The city of Chicago is known for her World Series Cubs, the excitement of Rush Street, and international flavor. But another top designation is quickly overshadowing the shimmering jewel of the Midwest: The suicide rate among Chicago police officers is 60% higher than the national average. And that should be unacceptable.
The recent death of Deputy Chief of Criminal Networks, Dion Boyd, from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound, began the long-needed conversation around why Chicago police are the country’s most vulnerable peacekeeping force. Boyd is the second suicide this year following a devastating 2019, during which eight officers died by their own hands.
Nationally, police suicide is so widespread that the number of officers who kill themselves is more than triple that of officers fatally injured in the line of duty.
But why are Chicago officers ending their lives at a rate 60% higher than all other police departments across the nation? According to a tweet by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the city is shocked: “We are truly at a loss of words by the death of Deputy Chief of Criminal Networks Dion Boyd, who passed away last night.”
But should they be shocked?
An Already Stressful Vocation
The job of enforcing the law is not an easy calling: A daily barrage of human tragedy, rotating shifts, physical danger, and being the target of lawsuits from unhappy arrestees – the pressure is immense. Add to that the recent calls to defund police, and unprovoked attacks on the rise, an already stressful job is taking a severe toll on men and women who don the badge every day to keep citizens safe.
Since the intense media focus on police brutality in the last ten years, a public sentiment frequently exaggerated by misleading and inaccurate accounts, and social media saturation, police find themselves without community or political support. And too many times with rabid political opposition.
Chicago Police Department Superintendent David Brown spoke to reporters after Boyd’s death:
“The job of a Chicago police officer is not easy, particularly in a time when there is intensified stress. Life can seem insurmountable at times for anyone, but for police officers, the stakes are even higher due to the tireless work they do to safeguard others.”
To be fair, Chicago isn’t the only major metropolitan city seeing an uptick in police suicide since 2014. It was alarming enough in August of 2019 for one police organization to make noise: New York Police Benevolent Association (PBA) President Patrick Lynch, blew his top:
“End the demonization and anti-cop rhetoric, reduce the bureaucratic torment of the job rather than adding to it all the time, pay us like other police officers and treat us like professionals – you are offering none of that. Instead, you continue to grandstand on the back of police officers and show up when we’re dead, you continue to find new ways to undermine our work and torture us whenever we turn up for work, and you think a few tweets and mental health awareness posters will make up for it – well it won’t.”
Perhaps we already know the ‘why’ if New York is any indication.
The treatment and disrespect of the police have grown exponentially worse throughout 2020, sparked by the death of George Floyd while in police custody, and progressive politicians wallowing in the spotlight leading the charge to defund departments nationwide. After New York dropped the ball – Kicking the responsibility down the road – America now waits to see how Mayor Lori Lightfoot, already under fire for unchecked violence, tackles the new badge of dishonor.
Read more from Sarah Cowgill.