The Chicago Police Department started 2019 with a loss among its ranks. On New Year’s Day, 36-year-old Officer Dane Anthony Smith killed himself, the department confirmed.
Smith’s death follows five CPD suicides in 2018.
The numbers, while daunting, are not necessarily surprising – a Department of Justice report on the CPD found the rate of suicide is 60-percent higher than it is in other American police departments.
The CPD has taken steps to combat the issue, doubling the number of psychiatrists available to officers 24-7 (with plans to hire a handful of additional counselors) and expanding on a peer-to-peer support program in which officers who have survived trauma in the past voluntarily help those currently suffering. (Watch a CPD video on suicide prevention here.)
But there are calls for more to be done.
“No one knows with certainty why someone makes such a tragic decision. We are all left with a gaping hole in our lives,” Fraternal Order of Police spokesman Martin Preib said in a statement Wednesday, adding that the local police union will redouble its efforts to work with the department to get help for officers struggling with depression.
Preib went on to raise the notion that “general morale” could be a contributing factor.
“The fact that police are so vilified in the media and the political system, constantly subject to false accusations that lead to discipline and other forms of harassment certainly takes a toll on police officers and is a leading cause of despair and low morale throughout the department,” Preib said in the written statement.
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