The Chicago Police Department is launching a new early intervention program.
Developed by the University of Chicago Crime and Education Lab, the system is designed to provide officers with the support they need before they harm themselves or others. The pilot program began in the 5th District on Tuesday and will expand throughout the city over the next year, according to the mayor’s office.
This comes amid longstanding tensions between the police department and community, and as CPD grapples with a suicide rate up to 60% higher than the national average. Most recently, coping with the suicide of Chicago Police Deputy Chief Dion Boyd.
“The system is different in that it was built from the ground up,” said Maggie Goodrich, project director for the early intervention system developed in the University of Chicago Crime and Education Lab. She’s a retired chief information officer for the Los Angeles Police Department, where she led similar programs under the LAPD consent decree.
However, Chicago’s history of early intervention is one of futility, said Jamie Kalven executive director of the Invisible Institute, which runs the Citizens Police Data Project. His reporting was instrumental in bringing attention to the 2014 police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
“Having programs just for the purpose of saying you have a program,” Kalven said. “There’s a history of failing to identify patterns that’s within the power of the department to identify. I hope this is a new day, but that’s the department’s history.”
Goodrich says it is a new day.
The program turned to police officers, along with police accountability, mental health and wellness experts, holding focus groups to identify when an officer needs help and determining what services need to be in place.
“It looks at complaints against officers, whether it’s for on-duty or off-duty behavior,” Goodrich said. “It looks at uses of force, and it also looks at what some might consider lower level or less serious potential misconduct or violations of policy and the like.”
During the rollout of the program, Kalven said he’s noticed an emphasis on mental health for officers, which he emphasized is important. However, he wondered if the system would be used to investigate signs of abuse within the department, or if it would focus on primarily soft intervention such as providing resources to officers.
“The reason that people are in the streets in this city and across the country, the reason we’re under a consent decree, the reason we spent the last five years with policing at the center of our discourse in the city are patterns of abuse against citizens and patterns of impunity enabled by a real blindness within the department,” Kalven said.
Goodrich said the program is designed to support officers and hold them accountable.
“The system, while about mental health and supporting officers, is also a system of accountability,” Goodrich said. “It’s about making sure that supervisors don’t, and can’t turn a blind eye when they see something going on that needs to be addressed.”
She said training is centered around providing supervisors with resources, skills and tools necessary to have conversations with their officers. Meanwhile, there is an officer support system unit that oversees the program, working with supervisors to hold them accountable and to make sure the system is implemented consistently throughout the department, Goodrich said.
“The point of an early intervention system such as this is to really get at the issue well before we’ve had months go by in an investigation,” Goodrich said.
Another program will provide officers with 24/7 mental health treatment via a telehealth app.