CHICAGO — An off-duty police officer died by suicide Thursday, at least the fifth officer to die by suicide this year.
Police and Mayor Lori Lightfoot confirmed the death Thursday afternoon but did not immediately offer more details. Fellow officers led a procession for the officer Thursday evening.
The officer’s death comes as the Police Department and Supt. David Brown face increasing scrutiny for canceling scheduled days off and offering what some officers have said is inadequate mental health services.
An Office of the Inspector General report released earlier this week revealed an estimated more than 1,000 officers had to work 11 or more consecutive days between April and May 31.
Officers told Block Club in July they’ve worked weeks without days off, forcing them to miss key family time, scramble to arrange child care or skip therapy. Many said they are drained and demoralized.
Lightfoot has defended Brown’s decision to repeatedly cancel days off during certain points in recent years. In late June, she drew backlash for saying officers had an “incredible” amount of downtime.
After the city watchdog’s report, Brown announced a policy to give officers more time off. The new rules, effective immediately, mean most officers will have no more than one regular day off canceled per work week. During certain periods — including Memorial Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve — the department can cancel two regular days off.
Those officers also will get two consecutive days off for each police period and a minimum of nine hours rest between shifts, Brown said in a statement.
“The physical and emotional wellbeing of our officers remains the top priority of our Department,” Brown said in a statement. “The brave men and women of the Chicago Police Department step up every day, at great personal risk to themselves, to protect the people of Chicago. While our officers work to safeguard this city, we must also put safeguards in place to protect our officers. The health and wellbeing of our officers is a top priority and we have taken steps to ensure they have time to rest and re-energize.”
Twenty-one Chicago police officers have died by suicide since 2018: six in 2018, four in 2019, two in 2020, four in 2021 and five so far this year, according to the department.
Officers Andy Dobda, Durand Lee and Patricia Swank died by suicide in July. Sgt. Edward Dougherty died by suicide in March.
A 2017 Justice Department report found the department’s officer suicide rate was 60 percent higher than the national average.
The department has struggled to retain and hire officers for years. More than 650 officers have retired or resigned this year, with 747 total projected to retire or leave by the end of 2022, according to data shared with Block Club.
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