 1 p.m. subject matter hearing under a joint meeting of the City Council Committee on Health and Human Relations and Committee on Public Safety comes from a resolution (R2022-828) spearheaded by Ald. Silvana Tabares (23) and backed by 37 aldermen. 

    Tabares introduced the resolution alongside six other measures aldermen proposed in July as part of a police-focused legislative package. 

    Related: Aldermen introduce legislation to improve police officer mental health, examine possible tax on vacant properties 

    Chicago saw three police officers die by suicide in a month’s time earlier this summer, and some officers have worked weeks without a day off. Aldermen during a July committee hearing questioned police department leadership on what they’re doing to support officers and their mental health.  

    Related: Aldermen grill CPD official on mental health support for officers after doubling number of budgeted clinician positions 

    As part of this year’s police department budget, aldermen approved funding to add 11 additional clinical therapists to the department, meaning each of the city’s 22 police districts would have its own clinician to handle officer wellness and mental health. The police department’s Professional Counseling Division’s budget grew from $1.5 million in 2021 to more than $2.6 million this year, budget documents show.   

    Prior to doubling the number of budgeted mental health clinicians, police districts were expected to share the 11 clinicians.   

    But hiring additional mental health clinicians proved slow-going. As of mid-July, 12 of the budgeted 22 positions were staffed, with three more clinicians expected to begin working this month. 

    Tabares said she hopes Thursday’s hearing will allow aldermen time to question police department leadership on what they plan to do to help their officers.  

    “It’s a very difficult time to be a Chicago police officer right now, with their canceled days off and working 12-hour days, they need more support from the Chicago Police Department,” Tabares told The Daily Line on Wednesday. “I want to know what the Chicago Police Department is doing to provide support for our men and women in blue.” 

    It is a “crisis” that three Chicago police officers died by suicide in July, Tabares said.  

    “We don’t want to see another officer losing their life to suicide,” she said, adding she is hoping Thursday’s hearing will show “what steps we need to take…to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”  

    The breadth of aldermen who signed on to support Tabares’ resolution calling for the hearing — ranging from aldermen who typically call for increased funding of the police department to aldermen who push for police reform and for fewer budget dollars to go toward police — shows “this is important and that we’re all willing to come together to address it,” Tabares said. 

    Chicago Police Supt. David Brown, Dr. Robert Sobo from the police department’s Employee Assistance Program, other mental health professionals and family members of officers who have died by suicide were invited to attend Thursday’s hearing. 

    Another ordinance (O2022-2470) proposed last month, this one by Ald. Matt O’Shea (19), also has 37 co-sponsors and would protect days of rest for sworn members of Chicago Police Department. 

    The measure proposes that the police department “shall allow each sworn member at least twenty-four consecutive hours of rest, in addition to the regular period of rest allowed at the end of such officer's assigned shift if (i) for every consecutive 60-hour period the member works; and (ii) if the member does not receive at least twenty-four consecutive hours of rest otherwise, at least every calendar week.”  

    O’Shea’s proposal wouldn’t prohibit officers from volunteering to work on days of rest as long as they are “compensated at the applicable overtime rate for all hours worked on such day of rest.” The days of rest would not be applicable during a “declared disaster.”  

    “We cannot continue with regular days off canceled,” O’Shea said in July. “We cannot continue with 12-hour shifts.” Officers need time with their families and to rest, he added.  

    O’Shea said he “call[s] bullshit” to anyone who says officers “get plenty of time off, they get plenty of rest.”  

    Mayor Lori Lightfoot said during a post-Council meeting news conference last month she does not think “it's appropriate for the City Council to be setting the personnel rules and policies of the Chicago Police Department. That would be a pretty extraordinary thing.” 

    O’Shea’s proposal was assigned to the City Council Committee on Workforce Development and has not yet been placed on a meeting agenda. 

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